Around the World in 80 Days
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Snow had fallen abundantly during the night, but, being mixed with rain,
it had half melted, and did not interrupt their progress. The bad weather,
however, annoyed Passepartout; for the accumulation of snow, by blocking
the wheels of the cars, would certainly have been fatal to Mr. Fogg's tour.
"What an idea!" he said to himself. "Why did my master make
this journey in winter? Couldn't he have waited for the good
season to increase his chances?"
While the worthy Frenchman was absorbed in the state of the sky
and the depression of the temperature, Aouda was experiencing
fears from a totally different cause.
Several passengers had got off at Green River, and were walking up and down
the platforms; and among these Aouda recognised Colonel Stamp Proctor,
the same who had so grossly insulted Phileas Fogg at the San Francisco meeting.
Not wishing to be recognised, the young woman drew back from the window,
feeling much alarm at her discovery. She was attached to the man who,
however coldly, gave her daily evidences of the most absolute devotion.
She did not comprehend, perhaps, the depth of the sentiment with which
her protector inspired her, which she called gratitude, but which,
though she was unconscious of it, was really more than that.
Her heart sank within her when she recognised the man whom
Mr. Fogg desired, sooner or later, to call to account for his conduct.
Chance alone, it was clear, had brought Colonel Proctor on this train;
but there he was, and it was necessary, at all hazards, that Phileas Fogg
should not perceive his adversary.
Aouda seized a moment when Mr. Fogg was asleep to tell Fix and Passepartout
whom she had seen.
"That Proctor on this train!" cried Fix. "Well, reassure yourself,
madam; before he settles with Mr. Fogg; he has got to deal with me!
It seems to me that I was the more insulted of the two."
"And, besides," added Passepartout, "I'll take charge of him,
colonel as he is."
"Mr. Fix," resumed Aouda, "Mr. Fogg will allow no one to avenge him.
He said that he would come back to America to find this man.
Should he perceive Colonel Proctor, we could not prevent a collision
which might have terrible results. He must not see him."
"You are right, madam," replied Fix; "a meeting between them
might ruin all. Whether he were victorious or beaten, Mr. Fogg
would be delayed, and--"
"And," added Passepartout, "that would play the game of the gentlemen
of the Reform Club. In four days we shall be in New York. Well,
if my master does not leave this car during those four days,
we may hope that chance will not bring him face to face with this
confounded American. We must, if possible, prevent his stirring out of it."
The conversation dropped. Mr. Fogg had just woke up,
and was looking out of the window. Soon after Passepartout,
without being heard by his master or Aouda, whispered to the detective,
"Would you really fight for him?"
"I would do anything," replied Fix, in a tone which betrayed determined will,
"to get him back living to Europe!"
Passepartout felt something like a shudder shoot through his frame,
but his confidence in his master remained unbroken.
Was there any means of detaining Mr. Fogg in the car, to avoid a meeting
between him and the colonel? It ought not to be a difficult task,
since that gentleman was naturally sedentary and little curious.
The detective, at least, seemed to have found a way; for, after a few moments,
he said to Mr. Fogg, "These are long and slow hours, sir, that we are passing
on the railway."
"Yes," replied Mr. Fogg; "but they pass."
"You were in the habit of playing whist," resumed Fix, "on the steamers."
"Yes; but it would be difficult to do so here. I have neither cards
"Oh, but we can easily buy some cards, for they are sold
on all the American trains. And as for partners, if madam plays--"
"Certainly, sir," Aouda quickly replied; "I understand whist.
It is part of an English education."
"I myself have some pretensions to playing a good game.
Well, here are three of us, and a dummy--"
"As you please, sir," replied Phileas Fogg, heartily glad
to resume his favourite pastime even on the railway.
Passepartout was dispatched in search of the steward,
and soon returned with two packs of cards, some pins,
counters, and a shelf covered with cloth.
The game commenced. Aouda understood whist sufficiently well,
and even received some compliments on her playing from Mr. Fogg.
As for the detective, he was simply an adept, and worthy of being
matched against his present opponent.
"Now," thought Passepartout, "we've got him. He won't budge."
At eleven in the morning the train had reached the dividing ridge of the waters
at Bridger Pass, seven thousand five hundred and twenty-four feet above
the level of the sea, one of the highest points attained by the track
in crossing the Rocky Mountains. After going about two hundred miles,
the travellers at last found themselves on one of those vast plains
which extend to the Atlantic, and which nature has made so propitious
for laying the iron road.
On the declivity of the Atlantic basin the first streams,
branches of the North Platte River, already appeared.
The whole northern and eastern horizon was bounded by the immense
semi-circular curtain which is formed by the southern portion
of the Rocky Mountains, the highest being Laramie Peak.
Between this and the railway extended vast plains,
plentifully irrigated. On the right rose the lower spurs
of the mountainous mass which extends southward to the sources
of the Arkansas River, one of the great tributaries of the Missouri.
At half-past twelve the travellers caught sight for an instant of Fort Halleck,
which commands that section; and in a few more hours the Rocky Mountains
were crossed. There was reason to hope, then, that no accident would mark
the journey through this difficult country. The snow had ceased falling,
and the air became crisp and cold. Large birds, frightened by the locomotive,
rose and flew off in the distance. No wild beast appeared on the plain.
It was a desert in its vast nakedness.
After a comfortable breakfast, served in the car, Mr. Fogg and his partners had
just resumed whist, when a violent whistling was heard, and the train stopped.
Passepartout put his head out of the door, but saw nothing to cause the delay;
no station was in view.
Aouda and Fix feared that Mr. Fogg might take it into his head to get out;
but that gentleman contented himself with saying to his servant,
"See what is the matter."
Passepartout rushed out of the car. Thirty or forty passengers
had already descended, amongst them Colonel Stamp Proctor.
The train had stopped before a red signal which blocked the way.
The engineer and conductor were talking excitedly with a signal-man,
whom the station-master at Medicine Bow, the next stopping place,
had sent on before. The passengers drew around and took part
in the discussion, in which Colonel Proctor, with his insolent manner,
Passepartout, joining the group, heard the signal-man say,
"No! you can't pass. The bridge at Medicine Bow is shaky,
and would not bear the weight of the train."
This was a suspension-bridge thrown over some rapids, about a
mile from the place where they now were. According to the
signal-man, it was in a ruinous condition, several of the iron
wires being broken; and it was impossible to risk the passage.
He did not in any way exaggerate the condition of the bridge.
It may be taken for granted that, rash as the Americans usually are,
when they are prudent there is good reason for it.
Passepartout, not daring to apprise his master of what he heard,
listened with set teeth, immovable as a statue.
"Hum!" cried Colonel Proctor; "but we are not going to stay here,
I imagine, and take root in the snow?"
"Colonel," replied the conductor, "we have telegraphed to Omaha for a train,
but it is not likely that it will reach Medicine Bow is less than six hours."
"Six hours!" cried Passepartout.
"Certainly," returned the conductor, "besides, it will take us as long
as that to reach Medicine Bow on foot."
"But it is only a mile from here," said one of the passengers.
"Yes, but it's on the other side of the river."
"And can't we cross that in a boat?" asked the colonel.
"That's impossible. The creek is swelled by the rains. It is a rapid,
and we shall have to make a circuit of ten miles to the north to find a ford."
The colonel launched a volley of oaths, denouncing the railway
company and the conductor; and Passepartout, who was furious,
was not disinclined to make common cause with him. Here was
an obstacle, indeed, which all his master's banknotes could not remove.
There was a general disappointment among the passengers, who,
without reckoning the delay, saw themselves compelled to trudge
fifteen miles over a plain covered with snow. They grumbled and
protested, and would certainly have thus attracted Phileas Fogg's
attention if he had not been completely absorbed in his game.
Passepartout found that he could not avoid telling his master what
had occurred, and, with hanging head, he was turning towards the car,
when the engineer a true Yankee, named Forster called out,
"Gentlemen, perhaps there is a way, after all, to get over."
"On the bridge?" asked a passenger.
"On the bridge."