Around the World in 80 Days
Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 Next page
and he understood her look. If his servant was a prisoner, ought he not
to risk everything to rescue him from the Indians? "I will find him,
living or dead," said he quietly to Aouda.
"Ah, Mr.--Mr. Fogg!" cried she, clasping his hands
and covering them with tears.
"Living," added Mr. Fogg, "if we do not lose a moment."
Phileas Fogg, by this resolution, inevitably sacrificed himself;
he pronounced his own doom. The delay of a single day would make
him lose the steamer at New York, and his bet would be certainly lost.
But as he thought, "It is my duty," he did not hesitate.
The commanding officer of Fort Kearney was there. A hundred
of his soldiers had placed themselves in a position to defend
the station, should the Sioux attack it.
"Sir," said Mr. Fogg to the captain, "three passengers have disappeared."
"Dead?" asked the captain.
"Dead or prisoners; that is the uncertainty which must be solved.
Do you propose to pursue the Sioux?"
"That's a serious thing to do, sir," returned the captain.
"These Indians may retreat beyond the Arkansas, and I cannot
leave the fort unprotected."
"The lives of three men are in question, sir," said Phileas Fogg.
"Doubtless; but can I risk the lives of fifty men to save three?"
"I don't know whether you can, sir; but you ought to do so."
"Nobody here," returned the other, "has a right to teach me my duty."
"Very well," said Mr. Fogg, coldly. "I will go alone."
"You, sir!" cried Fix, coming up; "you go alone in pursuit of the Indians?"
"Would you have me leave this poor fellow to perish--
him to whom every one present owes his life? I shall go."
"No, sir, you shall not go alone," cried the captain,
touched in spite of himself. "No! you are a brave man.
Thirty volunteers!" he added, turning to the soldiers.
The whole company started forward at once. The captain had
only to pick his men. Thirty were chosen, and an old sergeant
placed at their head.
"Thanks, captain," said Mr. Fogg.
"Will you let me go with you?" asked Fix.
"Do as you please, sir. But if you wish to do me a favour,
you will remain with Aouda. In case anything should happen to me--"
A sudden pallor overspread the detective's face. Separate himself
from the man whom he had so persistently followed step by step!
Leave him to wander about in this desert! Fix gazed attentively
at Mr. Fogg, and, despite his suspicions and of the struggle
which was going on within him, he lowered his eyes before that calm
and frank look.
"I will stay," said he.
A few moments after, Mr. Fogg pressed the young woman's hand, and,
having confided to her his precious carpet-bag, went off with the sergeant
and his little squad. But, before going, he had said to the soldiers,
"My friends, I will divide five thousand dollars among you, if we save
It was then a little past noon.
Aouda retired to a waiting-room, and there she waited alone,
thinking of the simple and noble generosity, the tranquil courage
of Phileas Fogg. He had sacrificed his fortune, and was now
risking his life, all without hesitation, from duty, in silence.
Fix did not have the same thoughts, and could scarcely conceal
his agitation. He walked feverishly up and down the platform,
but soon resumed his outward composure. He now saw the folly of which
he had been guilty in letting Fogg go alone. What! This man,
whom he had just followed around the world, was permitted now to
separate himself from him! He began to accuse and abuse himself,
and, as if he were director of police, administered to himself
a sound lecture for his greenness.
"I have been an idiot!" he thought, "and this man will see it.
He has gone, and won't come back! But how is it that I, Fix,
who have in my pocket a warrant for his arrest, have been
so fascinated by him? Decidedly, I am nothing but an ass!"
So reasoned the detective, while the hours crept by all too slowly.
He did not know what to do. Sometimes he was tempted to tell Aouda all;
but he could not doubt how the young woman would receive his confidences.
What course should he take? He thought of pursuing Fogg across
the vast white plains; it did not seem impossible that he might overtake him.
Footsteps were easily printed on the snow! But soon, under a new sheet,
every imprint would be effaced.
Fix became discouraged. He felt a sort of insurmountable longing
to abandon the game altogether. He could now leave Fort Kearney station,
and pursue his journey homeward in peace.
Towards two o'clock in the afternoon, while it was snowing hard,
long whistles were heard approaching from the east. A great shadow,
preceded by a wild light, slowly advanced, appearing still larger
through the mist, which gave it a fantastic aspect. No train
was expected from the east, neither had there been time for the succour
asked for by telegraph to arrive; the train from Omaha to San Francisco
was not due till the next day. The mystery was soon explained.
The locomotive, which was slowly approaching with deafening whistles,
was that which, having been detached from the train, had continued
its route with such terrific rapidity, carrying off the unconscious
engineer and stoker. It had run several miles, when, the fire becoming
low for want of fuel, the steam had slackened; and it had finally stopped
an hour after, some twenty miles beyond Fort Kearney. Neither the engineer
nor the stoker was dead, and, after remaining for some time in their swoon,
had come to themselves. The train had then stopped. The engineer, when he
found himself in the desert, and the locomotive without cars, understood
what had happened. He could not imagine how the locomotive had become
separated from the train; but he did not doubt that the train left behind
was in distress.
He did not hesitate what to do. It would be prudent to continue
on to Omaha, for it would be dangerous to return to the train,
which the Indians might still be engaged in pillaging.
Nevertheless, he began to rebuild the fire in the furnace;
the pressure again mounted, and the locomotive returned,
running backwards to Fort Kearney. This it was which was whistling
in the mist.
The travellers were glad to see the locomotive resume its
place at the head of the train. They could now continue
the journey so terribly interrupted.
Aouda, on seeing the locomotive come up, hurried out of the station,
and asked the conductor, "Are you going to start?"
"At once, madam."
"But the prisoners, our unfortunate fellow-travellers--"
"I cannot interrupt the trip," replied the conductor.
"We are already three hours behind time."
"And when will another train pass here from San Francisco?"
"To-morrow evening, madam."
"To-morrow evening! But then it will be too late! We must wait--"
"It is impossible," responded the conductor. "If you wish to go,
please get in."
"I will not go," said Aouda.
Fix had heard this conversation. A little while before, when there
was no prospect of proceeding on the journey, he had made up his mind
to leave Fort Kearney; but now that the train was there, ready to start,
and he had only to take his seat in the car, an irresistible influence
held him back. The station platform burned his feet, and he could not stir.
The conflict in his mind again began; anger and failure stifled him.
He wished to struggle on to the end.
Meanwhile the passengers and some of the wounded, among them
Colonel Proctor, whose injuries were serious, had taken their
places in the train. The buzzing of the over-heated boiler was
heard, and the steam was escaping from the valves. The engineer
whistled, the train started, and soon disappeared, mingling
its white smoke with the eddies of the densely falling snow.
The detective had remained behind.
Several hours passed. The weather was dismal, and it was very cold.
Fix sat motionless on a bench in the station; he might have been
thought asleep. Aouda, despite the storm, kept coming out
of the waiting-room, going to the end of the platform,
and peering through the tempest of snow, as if to pierce
the mist which narrowed the horizon around her, and to hear,
if possible, some welcome sound. She heard and saw nothing.
Then she would return, chilled through, to issue out again
after the lapse of a few moments, but always in vain.
Evening came, and the little band had not returned. Where could they be?
Had they found the Indians, and were they having a conflict with them,
or were they still wandering amid the mist? The commander of the fort
was anxious, though he tried to conceal his apprehensions.
As night approached, the snow fell less plentifully,
but it became intensely cold. Absolute silence rested on the plains.
Neither flight of bird nor passing of beast troubled the perfect calm.
Throughout the night Aouda, full of sad forebodings, her heart
stifled with anguish, wandered about on the verge of the plains.
Her imagination carried her far off, and showed her innumerable dangers.
What she suffered through the long hours it would be impossible to describe.