Part 2 out of 4
"Further than that," said Robur.
"And if this voyage does not suit us?" asked Uncle Prudent.
"It will have to suit you."
That is a foretaste of the nature of the relations that were to
obtain between the master of the "Albatross" and his guests, not to
say his prisoners. Manifestly he wished to give them time to cool
down, to admire the marvelous apparatus which was bearing them
through the air, and doubtless to compliment the inventor. And so he
went off to the other end of the deck, leaving them to examine the
arrangement of the machinery and the management of the ship or to
give their whole attention to the landscape which was unrolling
"Uncle Prudent," said Evans, "unless I am mistaken we are flying over
Central Canada. That river in the northwest is the St. Lawrence. That
town we are leaving behind is Quebec."
It was indeed the old city of Champlain, whose zinc roofs were
shining like reflectors in the sun. The "Albatross" must thus have
reached the forty-sixth degree of north latitude, and thus was
explained the premature advance of the day with the abnormal
prolongation of the dawn.
"Yes," said Phil Evans, "There is the town in its amphitheater, the
hill with its citadel, the Gibraltar of North America. There are the
cathedrals. There is the Custom House with its dome surmounted by the
Phil Evans had not finished before the Canadian city began to slip
into the distance.
The clipper entered a zone of light clouds, which gradually shut off
a view of the ground.
Robur, seeing that the president and secretary of the Weldon
Institute had directed their attention to the external arrangements
of the "Albatross," walked up to them and said: "Well, gentlemen, do
you believe in the possibility of aerial locomotion by machines
heavier than air?"
It would have been difficult not to succumb to the evidence. But
Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans did not reply.
"You are silent," continued the engineer. "Doubtless hunger makes you
dumb! But if I undertook to carry you through the air, I did not
think of feeding you on such a poorly nutritive fluid. Your first
breakfast is waiting for you."
As Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans were feeling the pangs of hunger
somewhat keenly they did not care to stand upon ceremony, A meal
would commit them to nothing; and when Robur put them back on the
ground they could resume full liberty of action.
And so they followed into a small dining-room in the aftermost house.
There they found a well-laid table at which they could take their
meals during the voyage. There were different preserves; and, among
other things, was a sort of bread made of equal parts of flour and
meat reduced to powder and worked together with a little lard, which
boiled in water made excellent soup; and there were rashers of fried
ham, and for drink there was tea.
Neither had Frycollin been forgotten. He was taken forward and there
found some strong soup made of this bread. In truth he had to be very
hungry to eat at all, for his jaws shook with fear, and almost
refused to work. "If it was to break! If it was to break!" said the
unfortunate Negro. Hence continual faintings. Only think! A fall of
over four thousand feet, which would smash him to a jelly!
An hour afterwards Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans appeared on the deck.
Robur was no longer there. At the stem the man at the wheel in his
glass cage, his eyes fixed on the compass, followed imperturbably
without hesitation the route given by the engineer.
As for the rest of the crew, breakfast probably kept them from their
posts. An assistant engineer, examining the machinery, went from one
house to the other.
If the speed of the ship was great the two colleagues could only
estimate it imperfectly, for the "Albatross" had passed through the
cloud zone which the sun showed some four thousand feet below.
"I can hardly believe it," said Phil Evans.
"Don't believe it!" said Uncle Prudent. And going to the bow they
looked out towards the western horizon.
"Another town," said Phil Evans.
"Do you recognize it?"
"Yes! It seems to me to be Montreal."
"Montreal? But we only left Quebec two hours ago!"
"That proves that we must be going at a speed of seventy-five miles
Such was the speed of the aeronef; and if the passengers were not
inconvenienced by it, it was because they were going with the wind.
In a calm such speed would have been difficult and the rate would
have sunk to that of an express. In a head-wind the speed would have
Phil Evans was not mistaken. Below the "Albatross" appeared Montreal,
easily recognizable by the Victoria Bridge, a tubular bridge thrown
over the St. Lawrence like the railway viaduct over the Venice
lagoon. Soon they could distinguish the town's wide streets, its huge
shops, its palatial banks, its cathedral, recently built on the model
of St. Peter's at Rome, and then Mount Royal, which commands the city
and forms a magnificent park.
Luckily Phil Evans had visited the chief towns of Canada, and could
recognize them without asking Robur. After Montreal they passed
Ottawa, whose falls, seen from above, looked like a vast cauldron in
ebullition, throwing off masses of steam with grand effect.
"There is the Parliament House."
And he pointed out a sort of Nuremburg toy planted on a hill top.
This toy with its polychrome architecture resembled the House of
Parliament in London much as the Montreal cathedral resembles St.
Peter's at Rome. But that was of no consequence; there could be no
doubt it was Ottawa.
Soon the city faded off towards the horizon, and formed but a
luminous spot on the ground.
It was almost two hours before Robur appeared. His mate, Tom Turner,
accompanied him. He said only three words. These were transmitted to
the two assistant engineers in the fore and aft engine-houses. At a
sign the helmsman changed the-direction of the "Albatross" a couple
of points to the southwest; at the same time Uncle Prudent and Phil
Evans felt that a greater speed had been given to the propellers.
In fact, the speed had been doubled, and now surpassed anything that
had ever been attained by terrestrial Engines. Torpedo-boats do their
twenty-two knots an hour; railway trains do their sixty miles an
hour; the ice-boats on the frozen Hudson do their sixty-five miles an
hour; a machine built by the Patterson company, with a cogged wheel,
has done its eighty miles; and another locomotive between Trenton and
Jersey City has done its eighty-four.
But the "Albatross," at full speed, could do her hundred and twenty
miles an hour, or 176 feet per second. This speed is that of the
storm which tears up trees by the roots. It is the mean speed of the
carrier pigeon, and is only surpassed by the flight of the swallow
(220 feet per second) and that of the swift (274 feet per second).
In a word, as Robur had said, the "Albatross," by using the whole
force of her screws, could make the tour of the globe in two hundred
hours, or less than eight days.
Is it necessary to say so? The phenomenon whose appearance had so
much puzzled the people of both worlds was the aeronef of the
engineer. The trumpet which blared its startling fanfares through the
air was that of the mate, Tom Turner. The flag planted on the chief
monuments of Europe, Asia, America, was the flag of Robur the
Conqueror and his "Albatross."
And if up to then the engineer had taken many precautions against
being recognized, if by preference he traveled at night, clearing the
way with his electric lights, and during the day vanishing into the
zones above the clouds, he seemed now to have no wish to keep his
secret hidden. And if he had come to Philadelphia and presented
himself at the meeting of the Weldon Institute, was it not that they
might share in his prodigious discovery, and convince "ipso facto"
the most incredulous? We know how he had been received, and we see
what reprisals he had taken on the president and secretary of the
Again did Robur approach his prisoners, who affected to be in no way
surprised at what they saw, of what had succeeded in spite of them.
Evidently beneath the cranium of these two Anglo-Saxon heads there
was a thick crust of obstinacy, which would not be easy to remove.
On his part, Robur did not seem to notice anything particular, and
coolly continued the conversation which he had begun two hours before.
"Gentlemen," said he, "you ask yourselves doubtless if this
apparatus, so marvelously adapted for aerial locomotion, is
susceptible of receiving greater speed. It is not worth while to
conquer space if we cannot devour it. I wanted the air to be a solid
support to me, and it is. I saw that to struggle against the wind I
must be stronger than the wind, and I am. I had no need of sails to
drive me, nor oars nor wheels to push me, nor rails to give me a
faster road. Air is what I wanted, that was all. Air surrounds me as
it surrounds the submarine boat, and in it my propellers act like the
screws of a steamer. That is how I solved the problem of aviation.
That is what a balloon will never do, nor will any machine that is
lighter than air."
Silence, absolute, on the part of the colleagues, which did not for a
moment disconcert the engineer. He contented himself with a
half-smile, and continued in his interrogative style, "Perhaps you
ask if to this power of the "Albatross" to move horizontally there is
added an equal power of vertical movement--in a word, if, when, we
visit the higher zones of the atmosphere, we can compete with an
aerostat? Well, I should not advise you to enter the "Go-Ahead"
The two colleagues shrugged their shoulders. That was probably what
the engineer was waiting for.
Robur made a sign. The propelling screws immediately stopped, and
after running for a mile the "Albatross" pulled up motionless.
At a second gesture from Robur the suspensory helices revolved at a
speed that can only be compared to that of a siren in acoustical
experiments. Their f-r-r-r-r rose nearly an octave in the scale of
sound, diminishing gradually in intensity as the air became more
rarified, and the machine rose vertically, like a lark singing his
song in space.
"Master! Master!" shouted Frycollin. "See that it doesn't break!"
A smile of disdain was Robur's only reply. In a few minutes the
"Albatross" had attained the height of 8,700 feet, and extended the
range of vision by seventy miles, the barometer having fallen 480
Then the "Albatross" descended. The diminution of the pressure in
high altitudes leads to the diminution of oxygen in the air, and
consequently in the blood. This has been the cause of several serious
accidents which have happened to aeronauts, and Robur saw no reason
to run any risk.
The "Albatross" thus returned to the height she seemed to prefer, and
her propellers beginning again, drove her off to the southwest.
"Now, sirs, if that is what you wanted you can reply." Then, leaning
over the rail, he remained absorbed in contemplation.
When he raised his head the president and secretary of the Weldon
Institute stood by his side.
"Engineer Robur," said Uncle Prudent, in vain endeavoring to control
himself, "we have nothing to ask about what you seem to believe, but
we wish to ask you a question which we think you would do well to
"By what right did you attack us in Philadelphia in Fairmount Park?
By what right did you shut us up in that prison? By what right have
you brought us against our will on board this flying machine?"
"And by what right, Messieurs Balloonists, did you insult and
threaten me in your club in such a way that I am astonished I came
out of it alive?"
"To ask is not to answer," said Phil Evans, "and I repeat, by what
"Do you wish to know?"
"If you please."
"Well, by the right of the strongest!"
"That is cynical."
"But it is true."
"And for how long, citizen engineer," asked Uncle Prudent, who was
nearly exploding, "for how long do you intend to exercise that right?"
"How can you?" said Robur, ironically, "how can you ask me such a
question when you have only to cast down your eyes to enjoy a
spectacle unparalleled in the world?"
The "Albatross" was then sweeping across the immense expanse of Lake
Ontario. She had just crossed the country so poetically described by
Cooper. Then she followed the southern shore and headed for the
celebrated river which pours into it the waters of Lake Erie,
breaking them to powder in its cataracts.
In an instant a majestic sound, a roar as of the tempest, mounted
towards them and, as if a humid fog had been projected into the air,
the atmosphere sensibly freshened. Below were the liquid masses. They
seemed like an enormous flowing sheet of crystal amid a thousand
rainbows due to refraction as it decomposed the solar rays. The sight
Before the falls a foot-bridge, stretching like a thread, united one
bank to the other. Three miles below was a suspension-bridge, across
which a train was crawling from the Canadian to the American bank.
"The falls of Niagara!" exclaimed Phil Evans. And as the exclamation
escaped him, Uncle Prudent was doing all could do to admire nothing
of these wonders.
A minute afterwards the "Albatross" had crossed the river which
separates the United States from Canada, and was flying over the vast
territories of the West.
ACROSS THE PRAIRIE
In one, of the cabins of the after-house Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans
had found two excellent berths, with clean linen, change of clothes,
and traveling-cloaks and rugs. No Atlantic liner could have offered
them more comfort. If they did not Sleep soundly it was that they did
not wish to do so, or rather that their very real anxiety prevented
them. In what adventure had they embarked? To what series of
experiments had they been invited? How would the business end? And
above all, what was Robur going to do with them?
Frycollin, the valet, was quartered forward in a cabin adjoining that
of the cook. The neighborhood did not displease him; he liked to rub
shoulders with the great in this world. But if he finally went to
sleep it was to dream of fall after fall, of projections through
space, which made his sleep a horrible nightmare.
However, nothing could be quieter than this journey through the
atmosphere, whose currents had grown weaker with the evening. Beyond
the rustling of the blades of the screws there was not a sound,
except now and then the whistle from some terrestrial locomotive, or
the calling of some animal. Strange instinct! These terrestrial
beings felt the aeronef glide over them, and uttered cries of terror
as it passed. On the morrow, the 14th of June, at five o'clock, Uncle
Prudent and Phil Evans were walking on the deck of the "Albatross."
Nothing had changed since the evening; there was a lookout forward,
and the helmsman was in his glass cage. Why was there a look-out? Was
there any chance of collision with another such machine? Certainly
not. Robur had not yet found imitators. The chance of encountering an
aerostat gliding through the air was too remote to be regarded. In
any case it would be all the worse for the aerostat--the earthen pot
and the iron pot. The "Albatross" had nothing to fear from the
But what could happen? The aeronef might find herself like a ship on
a lee shore if a mountain that could not be outflanked or passed
barred the way. These are the reefs of the air, and they have to be
avoided as a ship avoids the reefs of the sea. The engineer, it is
true, had given the course, and in doing so had taken into account
the altitude necessary to clear the summits of the high lands in the
district. But as the aeronef was rapidly nearing a mountainous
country, it was only prudent to keep a good lookout, in case some
slight deviation from the course became necessary.
Looking at the country beneath them, Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans
noticed a large lake, whose lower southern end the "Albatross" had
just reached. They concluded, therefore, that during the night the
whole length of Lake Erie had been traversed, and that, as they were
going due west, they would soon be over Lake Michigan. "There can be
no doubt of it," said Phil Evans, "and that group of roofs on the
horizon is Chicago."
He was right. It was indeed the city from which the seventeen
railways diverge, the Queen of the West, the vast reservoir into
which flow the products of Indiana, Ohio, Wisconsin, Missouri, and
all the States which form the western half of the Union.
Uncle Prudent, through an excellent telescope he had found in his
cabin, easily recognized the principal buildings. His colleague
pointed out to him the churches and public edifices, the numerous
"elevators" or mechanical, granaries, and the huge Sherman Hotel,
whose windows seemed like a hundred glittering points on each of its
"If that is Chicago," said Uncle Prudent, "it is obvious that we are
going farther west than is convenient for us if we are to return to
And, in fact, the "Albatross" was traveling in a straight line from
the Pennsylvania capital.
But if Uncle Prudent wished to ask Robur to take him eastwards he
could not then do so. That morning the engineer did not leave his
cabin. Either he was occupied in some work, or else he was asleep,
and the two colleagues sat down to breakfast without seeing him.
The speed was the same as that during last evening. The wind being
easterly the rate was not interfered with at all, and as the
thermometer only falls a degree centigrade for every seventy meters
of elevation the temperature was not insupportable. And so, in
chatting and thinking and waiting for the engineer, Uncle Prudent and
Phil Evans walked about beneath the forest of screws, whose gyratory
movement gave their arms the appearance of semi-diaphanous disks.
The State of Illinois was left by its northern frontier in less than
two hours and a half; and they crossed the Father of Waters, the
Mississippi, whose double-decked steam-boats seemed no bigger than
canoes. Then the "Albatross" flew over Iowa after having sighted Iowa
City about eleven o'clock in the morning.
A few chains of hills, "bluffs" as they are called, curved across the
face of the country trending from the south to the northwest, whose
moderate height necessitated no rise in the course of the aeronef.
Soon the bluffs gave place to the large plains of western Iowa and
Nebraska--immense prairies extending all the way to the foot of the
Rocky Mountains. Here and there were many rios, affluents or minor
affluents of the Missouri. On their banks were towns and villages,
growing more scattered as the "Albatross" sped farther west.
Nothing particular happened during this day. Uncle Prudent and Phil
Evans were left entirely to themselves. They hardly noticed Frycollin
sprawling at full length in the bow, keeping his eyes shut so that he
could see nothing. And they were not attacked by vertigo, as might
have been expected. There was no guiding mark, and there was nothing
to cause the vertigo, as there would have been on the top of a lofty
building. The abyss has no attractive power when it is gazed at from
the car of a balloon or deck of an aeronef. It is not an abyss that
opens beneath the aeronaut, but an horizon that rises round him on
all sides like a cup.
In a couple of hours the "Albatross" was over Omaha, on the Nebraskan
frontier--Omaha City, the real head of the Pacific Railway, that
long line of rails, four thousand five hundred miles in length,
stretching from New York to San Francisco. For a moment they could
see the yellow waters of the Missouri, then the town, with its houses
of wood and brick in the center of a rich basin, like a buckle in the
iron belt which clasps North America round the waist. Doubtless,
also, as the passengers in the aeronef could observe all these
details, the inhabitants of Omaha noticed the strange machine. Their
astonishment at seeing it gliding overhead could be no greater than
that of the president and secretary of the Weldon Institute at
finding themselves on board.
Anyhow, the journals of the Union would be certain to notice the
fact. It would be the explanation of the astonishing phenomenon which
the whole world had been wondering over for some time.
In an hour the "Albatross" had left Omaha and crossed the Platte
River, whose valley is followed by the Pacific Railway in its route
across the prairie. Things looked serious for Uncle Prudent and Phil
"It is serious, then, this absurd project of taking us to the
"And whether we like it or not!" exclaimed the other.
"Robur had better take care! I am not the man to stand that sort of
"Nor am I!" replied Phil Evans. "But be calm, Uncle Prudent, be calm."
"And keep your temper until it is wanted."
By five o'clock they had crossed the Black Mountains covered with
pines and cedars, and the "Albatross" was over the appropriately
named Bad Lands of Nebraska--a chaos of ochre-colored hills, of
mountainous fragments fallen on the soil and broken in their fall. At
a distance these blocks take the most fantastic shapes. Here and
there amid this enormous game of knucklebones there could be traced
the imaginary ruins of medieval cities with forts and dungeons,
pepper-box turrets, and machicolated towers. And in truth these Bad
Lands are an immense ossuary where lie bleaching in the sun myriads
of fragments of pachyderms, chelonians, and even, some would have us
believe, fossil men, overwhelmed by unknown cataclysms ages and ages
When evening came the whole basin of the Platte River had been
crossed, and the plain extended to the extreme limits of the horizon,
which rose high owing to the altitude of the "Albatross."
During the night there were no more shrill whistles of locomotives or
deeper notes of the river steamers to trouble the quiet of the starry
firmament. Long bellowing occasionally reached the aeronef from the
herds of buffalo that roamed over the prairie in search of water and
pasturage. And when they ceased, the trampling of the grass under
their feet produced a dull roaring similar to the rushing of a flood,
and very different from the continuous f-r-r-r-r of the screws.
Then from time to time came the howl of a wolf, a fox, a wild cat, or
a coyote, the "Canis latrans," whose name is justified by his
Occasionally came penetrating odors of mint, and sage, and absinthe,
mingled with the more powerful fragrance of the conifers which rose
floating. through the night air.
At last came a menacing yell, which was not due to the coyote. It was
the shout of a Redskin, which no Tenderfoot would confound with the
cry of a wild beast.
The next day, the 15th of June, about five o'clock in the morning,
Phil Evans left his cabin. Perhaps he would today have a chance of
speaking to Robur? Desirous of knowing why he had not appeared the
day before, Evans addressed himself to the mate, Tom Turner.
Tom Turner was an Englishman of about forty-five, broad in the
shoulders and short in the legs, a man of iron, with one of those
enormous characteristic heads that Hogarth rejoiced in.
Shall we see Mr. Robur to-day?" asked Phil Evans.
"I don't know," said Turner.
"I need not ask if he has gone out."
"Perhaps he has."
"And when will he come back?"
"When he has finished his cruise."
And Tom went into his cabin.
With this reply they had to be contented. Matters did not look
promising, particularly as on reference to the compass it appeared
that the "Albatross" was still steering southwest.
Great was the contrast between the barren tract of the Bad Lands
passed over during the night and the landscape then unrolling beneath
The aeronef was now more than six hundred miles from Omaha, and over
a country which Phil Evans could not recognize because he had never
been there before. A few forts to keep the Indians in order crowned
the bluffs with their geometric lines, formed oftener of palisades
than walls. There were few villages, and few inhabitants, the country
differing widely from the auriferous lands of Colorado many leagues
to the south.
In the distance a long line of mountain crests, in great confusion as
yet, began to appear. They were the Rocky Mountains.
For the first time that morning Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans were
sensible of a certain lowness of temperature which was not due to a
change in the weather, for the sun shone in superb splendor.
"It is because of the "Albatross" being higher in the air," said Phil
In fact the barometer outside the central deck-house had fallen 540
millimeters, thus indicating an elevation of about 10,000 feet above
the sea. The aeronef was at this altitude owing to the elevation of
the ground. An hour before she had been at a height of 13,000 feet,
and behind her were mountains covered with perpetual snow.
There was nothing Uncle Prudent and his companion could remember
which would lead them to discover where they were. During the night
the "Albatross" had made several stretches north and south at
tremendous speed, and that was what had put them out of their
After talking over several hypotheses more or less plausible they
came to the conclusion that this country encircled with mountains
must be the district declared by an Act of Congress in March, 1872,
to be the National Park of the United States. A strange region it
was. It well merited the name of a park--a park with mountains for
hills, with lakes for ponds, with rivers for streamlets, and with
geysers of marvelous power instead of fountains.
In a few minutes the "Albatross" glided across the Yellowstone River,
leaving Mount Stevenson on the right, and coasting the large lake
which bears the name of the stream. Great was the variety on the
banks of this basin, ribbed as they were with obsidian and tiny
crystals, reflecting the sunlight on their myriad facets. Wonderful
was the arrangement of the islands on its surface; magnificent were
the blue reflections of the gigantic mirror. And around the lake, one
of the highest in the globe, were multitudes of pelicans, swans,
gulls and geese, bernicles and divers. In places the steep banks were
clothed with green trees, pines and larches, and at the foot of the
escarpments there shot upwards innumerable white fumaroles, the vapor
escaping from the soil as from an enormous reservoir in which the
water is kept in permanent ebullition by subterranean fire.
The cook might have seized the opportunity of securing an ample
supply of trout, the only fish the Yellowstone Lake contains in
myriads. But the "Albatross" kept on at such a height that there was
no chance of indulging in a catch which assuredly would have been
In three quarters of an hour the lake was overpassed, and a little
farther on the last was seen of the geyser region, which rivals the
finest in Iceland. Leaning over the rail, Uncle Prudent and Phil
Evans watched the liquid columns which leaped up as though to furnish
the aeronef with a new element. There were the Fan, with the jets
shot forth in rays, the Fortress, which seemed to be defended by
waterspouts, the Faithful Friend, with her plume crowned with the
rainbows, the Giant, spurting forth a vertical torrent twenty feet
round and more than two hundred feet high.
Robur must evidently have been familiar with this incomparable
spectacle, unique in the world, for he did not appear on deck. Was
it, then, for the sole pleasure of his guests that he had brought the
aeronef above the national domain? If so, he came not to receive
their thanks. He did not even trouble himself during the daring
passage of the Rocky Mountains, which the "Albatross" approached at
about seven o'clock.
By increasing the speed of her wings, as a bird rising in its flight,
the "Albatross" would clear the highest ridges of the chain, and sink
again over Oregon or Utah, But the maneuver was unnecessary. The
passes allowed the barrier to be crossed without ascending for the
higher ridges. There are many of these canyons, or steep valleys,
more or less narrow, through which they could glide, such as Bridger
Gap, through which runs the Pacific Railway into the Mormon
territory, and others to the north and south of it.
It was through one of these that the "Albatross" headed, after
slackening speed so as not to dash against the walls of the canyon.
The steersman, with a sureness of hand rendered more effective by the
sensitiveness of the rudder, maneuvered his craft as if she were a
crack racer in a Royal Victoria match. It was really extraordinary.
In spite of all the jealousy of the two enemies of "lighter than
air," they could not help being surprised at the perfection of this
engine of aerial locomotion.
In less than two hours and a half they were through the Rockies, and
the "Albatross" resumed her former speed of sixty-two miles an hour.
She was steering southwest so as to cut across Utah diagonally as she
neared the ground. She had even dropped several hundred yards when
the sound of a whistle attracted the attention of Uncle Prudent and
Phil Evans. It was a train on the Pacific Railway on the road to Salt
And then, in obedience to an order secretly given, the "Albatross"
dropped still lower so as to chase the train, which was going at full
speed. She was immediately sighted. A few heads showed themselves at
the doors of the cars. Then numerous passengers crowded the gangways.
Some did not hesitate to climb on the roof to get a better view of
the flying machine. Cheers came floating up through the air; but no
Robur appeared in answer to them.
The "Albatross" continued her descent, slowing her suspensory screws
and moderating her speed so as not to leave the train behind. She
flew about it like an enormous beetle or a gigantic bird of prey. She
headed off, to the right and left, and swept on in front, and hung
behind, and proudly displayed her flag with the golden sun, to which
the conductor of the train replied by waving the Stars and Stripes.
In vain the prisoners, in their desire to take advantage of the
opportunity, endeavored to make themselves known to those below. In
vain the president of the Weldon Institute roared forth at the top of
his voice, "I am Uncle Prudent of Philadelphia!" And the secretary
followed suit with, "I am Phil Evans, his colleague!" Their shouts
were lost in the thousand cheers with which the passengers greeted
Three or four of the crew of the "Albatross" had appeared on the
deck, and one of them, like sailors when passing a ship less speedy
than their own, held out a rope, an ironical way of offering to tow
And then the "Albatross" resumed her original speed, and in half an
hour the express was out of sight. About one o'clock there appeared a
vast disk, which reflected the solar rays as if it were an immense
"That ought to be the Mormon capital, Salt Lake City," said Uncle
Prudent. And so it was, and the disk was the roof of the Tabernacle,
where ten thousand saints can worship at their ease. This vast dome,
like a convex mirror, threw off the rays of the sun in all directions.
It vanished like a shadow, and the "Albatross" sped on her way to the
southwest with a speed that was not felt, because it surpassed that
of the chasing wind. Soon she was in Nevada over the silver regions,
which the Sierra separates from the golden lands of California.
"We shall certainly reach San Francisco before night," said Phil
"And then?" asked Uncle Prudent.
It was six o'clock precisely when the Sierra Nevada was crossed by
the same pass as that taken by the railway. Only a hundred and eighty
miles then separated them from San Francisco, the Californian capital.
At the speed the "Albatross" was going she would be over the dome by
At this moment Robur appeared on deck. The colleagues walked up to
"Engineer Robur," said Uncle Prudent, "we are now on the very
confines of America! We think the time has come for this joke to end."
"I never joke," said Robur.
He raised his hand. The "Albatross" swiftly dropped towards the
ground, and at the same time such speed was given her as to drive the
prisoners into their cabin. As soon as the door was shut, Uncle
"I could strangle him!"
"We must try to escape." said Phil Evans.
"Yes; cost what it may!"
A long murmur greeted their ears. It was the beating of the surf on
the seashore. It was the Pacific Ocean!
THE WIDE PACIFIC
Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans had quite made up their minds to escape.
If they had not had to deal with the eight particularly vigorous men
who composed the crew of the aeronef they might have tried to succeed
by main force. But as they were only two--for Frycollin could only
be considered as a quantity of no importance--force was not to be
thought of. Hence recourse must be had to strategy as soon as the
"Albatross" again took the ground. Such was what Phil Evans
endeavored to impress on his irascible colleague, though he was in
constant fear of Prudent aggravating matters by some premature
In any case the present was not the time to attempt anything of the
sort. The aeronef was sweeping along over the North Pacific. On the
following morning, that of June 16th, the coast was out of sight. And
as the coast curves off from Vancouver Island up to the Aleutians--
belonging to that portion of America ceded by Russia to the United
States in 1867--it was highly probable that the "Albatross" would
cross it at the end of the curve, if her course remained unchanged.
How long the night appeared to be to the two friends! How eager they
were to get out of their cabins! When they came on deck in the
morning the dawn had for some hours been silvering the eastern
horizon. They were nearing the June solstice, the longest day of the
year in the northern hemisphere, when there is hardly any night along
the sixtieth parallel.
Either from custom or intention Robur was in no hurry to leave his
deck-house, When he came out this morning be contented himself with
bowing to his two guests as he passed them in the stern of the
And now Frycollin ventured out of his cabin. His eyes red with
sleeplessness, and dazed in their look, he tottered along, like a man
whose foot feels it is not on solid ground. His first glance was at
the suspensory screws, which were working with gratifying regularity
without any signs of haste. That done, the Negro stumbled along to
the rail, and grasped it with both hands, so as to make sure of his
balance. Evidently he wished to view the country over which the
"Albatross" was flying at the height of seven hundred feet or more.
At first he kept himself well back behind the rail. Then he shook it
to make sure it was firm; then he drew himself up; then he bent
forward; then he stretched out his head. It need not be said that
while he was executing these different maneuvers he kept his eyes
shut. At last he opened them.
What a shout! And how quickly he fled! And how deeply his head sank
back into his shoulders! At the bottom of the abyss he had seen the
immense ocean. His hair would have risen on end--if it had not been
"The sea! The sea!" he cried. And Frycollin would have fallen on the
deck had not the cook opened his arms to receive him.
This cook was a Frenchman, and probably a Gascon, his name being
Francois Tapage. If he was not a Gascon he must in his infancy have
inhaled the breezes of the Garonne. How did this Francois Tapage find
himself in the service of the engineer? By what chain of accidents
had be become one of the crew of the "Albatross?" We can hardly say;
but in any case be spoke English like a Yankee. "Eh, stand up!" he
said, lifting the Negro by a vigorous clutch at the waist.
"Master Tapage!" said the poor fellow, giving a despairing look at
"At your service, Frycollin."
"Did this thing ever smash?"
"No, but it will end by smashing."
"Because everything must end.
"And the sea is beneath us!"
"If we are to fall, it is better to fall in the sea."
"We shall be drowned."
"We shall be drowned, but we shall not be smashed to a jelly."
The next moment Frycollin was on all fours, creeping to the back of
During this day the aeronef was only driven at moderate speed. She
seemed to skim the placid surface of the sea, which lay beneath.
Uncle Prudent and his companion remained in their cabin, so that they
did not meet with Robur, who walked about smoking alone or talking to
the mate. Only half the screws were working, yet that was enough to
keep the apparatus afloat in the lower zones of the atmosphere,
The crew, as a change from the ordinary routine, would have
endeavored to catch a few fish had there been any sign of them; but
all that could be seen on the surface of the sea were a few of those
yellow-bellied whales which measure about eighty feet in length.
These are the most formidable cetaceans in the northern seas, and
whalers are very careful in attacking them, for their strength is
prodigious. However, in harpooning one of these whales, either with
the ordinary harpoon, the Fletcher fuse, or the javelin-bomb, of
which there was an assortment on board, there would have been danger
to the men of the "Albatross."
But what was the good of such useless massacre? Doubtless to show off
the powers of the aeronef to the members of the Weldon Institute. And
so Robur gave orders for the capture of one of these monstrous
At the shout of "A whale! "A whale!" Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans
came out of their cabin. Perhaps there was a whaler in sight! In that
case all they had to do to escape from their flying prison was to
jump into the sea, and chance being picked up by the vessel.
The crew were all on deck. "Shall we try, sir?" asked Tom Turner.
"Yes," said Robur.
In the engine-room the engineer and his assistant were at their posts
ready to obey the orders signaled to them. The "Albatross" dropped
towards the sea, and remained, about fifty feet above it.
There was no ship in sight--of that the two colleagues soon assured
themselves--nor was there any land to be seen to which they could
swim, providing Robur made no attempt to recapture them.
Several jets of water from the spout holes soon announced the
presence of the whales as they came to the surface to breathe. Tom
Turner and one of the men were in the bow. Within his reach was one
of those javelin-bombs, of Californian make, which are shot from an
arquebus and which are shaped as a metallic cylinder terminated by a
cylindrical shell armed with a shaft having a barbed point. Robur was
a little farther aft, and with his right hand signaled to the
engineers, while with his left, he directed the steersman. He thus
controlled the aeronef in every way, horizontally and vertically, and
it is almost impossible to conceive with what speed and precision the
"Albatross" answered to his orders. She seemed a living being, of
which he was the soul.
"A whale! A whale!" shouted Tom Turner, as the back of a cetacean
emerged from the surface about four cable-lengths in front of the
The "Albatross" swept towards it, and when she was within sixty feet
of it she stopped dead.
Tom Turner seized the arquebus, which was resting against a cleat on
the rail. He fired, and the projectile, attached to a long line,
entered the whale's body. The shell, filled with an explosive
compound, burst, and shot out a small harpoon with two branches,
which fastened into the animal's flesh.
"Look out!" shouted Turner.
Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans, much against their will, became greatly
interested in the spectacle.
The whale, seriously wounded, gave the sea such a slap with his tail,
that the water dashed up over the bow of the aeronef. Then he plunged
to a great depth, while the line, which had been previously wetted in
a tub of water to prevent its taking fire, ran out like lightning.
When the whale rose to the surface he started off at full speed in a
It may be imagined with what speed the "Albatross" was towed in
pursuit. Besides, the propellers had been stopped. The whale was let
go as he would, and the ship followed him. Turner stood ready to cut
the line in case a fresh plunge should render this towing dangerous.
For half an hour, and perhaps for a distance of six miles, the
"Albatross" was thus dragged along, but it was obvious that the whale
was tiring. Then, at a gesture from Robur the assistant engineers
started the propellers astern, so as to oppose a certain resistance
to the whale, who was gradually getting closer.
Soon the aeronef was gliding about twenty-five feet above him. His
tail was beating the waters with incredible violence, and as he
turned over on his back an enormous wave was produced.
Suddenly the whale turned up again, so as to take a header, as it
were, and then dived with such rapidity that Turner had barely time
to cut the line.
The aeronef was dragged to the very surface of the water. A whirlpool
was formed where the animal had disappeared. A wave dashed up on to
the deck as if the aeronef were a ship driving against wind an tide,
Luckily, with a blow of the hatchet the mate severed the line, and
the "Albatross," freed from her tug, sprang aloft six hundred feet
under the impulse of her ascensional screws. Robur had maneuvered his
ship without losing his coolness for a moment.
A few minutes afterwards the whale returned to the surface--dead.
From every side the birds flew down on to the carcass, and their
cries were enough to deafen a congress. The "Albatross," without
stopping to share in the spoil, resumed her course to the west.
In the morning of the 17th of June, at about six o'clock, land was
sighted on the horizon. This was the peninsula of Alaska, and the
long range of breakers of the Aleutian Islands.
The "Albatross" glided over the barrier where the fur seals. swarm
for the benefit of the Russo-American Company. An excellent business
is the capture of these amphibians, which are from six to seven feet
long, russet in color, and weigh from three hundred to four hundred
pounds. There they were in interminable files, ranged in line of
battle, and countable by thousands.
Although they did not move at the passage of the "Albatross," it was
otherwise with the ducks, divers, and loons, whose husky cries filled
the air as they disappeared beneath the waves and fled terrified from
the aerial monster.
The twelve hundred miles of the Behring Sea between the first of the
Aleutians and the extreme end of Kamtschatka were traversed during
the twenty-four hours of this day and the following night. Uncle
Prudent and Phil Evans found that here was no present chance of
putting their project of escape into execution. Flight was not to be
thought of among the deserts of Eastern Asia, nor on the coast of the
sea of Okhotsk. Evidently the "Albatross" was bound for Japan or
China, and there, although it was not perhaps quite safe to trust
themselves to the, mercies of the Chinese or Japanese, the two
friends had made up their minds to run if the aeronef stopped.
But would she stop? She was not like a bird which grows fatigued by
too long a flight, or like a balloon which has to descend for want of
gas. She still had food for many weeks and her organs were of
marvelous strength, defying all weakness and weariness.
During the 18th of June she swept over the peninsula of Kamtschatka,
and during the day there was a glimpse of Petropaulovski and the
volcano of Kloutschew. Then she rose again to cross the Sea of
Okhotsk, running down by the Kurile Isles, which seemed to be a
breakwater pierced by hundreds of channels. On the 19th, in the
morning, the "Albatross" was over the strait of La Perouse between
Saghalien and Northern Japan, and had reached the mouth of the great
Siberian river, the Amoor.
Then there came a fog so dense that the aeronef had to rise above it.
At the altitude she was there was no obstacle to be feared, no
elevated monuments to hinder her passage, no mountains against which
there was risk of being shattered in her flight. The country was only
slightly varied. But the fog was very disagreeable, and made
everything on board very damp.
All that was necessary was to get above this bed of mist, which was
nearly thirteen hundred feet thick, and the ascensional screws being
increased in speed, the "Albatross" was soon clear of the fog and in
the sunny regions of the sky. Under these circumstances, Uncle
Prudent and Phil Evans would have found some difficulty in carrying
out their plan of escape, even admitting that they could leave the
During the day, as Robur passed them he stopped for a moment, and
without seeming to attach any importance to what he said, addressed
them carelessly as follows: "Gentlemen, a sailing-ship or a steamship
caught in a fog from which it cannot escape is always much delayed.
It must not move unless it keeps its whistle or its horn going. It
must reduce its speed, and any instant a collision may be expected.
The "Albatross" has none of these things to fear. What does fog
matter to her? She can leave it when she chooses. The whole of space
is hers." And Robur continued his stroll without waiting for an
answer, and the puffs of his pipe were lost in the sky.
"Uncle Prudent," said Phil Evans, "it seems that this astonishing
"Albatross" never has anything to fear."
"That we shall see!" answered the president of the Weldon Institute.
"The fog lasted three days, the 19th, 20th, and 21st of June, with
regrettable persistence. An ascent had to be made to clear the
Japanese mountain of Fujiyama. When the curtain of mist was drawn
aside there lay below them an immense city, with palaces, villas,
gardens, and parks. Even without seeing it Robur had recognized it by
the barking of the innumerable dogs, the cries of the birds of prey,
and above all, by the cadaverous odor which the bodies of its
executed criminals gave off into space.
The two colleagues were out on the deck while the engineer was taking
his observations in case. he thought it best to continue his course
through the fog.
"Gentlemen," said he, "I have no reason for concealing from you that
this town is Tokyo, the capital of Japan."
Uncle Prudent did not reply. In the presence of the engineer he was
almost choked, as if his lungs were short of air.
"This view of Tokyo," continued Robur, "is very curious."
"Curious as it may be --" replied Phil Evans.
"It is not as good as Peking?" interrupted the engineer.
"That is what I think, and very shortly you shall have an opportunity
Impossible to be more agreeable!
The "Albatross" then gliding southeast, had her course changed four
points, so as to head to the eastward.
THROUGH THE HIMALAYAS
During, the night the fog cleared off. There were symptoms of an
approaching typhoon--a rapid fall of the barometer, a disappearance
of vapor, large clouds of ellipsoid form clinging to a copper sky,
and, on the opposite horizon, long streaks of carmine on a
slate-colored field, with a large sector quite clear in the north.
Then the sea was smooth and calm and at sunset assumed a deep scarlet
Fortunately the typhoon broke more to the south, and had no other
result than to sweep away the mist which had been accumulating during
the last three days.
In an hour they had traversed the hundred and twenty-five miles of
the Korean strait, and while the typhoon was raging on the coast of
China, the "Albatross" was over the Yellow Sea. During the 22nd and
23rd she was over the Gulf of Pechelee, and on the 24th she was
ascending the valley of the Peiho on her way to the capital of the
Leaning over the rail, the two colleagues, as the engineer had told
them, could see distinctly the immense city, the wall which divides
it into two parts--the Manchu town, and the Chinese town--the
twelve suburbs which surround it, the large boulevards which radiate
from its center, the temples with their green and yellow roofs bathed
in the rising sun, the grounds surrounding the houses of the
mandarins; then in the middle of the Manchu town the eighteen hundred
acres of the Yellow town, with its pagodas, its imperial gardens, its
artificial lakes, its mountain of coal which towers above the
capital; and in the center of the Yellow town, like a square of
Chinese puzzle enclosed in another, the Red town, that is the
imperial palace, with all the peaks of its outrageous architecture.
Below the "Albatross" the air was filled with a singular harmony. It
seemed to be a concert of Aeolian harps. In the air were a hundred
kites of different forms, made of sheets of palm-leaf, and having at
their upper end a sort of bow of light wood with a thin slip of
bamboo beneath. In the breath of the wind these slips, with all their
notes varied like those of a harmonicon, gave forth a most melancholy
murmuring. It seemed as though they were breathing musical oxygen.
It suited Robur's whim to run close up to this aerial orchestra, and
the "Albatross" slowed as she glided through the sonorous waves which
the kites gave off through the atmosphere.
But immediately an extraordinary effect was produced amongst the
innumerable population. Beatings of the tomtoms and sounds of other
formidable instruments of the Chinese orchestra, gun reports by the
thousand, mortars fired in hundreds, all were brought into play to
scare away the aeronef. Although the Chinese astronomers may have
recognized the aerial machine as the moving body that had given rise
to such disputes, it was to the Celestial million, from the humblest
tankader to the best-buttoned mandarin, an apocalyptical monster
appearing in the sky of Buddha.
The crew of the "Albatross" troubled themselves very little about
these demonstrations. But the strings which held the kites, and were
tied to fixed pegs in the imperial gardens, were cut or quickly
hauled in; and the kites were either drawn in rapidly, sounding
louder as they sank, or else fell like a bird shot through both
wings, whose song ends with its last sigh.
A noisy fanfare escaped from Tom Turner's trumpet, and drowned the
final notes of the aerial concert. It did not interrupt the
terrestrial fusillade. At last a shell exploded a few feet below the
"Albatross," and then she mounted into the inaccessible regions of
Nothing happened during the few following days of which the prisoners
could take advantage. The aeronef kept on her course to the
southwest, thereby showing that it was intended to take her to India.
Twelve hours after leaving Peking, Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans
caught a glimpse of the Great Wall in the neighborhood of Chen-Si.
Then, avoiding the Lung Mountains, they passed over the valley of the
Hoangho and crossed the Chinese border on the Tibet side.
Tibet consists of high table-lands without vegetation, with here and
there snowy peaks and barren ravines, torrents fed by glaciers,
depressions with glittering beds of salt, lakes surrounded by
luxurious forests, with icy winds sweeping over all.
The barometer indicated an altitude of thirteen thousand feet above
the level of the sea. At that height the temperature, although it was
in the warmest months of the northern hemisphere, was only a little
above freezing. This cold, combined with the speed of the
"Albatross," made the voyage somewhat trying, and although the
friends had warm traveling wraps, they preferred to keep to their
It need hardly be said that to keep the aeronef in this rarefied
atmosphere the suspensory screws had to be driven at extreme speed.
But they worked with perfect regularity, and the sound of their wings
almost acted as a lullaby.
During this day, appearing from below about the size of a carrier
pigeon, she passed over Garlock, a town of western Tibet, the capital
of the province of Cari Khorsum.
On the 27th of June, Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans sighted an enormous
barrier, broken here and there by several peaks, lost in the snows
that bounded the horizon.
Leaning against the fore-cabin, so as to keep their places
notwithstanding the speed of the ship, they watched these colossal
masses, which seemed to be running away from the aeronef.
"The Himalayas, evidently," said Phil Evans; "and probably Robur is
going round their base, so as to pass into India."
"So much the worse," answered Uncle Prudent. "On that immense
territory we shall perhaps be able to --"
"Unless he goes round by Burma to the east, or Nepal to the West."
"Anyhow, I defy him to go through them."
"Indeed!" said a voice.
The next day, the 28th of June, the "Albatross" was in front of the
huge mass above the province of Zang. On the other side of the chain
was the province of Nepal. These ranges block the road into India
from the north. The two northern ones, between which the aeronef was
gliding like a ship between enormous reefs are the first steps of the
Central Asian barrier. The first was the Kuen Lung, the other the
Karakorum, bordering the longitudinal valley parallel to the
Himalayas, from which the Indus flows to the west and the
Brahmapootra to the east.
What a superb orographical system! More than two hundred summits have
been measured, seventeen of which exceed twenty-five thousand feet.
In front of the "Albatross," at a height of twenty-nine thousand
feet, towered Mount Everest. To the right was Dhawalagiri, reaching
twenty-six thousand eight hundred feet, and relegated to second place
since the measurement of Mount Everest.
Evidently Robur did not intend to go over the top of these peaks; but
probably he knew the passes of the Himalayas, among others that of
Ibi Ganim, which the brothers Schlagintweit traversed in 1856 at a
height of twenty-two thousand feet. And towards it he went.
Several hours of palpitation, becoming quite painful followed; and
although the rarefaction of the air was not such as to necessitate
recourse being had to the special apparatus for renewing oxygen in
the cabins, the cold was excessive.
Robur stood in the bow, his sturdy figure wrapped in a great-coat. He
gave the orders, while Tom Turner was at the helm. The engineer kept
an attentive watch on his batteries, the acid in which fortunately
ran no risk of congelation. The screws, running at the full strength
of the current, gave forth a note of intense shrillness in spite of
the trifling density of the air. The barometer showed twenty-three
thousand feet in altitude.
Magnificent was the grouping of the chaos of mountains! Everywhere
were brilliant white summits. There were no lakes, but glaciers
descending ten thousand feet towards the base. There was no herbage,
only a few phanerogams on the limit of vegetable life. Down on the
lower flanks of the range were splendid forests of pines and cedars.
Here were none of the gigantic ferns and interminable parasites
stretching from tree to tree as in the thickets of the jungle. There
were no animals--no wild horses, or yaks, or Tibetan bulls.
Occasionally a scared gazelle showed itself far down the slopes.
There were no birds, save a couple of those crows which can rise to
the utmost limits of the respirable air.
The pass at last was traversed. The "Albatross" began to descend.
Coming from the hills out of the forest region there was now beneath
them an immense plain stretching far and wide.
Then Robur stepped up to his guests, and in a pleasant voice
remarked, "India, gentlemen!"
OVER THE CASPIAN
The Engineer had no intention of taking his ship over the wondrous
lands of Hindustan. To cross the Himalayas was to show how admirable
was the machine he commanded; to convince those who would not be
convinced was all he wished to do.
But if in their hearts Uncle Prudent and his colleague could not help
admiring so perfect an engine of aerial locomotion, they allowed none
of their admiration to be visible. All they thought of was how to
escape. They did not even admire the superb spectacle that lay
beneath them as the "Albatross" flew along the river banks of the
At the base of the Himalayas there runs a marshy belt of country, the
home of malarious vapors, the Terai, in which fever is endemic. But
this offered no obstacle to the "Albatross," or, in any way, affected
the health of her crew. She kept on without undue haste towards the
angle where India joins on to China and Turkestan, and on the 29th of
June, in the early hours of the morning, there opened to view the
incomparable valley of Cashmere.
Yes! Incomparable is this gorge between the major and the minor
Himalayas--furrowed by the buttresses in which the mighty range dies
out in the basin of the Hydaspes, and watered by the capricious
windings of the river which saw the struggle between the armies of
Porus and Alexander, when India and Greece contended for Central
Asia. The Hydaspes is still there, although the two towns founded by
the Macedonian in remembrance of his victory have long since
During the morning the aeronef was over Serinuggur, which is better
known under the name of Cashmere. Uncle Prudent and his companion
beheld the superb city clustered along both banks of the river; its
wooden bridges stretching across like threads, its villas and their
balconies standing out in bold outline, its hills shaded by tall
poplars, its roofs grassed over and looking like molehills; its
numerous canals, with boats like nut-shells, and boatmen like ants;
its palaces, temples, kiosks, mosques, and bungalows on the
outskirts; and its old citadel of Hari-Pawata on the slope of the
hill like the most important of the forts of Paris on the slope of
"That would be Venice," said Phil Evans, "if we were in Europe."
"And if we, were in Europe," answered Uncle Prudent, "we should know
how to find the way to America."
The "Albatross" did not linger over the lake through which the river
flows, but continued her flight down the valley of the Hydaspes.
For half an hour only did she descend to within thirty feet of the
river and remained stationary. Then, by means of an india-rubber
pipe, Tom Turner and his men replenished their water supply, which
was drawn up by a pump worked by the accumulators. Uncle Prudent and
Phil Evans stood watching the operation. The same idea occurred to
each of them. They were only a few feet from the surface of the
stream. They were both good swimmers. A plunge would give them their
liberty; and once they had reached the river, how could Robur get
them back again? For his propellers to work, he must keep at least
six feet above the ground.
In a moment all the chances pro and con were run over in their heads.
In a moment they were considered, and the prisoners rushed to throw
themselves overboard, when several pairs of hands seized them by the
They had been watched; and flight was utterly impossible.
This time they did not yield without resisting. They tried to throw
off those who held them. But these men of the "Albatross" were no
"Gentlemen," said the engineer, "when people, have the pleasure of
traveling with Robur the Conqueror, as you have so well named him, on
board his admirable "Albatross," they do not leave him in that way. I
may add you never leave him."
Phil Evans drew away his colleague, who was about to commit some act
of violence. They retired to their cabin, resolved to escape, even if
it cost them their lives.
Immediately the "Albatross" resumed her course to the west. During
the day at moderate speed she passed over the territory of
Cabulistan, catching a momentary glimpse of its capital, and crossed
the frontier of the kingdom of Herat, nearly seven hundred miles from
In these much-disputed countries, the open road for the Russians to
the English possessions in India, there were seen many columns and
convoys, and, in a word, everything that constitutes in men and
material an army on the march. There were heard also the roar of the
cannon and the crackling of musketry. But the engineer never meddled
with the affairs of others where his honor or humanity was not
concerned. He passed above them. If Herat as we are told, is the key
of Central Asia, it mattered little to him if it was kept in an
English or Muscovite pocket. Terrestrial interests were nothing to
him who had made the air his domain.
Besides, the country soon disappeared in one of those sandstorms
which are so frequent in these regions. The wind called the "tebbad"
bears along the seeds of fever in the impalpable dust it raises in
its passage. And many are the caravans that perish in its eddies.
To escape this dust, which might have interfered with the working of
the screws, the "Albatross" shot up some six thousand feet into a
And thus vanished the Persian frontier and the extensive plains. The
speed was not excessive, although there were no rocks ahead, for the
mountains marked on the map are of very moderate altitude. But as the
ship approached the capital, she had to steer clear of Demavend,
whose snowy peak rises some twenty-two thousand feet, and the chain
of Elbruz, at whose foot is built Teheran.
As soon as the day broke on the 2nd of July the peak of Demavend
appeared above the sandstorm, and the "Albatross" was steered so as
to pass over the town, which the wind had wrapped in a mantle of dust.
However, about six o'clock her crew could see the large ditches that
surround it, and the Shah's palace, with its walls covered with
porcelain tiles, and its ornamental lakes, which seemed like huge
turquoises of beautiful blue.
It was but a hasty glimpse. The "Albatross" now headed for the north,
and a few hours afterwards she was over a little hill at the northern
angle of the Persian frontier, on the shores of a vast extent of
water which stretched away out of sight to the north and east.
The town was Ashurada, the most southerly of the Russian stations.
The vast extent of water was a sea. It was the Caspian.
The eddies of sand had been passed. There was a view of a group of
European houses rising along a promontory, with a church tower in the
midst of them.
The "Albatross" swooped down towards the surface of the sea. Towards
evening she was running along the coast-which formerly belonged to
Turkestan, but now belongs to Russia--and in the morning of the 3rd
of July she was about three hundred feet above the Caspian.
There was no land in sight, either on the Asiatic or European side.
On the surface of the sea a few white sails were bellying in the
breeze. These were native vessels recognizable by their peculiar
rig--kesebeys, with two masts; kayuks, the old pirate-boats, with one
mast; teimils, and smaller craft for trading and fishing. Here and
there a few puffs of smoke rose up to the "Albatross" from the
funnels of the Ashurada streamers, which the Russians keep as the
police of these Turcoman waters.
That morning Tom Turner was talking to the cook, Tapage, and to a
question of his replied, "Yes; we shall be about forty-eight hours
over the Caspian."
"Good!" said the cook; "Then we can have some fishing."
They were to remain for forty-eight hours over the Caspian, which is
some six hundred and twenty-five miles long and two hundred wide,
because the speed of the "Albatross" had been much reduced, and while
the fishing was going on she would be stopped altogether.
The reply was heard by Phil Evans, who was then in the bow, where
Frycollin was overwhelming him with piteous pleadings to be put "on
Without replying to this preposterous request, Evans returned aft to
Uncle Prudent; and there, taking care not to be overheard, he
reported the conversation that had taken place.
"Phil Evans," said Uncle Prudent, "I think there can be no mistake as
to this scoundrel's intention with regard to us."
"None," said Phil Evans. "He will only give us our liberty when it
suits him, and perhaps not at all."
"In that case we must do all we can to get away from the "Albatross"."
"A splendid craft, she is, I must admit."
"Perhaps so," said Uncle Prudent; "but she belongs to a scoundrel who
detains us on board in defiance of all right. For us and ours she is
a constant danger. If we do not destroy her --"
"Let us begin by saving ourselves" answered Phil Evans; we can see
about the destruction afterwards."
"Just so," said Uncle Prudent. "And we must avail ourselves of every
chance that comes, along. Evidently the "Albatross" is going to cross
the Caspian into Europe, either by the north into Russia or by the
west into the southern countries. Well, no matter where we stop,
before we get to the Atlantic, we shall be safe. And we ought to be
ready at any moment."
"But," asked Evans, "how are we to get out?"
"Listen to me," said Uncle Prudent. "It may happen during the night
that the "Albatross" may drop to within a few hundred feet of the
ground. Now there are on board several ropes of that length, and,
with a little pluck we might slip down them --"
"Yes," said Evans. "If the case is desperate I don't mind --"
"Nor I. During the night there's no one about except the man at the
wheel. And if we can drop one of the ropes forward without being seen
or heard --"
"Good! I am glad to see you are so cool; that means business. But
just now we are over the Caspian. There are several ships in sight.
The "Albatross" is going down to fish. Cannot we do something now?"
"Sh! They are watching us much more than you think," said Uncle
Prudent. "You saw that when we tried to jump into the Hydaspes."
"And who knows that they don't watch us at night?" asked Evans.
"Well, we must end this; we must finish with this "Albatross" and her
It will he seen how in the excitement of their anger the colleagues--
Uncle Prudent in particular--were prepared to attempt the most
hazardous things. The sense of their powerlessness, the ironical
disdain with which Robur treated them, the brutal remarks he indulged
in--all contributed towards intensifying the aggravation which daily
grew more manifest.
This very day something occurred which gave rise to another most
regrettable altercation between Robur and his guests. This was
provoked by Frycollin, who, finding himself above the boundless sea,
was seized with another fit of terror. Like a child, like the Negro
he was, he gave himself over to groaning and protesting and crying,
and writhing in a thousand contortions and grimaces.
"I want to get out! I want to get out! I am not a bird! Boohoo! I
don't want to fly, I want to get out!"
Uncle Prudent, as may be imagined, did not attempt to quiet him. In
fact, he encouraged him, and particularly as the incessant howling
seemed to have a strangely irritating effect on Robur.
When Tom Turner and his companions were getting ready for fishing,
the engineer ordered them to shut up Frycollin in his cabin. But the
Negro never ceased his jumping about, and began to kick at the wall
and yell with redoubled power.
It was noon. The "Albatross" was only about fifteen or twenty feet
above the water. A few ships, terrified at the apparition, sought
safety in flight.
As may be guessed, a sharp look-out was kept on the prisoners, whose
temptation to escape could not but be intensified. Even supposing
they jumped overboard they would have been picked up by the
india-rubber boat. As there was nothing to do during the fishing, in
which Phil Evans intended to take part, Uncle Prudent, raging
furiously as usual, retired to his cabin.
The Caspian Sea is a volcanic depression. Into it flow the waters of
the Volga, the Ural, the Kour, the Kouma, the Jemba, and others.
Without the evaporation which relieves it of its overflow, this
basin, with an area of 17,000 square miles, and a depth of from sixty
to four hundred feet, would flood the low marshy ground to its north
and east. Although it is not in communication with the Black Sea or
the Sea of Aral, being at a much lower level than they are, it
contains an immense number of fish--such fish, be it understood, as
can live in its bitter waters, the bitterness being due to the naptha
which pours in from the springs on the south.
The crew of the "Albatross" made no secret of their delight at the
change in their food the fishing would bring them.
"Look out!" shouted Turner, as he harpooned a good-size fish, not
unlike a shark.
It was a splendid sturgeon seven feet long, called by the Russians
beluga, the eggs of which mixed up with salt, vinegar, and white wine
form caviar. Sturgeons from the river are, it may be, rather better
than those from the sea; but these were welcomed warmly enough on
board the "Albatross."
But the best catches were made with the drag-nets, which brought up
at each haul carp, bream, salmon, saltwater pike, and a number of
medium-sized sterlets, which wealthy gourmets have sent alive to
Astrakhan, Moscow, and Petersburg, and which now passed direct from
their natural element into the cook's kettle without any charge for
An hour's work sufficed to fill up the larders of the aeronef, and
she resumed her course to the north.
During the fishing Frycollin had continued shouting and kicking at
his cabin wall, and making a tremendous noise.
"That wretched nigger will not be quiet, then?" said Robur, almost
out of patience.
"It seems to me, sir, he has a right to complain," said Phil Evans.
"Yes, and I have a right to look after my ears," replied Robur.
"Engineer Robur!" said Uncle Prudent, who had just appeared on deck.
"President of the Weldon Institute!"
They had stepped up to one another, and were looking into the whites
of each other's eyes. Then Robur shrugged his shoulders. "Put him at
the end of a line," he said.
Turner saw his meaning at once. Frycollin was dragged out of his
cabin. Loud were his cries when the mate and one of the men seized
him and tied him into a tub, which they hitched on to a rope--one of
those very ropes, in fact, that Uncle Prudent had intended to use as
The Negro at first thought he was going to be hanged. Not he was only
going to be towed!
The rope was paid out for a hundred feet and Frycollin found himself
hanging in space.
He could then shout at his ease. But fright contracted his larynx,
and he was mute.
Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans endeavored to prevent this performance.
They were thrust aside.
"It is scandalous! It is cowardly!" said Uncle Prudent, quite beside
himself with rage.
"Indeed!" said Robur.
"It is an abuse of power against which I protest."
"I will be avenged, Mr. Robur."
"Avenge when you like, Mr. Prudent."
"I will have my revenge on you and yours."
The crew began to close up with anything but peaceful intentions.
Robur motioned them away.
"Yes, on you and yours!" said Uncle Prudent, whom his colleague in
vain tried to keep quiet.
"Whenever you please!" said the engineer.
"And in every possible way!"
"That is enough now," said Robur, in a threatening tone. "There are
other ropes on board. And if you don't be quiet I'll treat you as I
have done your servant!"
Uncle Prudent was silent, not because he was afraid, but because his
wrath had nearly choked him; and Phil Evans led him off to his cabin.
During the last hour the air had been strangely troubled. The
symptoms could not be mistaken. A storm was threatening. The electric
saturation of the atmosphere had become so great that about half-past
two o'clock Robur witnessed a phenomenon that was new to him.
In the north, whence the storm was traveling, were spirals of
half-luminous vapor due to the difference in the electric charges of
the various beds of cloud. The reflections of these bands came
running along the waves in myriads of lights, growing in intensity as
the sky darkened.
The "Albatross" and the storm we're sure to meet, for they were
exactly in front of each other.
And Frycollin? Well! Frycollin was being towed--and towed is exactly
the word, for the rope made such an angle, with the aeronef, now
going at over sixty knots an hour, that the tub was a long way behind
The crew were busy in preparing for the storm, for the "Albatross"
would either have to rise above it or drive through its lowest
layers. She was about three thousand feet above the sea when a clap
of thunder was heard. Suddenly the squall struck her. In a few
seconds the fiery clouds swept on around her.
Phil Evans went to intercede for Frycollin, and asked for him to be
taken on board again. But Robur had already given orders to that
effect, and the rope was being hauled in, when suddenly there took
place an inexplicable slackening in the speed of the screws.
The engineer rushed to the central deck-house. "Power! More power!"
he shouted. "We must rise quickly and get over the storm!"
"What is the matter?"
"The currents are troubled! They are intermittent!" And, in fact, the
"Albatross" was falling fast.
As with the telegraph wires on land during a storm, so was it with
the accumulators of the aeronef. But what is only an inconvenience in
the case of messages was here a terrible danger.
"Let her down, then," said Robur, "and get out of the electric zone!
Keep cool, my lads!"
He stepped on to his quarter-deck and his crew went to their stations.
Although the "Albatross" had sunk several hundred feet she was still
in the thick of the cloud, and the flashes played across her as if
they were fireworks. It seemed as though she was struck. The screws
ran more and more slowly, and what began as a gentle descent
threatened to become a collapse.
In less than a minute it was evident they would get down to the
surface of the sea. Once they were immersed no power could drag them
from the abyss.
Suddenly the electric cloud appeared above them. The "Albatross" was
only sixty feet from the crest of the waves. In two or three seconds
the deck would be under water.
But Robur, seizing the propitious moment, rushed to the central house
and seized the levers. He turned on the currents from the piles no
longer neutralized by the electric tension of the surrounding
atmosphere. In a moment the screws had regained their normal speed
and checked the descent; and the "Albatross" remained at her slight
elevation while her propellers drove her swiftly out of reach of the
Frycollin, of course, had a bath--though only for a few seconds.
When he was dragged on deck he was as wet as if he had been to the
bottom of the sea. As may be imagined, he cried no more.
In the morning of the 4th of July the "Albatross" had passed over the
northern shore of the Caspian.
THE AERONEF AT FULL SPEED
If ever Prudent and Evans despaired on escaping from the "Albatross"
it was during the two days that followed. It may be that Robur
considered it more difficult to keep a watch on his prisoners while
he was crossing Europe, and he knew that they had made up their minds
to get away.
But any attempt to have done so would have been simply committing
suicide. To jump from an express going sixty miles an hour is to risk
your life, but to jump from a machine going one hundred and twenty
miles an hour would be to seek your death.
And it was at this speed, the greatest that could be given to her,
that the "Albatross" tore along. Her speed exceeded that of the
swallow, which is one hundred and twelve miles an hour.
At first the wind was in the northeast, and the "Albatross" had it
fair, her general course being a westerly one. But the wind began to
drop, and it soon became impossible for the colleagues to remain on
the deck without having their breath taken away by the rapidity of
the flight. And on one occasion they would have been blown overboard
if they had not been dashed up against the deck-house by the pressure
of the wind.
Luckily the steersman saw them through the windows of his cage, and
by the electric bell gave the alarm to the men in the fore-cabin.
Four of them came aft, creeping along the deck.
Those who have been at sea, beating to windward in half a gale of
wind, will understand what the pressure was like. But here it was the
"Albatross" that by her incomparable speed made her own wind.
To allow Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans to get back to their cabin the
speed had to be reduced. Inside the deck-house the "Albatross" bore
with her a perfectly breathable atmosphere. To stand such driving the
strength of the apparatus must have been prodigious. The propellers
spun round so swiftly that they seemed immovable, and it was with
irresistible power that they screwed themselves through the air.
The last town that had been noticed was Astrakhan, situated at the
north end of the Caspian Sea. The Star of the Desert--it must have
been a poet who so called it--has now sunk from the first rank to
the fifth or sixth. A momentary glance was afforded at its old walls,
with their useless battlements, the ancient towers in the center of
the city, the mosques and modern churches, the cathedral with its
five domes, gilded and dotted with stars as if it were a piece of the
sky, as they rose from the bank of the Volga, which here, as it joins
the sea, is over a mile in width.
Thenceforward the flight of the "Albatross" became quite a race
through the heights of the sky, as if she had been harnessed to one
of those fabulous hippogriffs which cleared a league at every sweep
of the wing.
At ten o'clock in the morning, of the 4th of July the aeronef,
heading northwest, followed for a little the valley of the Volga. The
steppes of the Don and the Ural stretched away on each side of the
river. Even if it had been possible to get a glimpse of these vast
territories there would have been no time to count the towns and
villages. In the evening the aeronef passed over Moscow without
saluting the flag on the Kremlin. In ten hours she had covered the
twelve hundred miles which separate Astrakhan from the ancient
capital of all the Russias.
From Moscow to St. Petersburg the railway line measures about seven
hundred and fifty miles. This was but a half-day's journey, and the
"Albatross," as punctual as the mail, reached St. Petersburg and the
banks of the Neva at two o'clock in the morning.
Then came the Gulf of Finland, the Archipelago of Abo, the Baltic,
Sweden in the latitude of Stockholm, and Norway in the latitude of
Christiania. Ten hours only for these twelve hundred miles! Verily it
might be thought that no human power would henceforth be able to
check the speed of the "Albatross," and as if the resultant of her
force of projection and the attraction of the earth would maintain
her in an unvarying trajectory round the globe.
But she did stop nevertheless, and that was over the famous fall of
the Rjukanfos in Norway. Gousta, whose summit dominates this
wonderful region of Tellermarken, stood in the west like a gigantic
barrier apparently impassable. And when the "Albatross" resumed her
journey at full speed her head had been turned to the south.
And during this extraordinary flight what was Frycollin doing? He
remained silent in a comer of his cabin, sleeping as well as he
could, except at meal times.
Tapage then favored him with his company and amused himself at his
expense. "Eh! eh! my boy!" said he. "So you are not crying any more?
Perhaps it hurt you too much? That two hours hanging cured you of it?
At our present rate, what a splendid air-bath you might have for your
"It seems to me we shall soon go to pieces!"
"Perhaps so; but we shall go so fast we shan't have time to fall!
That is some comfort!"
"Do you think so?"
To tell the truth, and not to exaggerate like Tapage, it was only
reasonable that owing to the excessive speed the work of the
suspensory screws should be somewhat lessened. The "Albatross" glided
on its bed of air like a Congreve rocket.
"And shall we last long like that?" asked Frycollin.
"Long? Oh, no, only as long as we live!"
"Oh!" said the Negro, beginning his lamentations.
"Take care, Fry, take care! For, as they say in my country, the
master may send you to the seesaw!" And Frycollin gulped down his
sobs as he gulped down the meat which, in double doses, he was
Meanwhile Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans, who were not men to waste
time in wrangling when nothing could come of it, agreed upon doing
something. It was evident that escape was not to be thought of. But
if it was impossible for them to again set foot on the terrestrial
globe, could they not make known to its inhabitants what had become
of them since their disappearance, and tell them by whom they had
been carried off, and provoke--how was not very clear--some
audacious attempt on the part of their friends to rescue them from
Communicate? But how? Should they follow the example of sailors in
distress and enclose in a bottle a document giving the place of
shipwreck and throw it into the sea? But here the sea was the
atmosphere. The bottle would not swim. And if it did not fall on
somebody and crack his skull it might never be found.
The colleagues were about to sacrifice one of the bottles on board
when an idea occurred to Uncle Prudent. He took snuff, as we know,
and we may pardon this fault in an American, who might do worse. And
as a snuff-taker he possessed a snuff-box, which was now empty. This
box was made of aluminum. If it was thrown overboard any honest
citizen that found it would pick it up, and, being an honest citizen,
he would take it to the police-office, and there they would open it
and discover from the document what had become of the two victims of
Robur the Conqueror!
And this is what was done. The note was short, but it told all, and
it gave the address of the Weldon Institute, with a request that it
might he forwarded. Then Uncle Prudent folded up the note, shut it in
the box, bound the box round with a piece of worsted so as to keep it
from opening it as it fell. And then all that had to be done was to
wait for a favorable opportunity.
During this marvelous flight over Europe it was not an easy thing to
leave the cabin and creep along the deck at the risk of being
suddenly and secretly blown away, and it would not do for the
snuff-box to fall into the sea or a gulf or a lake or a watercourse,
for it would then perhaps be lost. At the same time it was not
impossible that the colleagues might in this way get into
communication with the habitable globe.
It was then growing daylight, and it seemed as though it would be
better to wait for the night and take advantage of a slackening speed
or a halt to go out on deck and drop the precious snuff-box into some
When all these points had been thought over and settled, the
prisoners, found they could not put their plan into execution--on
that day, at all events--for the "Albatross," after leaving Gousta,
had kept her southerly course, which took her over the North Sea,
much to the consternation of the thousands of coasting craft engaged
in the English, Dutch, French, and Belgian trade. Unless the
snuff-box fell on the deck of one of these vessels there was every
chance of its going to the bottom of the sea, and Uncle Prudent and
Phil Evans were obliged to wait for a better opportunity. And, as we
shall immediately see, an excellent chance was soon to be offered
At ten o'clock that evening the "Albatross" reached the French coast
near Dunkirk. The night was rather dark. For a moment they could see
the lighthouse at Grisnez cross its electric beam with the lights
from Dover on the other side of the strait. Then the "Albatross" flew
over the French territory at a mean height of three thousand feet.
There was no diminution in her speed. She shot like a rocket over the
towns and villages so numerous in northern France. She was flying
straight on to Paris, and after Dunkirk came Doullens, Amiens, Creil,
Saint Denis. She never left the line; and about midnight she was over
the "city of light," which merits its name even when its inhabitants
are asleep or ought to be.
By what strange whim was it that she was stopped over the city of
Paris? We do not know; but down she came till she was within a few
hundred feet of the ground. Robur then came out of his cabin, and the
crew came on to the deck to breathe the ambient air.
Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans took care not to miss such an excellent
opportunity. They left their deck-house and walked off away from the
others so as to be ready at the propitious moment. It was important
their action should not be seen.
The "Albatross," like a huge coleopter, glided gently over the mighty
city. She took the line of the boulevards, then brilliantly lighted
by the Edison lamps. Up to her there floated the rumble of the
vehicles as they drove along the streets, and the roll of the trains
on the numerous railways that converge into Paris. Then she glided
over the highest monuments as if she was going to knock the ball off
the Pantheon or the cross off the Invalides. She hovered over the two
minarets of the Trocadero and the metal tower of the Champ de Mars,
where the enormous reflector was inundating the whole capital with
its electric rays.
This aerial promenade, this nocturnal loitering, lasted for about an
hour. It was a halt for breath before the voyage was resumed.
And probably Robur wished to give the Parisians the sight of a meteor
quite unforeseen by their astronomers. The lamps of the "Albatross"
were turned on. Two brilliant sheaves of light shot down and moved
along over the squares, the gardens, the palaces, the sixty thousand
houses, and swept the space from one horizon to the other.
Assuredly the "Albatross" was seen this time--and not only well seen
but heard, for Tom Turner brought out his trumpet and blew a rousing
At this moment Uncle Prudent leant over the rail, opened his hand,
and let his snuff-box fall.
Immediately the "Albatross" shot upwards, and past her, higher still,
there mounted the noisy cheering of the crowd then thick on the
boulevards--a hurrah of stupefaction to greet the imaginary meteor.
The lamps of the aeronef were turned off, and the darkness and the
silence closed in around as the voyage was resumed at the rate of one
hundred and twenty miles an hour.
This was all that was to be seen of the French capital. At four
o'clock in the morning the "Albatross" had crossed the whole country
obliquely; and so as to lose no time in traversing the Alps or the
Pyrenees, she flew over the face of Provence to the cape of Antibes.
At nine o'clock next morning the San Pietrini assembled on the
terrace of St. Peter at Rome were astounded to see her pass over the
eternal city. Two hours afterwards she crossed the Bay of Naples and
hovered for an instant over the fuliginous wreaths of Vesuvius. Then,
after cutting obliquely across the Mediterranean, in the early hours
of the afternoon she was signaled by the look-outs at La Goulette on
the Tunisian coast.
After America, Asia! After Asia, Europe! More than eighteen thousand
miles had this wonderful machine accomplished in less than
And now she was off over the known and unknown regions of Africa!
It may be interesting to know what had happened to the famous
snuff-box after its fall?
It had fallen in the Rue de Rivoli, opposite No. 200, when the street
was deserted. In the morning it was picked up by an honest sweeper,
who took it to the prefecture of police. There it was at first
supposed to be an infernal machine. And it was untied, examined, and
opened with care.
Suddenly a sort of explosion took place. It was a terrific sneeze on
the part of the inspector.
The document was then extracted from the snuff-box, and to the
general surprise, read as follows:
""Messrs. Prudent and Evans, president and secretary of the Weldon
Institute, Philadelphia, have been carried off in the aeronef
Albatross belonging to Robur the engineer.""
""Please inform our friends and acquaintances.""
""P. and P. E.""
Thus was the strange phenomenon at last explained to the people of
the two worlds. Thus was peace given to the scientists of the
numerous observatories on the surface of the terrestrial globe.
A SKIRMISH IN DAHOMEY
At this point in the circumnavigatory voyage of the "Albatross" it is
only natural that some such questions as the following should be
asked. Who was this Robur, of whom up to the present we know nothing
but the name? Did he pass his life in the air? Did his aeronef never
rest? Had he not some retreat in some inaccessible spot in which, if
he had need of repose or revictualing, be could betake himself? It
would be very strange if it were not so. The most powerful flyers
have always an eyrie or nest somewhere.
And what was the engineer going to do with his prisoners? Was he
going to keep them in his power and condemn them to perpetual
aviation? Or was he going to take them on a trip over Africa, South
America, Australasia, the Indian Ocean, the Atlantic and the Pacific,
to convince them against their will, and then dismiss them with, "And
now gentlemen, I hope you will believe a little more in heavier than
To these questions, it is now impossible to reply. They are the
secrets of the future. Perhaps the answers will be revealed. Anyhow
the bird-like Robur was not seeking his nest on the northern frontier
of Africa. By the end of the day he had traversed Tunis from Cape Bon
to Cape Carthage, sometimes hovering, and sometimes darting along at
top speed. Soon he reached the interior, and flew down the beautiful
valley of Medjeida above its yellow stream hidden under its luxuriant
bushes of cactus and oleander; and scared away the hundreds of
parrots that perch on the telegraph wires and seem to wait for the
messages to pass to bear them away beneath their wings.
Two hours after sunset the helm was put up and the "Albatross" bore
off to the southeast; and on the morrow, after clearing the Tell
Mountains, she saw the rising of the morning star over the sands of
On the 30th of July there was seen from the aeronef the little
village of Geryville, founded like Laghouat on the frontier of the
desert to facilitate the future conquest of Kabylia. Next, not
without difficulty, the peaks of Stillero were passed against a
somewhat boisterous wind. Then the desert was crossed, sometimes
leisurely over the Ksars or green oases, sometimes at terrific speed
that far outstripped the flight of the vultures. Often the crew had
to fire into the flocks of these birds which, a dozen or so at a
time, fearlessly hurled them selves on to the aeronef to the extreme
terror of Frycollin.
But if the vultures could only reply with cries and blows of beaks
and talons, the natives, in no way less savage, were not sparing of
their musket-shots, particularly when crossing the Mountain of Sel,