In which the Red Sea and the Indian ocean prove propitious
to the designs of Phileas Fogg
The distance between Suez and Aden is precisely thirteen hundred
and ten miles, and the regulations of the company allow the
steamers one hundred and thirty-eight hours in which to traverse it.
The Mongolia, thanks to the vigorous exertions of the engineer,
seemed likely, so rapid was her speed, to reach her destination
considerably within that time. The greater part of the passengers
from Brindisi were bound for India some for Bombay, others for Calcutta
by way of Bombay, the nearest route thither, now that a railway crosses
the Indian peninsula. Among the passengers was a number of officials
and military officers of various grades, the latter being either attached
to the regular British forces or commanding the Sepoy troops,
and receiving high salaries ever since the central
government has assumed the powers of the East India Company:
for the sub-lieutenants get 280 pounds, brigadiers, 2,400 pounds,
and generals of divisions, 4,000 pounds. What with the military men,
a number of rich young Englishmen on their travels, and the hospitable
efforts of the purser, the time passed quickly on the Mongolia.
The best of fare was spread upon the cabin tables at breakfast,
lunch, dinner, and the eight o’clock supper, and the ladies
scrupulously changed their toilets twice a day; and the hours
were whirled away, when the sea was tranquil, with music, dancing, and games.
But the Red Sea is full of caprice, and often boisterous, like most long
and narrow gulfs. When the wind came from the African or Asian coast
the Mongolia, with her long hull, rolled fearfully. Then the ladies
speedily disappeared below; the pianos were silent; singing and dancing
suddenly ceased. Yet the good ship ploughed straight on, unretarded by wind
or wave, towards the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb. What was Phileas Fogg
doing all this time? It might be thought that, in his anxiety, he would
be constantly watching the changes of the wind, the disorderly raging
of the billows–every chance, in short, which might force the Mongolia
to slacken her speed, and thus interrupt his journey. But, if he thought
of these possibilities, he did not betray the fact by any outward sign.
Always the same impassible member of the Reform Club, whom no
incident could surprise, as unvarying as the ship’s chronometers,
and seldom having the curiosity even to go upon the deck, he passed
through the memorable scenes of the Red Sea with cold indifference;
did not care to recognise the historic towns and villages which,
along its borders, raised their picturesque outlines against the sky;
and betrayed no fear of the dangers of the Arabic Gulf, which the old
historians always spoke of with horror, and upon which the ancient
navigators never ventured without propitiating the gods by ample sacrifices.
How did this eccentric personage pass his time on the Mongolia? He made his
four hearty meals every day, regardless of the most persistent rolling
and pitching on the part of the steamer; and he played whist indefatigably,
for he had found partners as enthusiastic in the game as himself.
A tax-collector, on the way to his post at Goa; the Rev. Decimus Smith,
returning to his parish at Bombay; and a brigadier-general of the English army,
who was about to rejoin his brigade at Benares, made up the party, and,
with Mr. Fogg, played whist by the hour together in absorbing silence.
As for Passepartout, he, too, had escaped sea-sickness, and took his meals
conscientiously in the forward cabin. He rather enjoyed the voyage,
for he was well fed and well lodged, took a great interest in the scenes
through which they were passing, and consoled himself with the delusion
that his master’s whim would end at Bombay. He was pleased, on the day after
leaving Suez, to find on deck the obliging person with whom he had walked
and chatted on the quays.
“If I am not mistaken,” said he, approaching this person, with his most
amiable smile, “you are the gentleman who so kindly volunteered
to guide me at Suez?”
“Ah! I quite recognise you. You are the servant of the strange Englishman–”
“Just so, monsieur–”
“Monsieur Fix,” resumed Passepartout, “I’m charmed to find you on board.
Where are you bound?”
“Like you, to Bombay.”
“That’s capital! Have you made this trip before?”
“Several times. I am one of the agents of the Peninsular Company.”
“Then you know India?”
“Why yes,” replied Fix, who spoke cautiously.
“A curious place, this India?”
“Oh, very curious. Mosques, minarets, temples, fakirs, pagodas, tigers,
snakes, elephants! I hope you will have ample time to see the sights.”
“I hope so, Monsieur Fix. You see, a man of sound sense ought not
to spend his life jumping from a steamer upon a railway train,
and from a railway train upon a steamer again, pretending to make the tour
of the world in eighty days! No; all these gymnastics, you may be sure,
will cease at Bombay.”
“And Mr. Fogg is getting on well?” asked Fix, in the most natural
tone in the world.
“Quite well, and I too. I eat like a famished ogre; it’s the sea air.
“But I never see your master on deck.”
“Never; he hasn’t the least curiosity.”
“Do you know, Mr. Passepartout, that this pretended tour in eighty days
may conceal some secret errand–perhaps a diplomatic mission?”
“Faith, Monsieur Fix, I assure you I know nothing about it,
nor would I give half a crown to find out.”
After this meeting, Passepartout and Fix got into the habit
of chatting together, the latter making it a point to gain
the worthy man’s confidence. He frequently offered him a glass
of whiskey or pale ale in the steamer bar-room, which Passepartout
never failed to accept with graceful alacrity, mentally pronouncing
Fix the best of good fellows.
Meanwhile the Mongolia was pushing forward rapidly; on the 13th,
Mocha, surrounded by its ruined walls whereon date-trees were growing,
was sighted, and on the mountains beyond were espied vast coffee-fields.
Passepartout was ravished to behold this celebrated place, and thought that,
with its circular walls and dismantled fort, it looked like an immense
coffee-cup and saucer. The following night they passed through the Strait
of Bab-el-Mandeb, which means in Arabic The Bridge of Tears, and the
next day they put in at Steamer Point, north-west of Aden harbour,
to take in coal. This matter of fuelling steamers is a serious
one at such distances from the coal-mines; it costs the Peninsular
Company some eight hundred thousand pounds a year. In these
distant seas, coal is worth three or four pounds sterling a ton.
The Mongolia had still sixteen hundred and fifty miles to traverse
before reaching Bombay, and was obliged to remain four hours at
Steamer Point to coal up. But this delay, as it was foreseen,
did not affect Phileas Fogg’s programme; besides, the Mongolia,
instead of reaching Aden on the morning of the 15th, when she was due,
arrived there on the evening of the 14th, a gain of fifteen hours.
Mr. Fogg and his servant went ashore at Aden to have the passport
again visaed; Fix, unobserved, followed them. The visa procured,
Mr. Fogg returned on board to resume his former habits; while Passepartout,
according to custom, sauntered about among the mixed population of Somanlis,
Banyans, Parsees, Jews, Arabs, and Europeans who comprise the twenty-five
thousand inhabitants of Aden. He gazed with wonder upon the fortifications
which make this place the Gibraltar of the Indian Ocean, and the vast cisterns
where the English engineers were still at work, two thousand years after
the engineers of Solomon.
“Very curious, very curious,” said Passepartout to himself,
on returning to the steamer. “I see that it is by no means useless
to travel, if a man wants to see something new.” At six p.m.
the Mongolia slowly moved out of the roadstead, and was soon
once more on the Indian Ocean. She had a hundred and sixty-eight hours
in which to reach Bombay, and the sea was favourable, the wind being
in the north-west, and all sails aiding the engine. The steamer
rolled but little, the ladies, in fresh toilets, reappeared
on deck, and the singing and dancing were resumed. The trip
was being accomplished most successfully, and Passepartout
was enchanted with the congenial companion which chance had secured
him in the person of the delightful Fix. On Sunday, October 20th,
towards noon, they came in sight of the Indian coast: two hours
later the pilot came on board. A range of hills lay against the
sky in the horizon, and soon the rows of palms which adorn Bombay
came distinctly into view. The steamer entered the road formed by
the islands in the bay, and at half-past four she hauled up at the
quays of Bombay.
Phileas Fogg was in the act of finishing the thirty-third rubber
of the voyage, and his partner and himself having, by a bold stroke,
captured all thirteen of the tricks, concluded this fine campaign
with a brilliant victory.
The Mongolia was due at Bombay on the 22nd; she arrived on the
20th. This was a gain to Phileas Fogg of two days since his
departure from London, and he calmly entered the fact in the
itinerary, in the column of gains.