Around the World in 80 Days
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Fix remained stationary in the same place, but did not sleep.
Once a man approached and spoke to him, and the detective
merely replied by shaking his head.
Thus the night passed. At dawn, the half-extinguished disc of the sun
rose above a misty horizon ; but it was now possible to recognise objects
two miles off. Phileas Fogg and the squad had gone southward;
in the south all was still vacancy. It was then seven o'clock.
The captain, who was really alarmed, did not know what course to take.
Should he send another detachment to the rescue of the first?
Should he sacrifice more men, with so few chances of saving those
already sacrificed? His hesitation did not last long, however.
Calling one of his lieutenants, he was on the point of ordering
a reconnaissance, when gunshots were heard. Was it a signal?
The soldiers rushed out of the fort, and half a mile off they
perceived a little band returning in good order.
Mr. Fogg was marching at their head, and just behind him were
Passepartout and the other two travellers, rescued from the Sioux.
They had met and fought the Indians ten miles south of Fort Kearney.
Shortly before the detachment arrived. Passepartout and his companions
had begun to struggle with their captors, three of whom the Frenchman
had felled with his fists, when his master and the soldiers hastened up
to their relief.
All were welcomed with joyful cries. Phileas Fogg distributed
the reward he had promised to the soldiers, while Passepartout,
not without reason, muttered to himself, "It must certainly be
confessed that I cost my master dear!"
Fix, without saying a word, looked at Mr. Fogg, and it would have
been difficult to analyse the thoughts which struggled within him.
As for Aouda, she took her protector's hand and pressed it in her own,
too much moved to speak.
Meanwhile, Passepartout was looking about for the train; he thought
he should find it there, ready to start for Omaha, and he hoped
that the time lost might be regained.
"The train! the train!" cried he.
"Gone," replied Fix.
"And when does the next train pass here?" said Phileas Fogg.
"Not till this evening."
"Ah!" returned the impassible gentleman quietly.
IN WHICH FIX, THE DETECTIVE,
CONSIDERABLY FURTHERS THE INTERESTS OF PHILEAS FOGG
Phileas Fogg found himself twenty hours behind time.
Passepartout, the involuntary cause of this delay, was desperate.
He had ruined his master!
At this moment the detective approached Mr. Fogg, and,
looking him intently in the face, said:
"Seriously, sir, are you in great haste?"
"I have a purpose in asking," resumed Fix. "Is it absolutely
necessary that you should be in New York on the 11th, before nine o'clock
in the evening, the time that the steamer leaves for Liverpool?"
"It is absolutely necessary."
"And, if your journey had not been interrupted by these Indians,
you would have reached New York on the morning of the 11th?"
"Yes; with eleven hours to spare before the steamer left."
"Good! you are therefore twenty hours behind. Twelve from twenty
leaves eight. You must regain eight hours. Do you wish to try to do so?"
"On foot?" asked Mr. Fogg.
"No; on a sledge," replied Fix. "On a sledge with sails.
A man has proposed such a method to me."
It was the man who had spoken to Fix during the night, and
whose offer he had refused.
Phileas Fogg did not reply at once; but Fix, having pointed out the man,
who was walking up and down in front of the station, Mr. Fogg went up to him.
An instant after, Mr. Fogg and the American, whose name was Mudge,
entered a hut built just below the fort.
There Mr. Fogg examined a curious vehicle, a kind of frame on two long beams,
a little raised in front like the runners of a sledge, and upon which there
was room for five or six persons. A high mast was fixed on the frame, held
firmly by metallic lashings, to which was attached a large brigantine sail.
This mast held an iron stay upon which to hoist a jib-sail. Behind, a sort
of rudder served to guide the vehicle. It was, in short, a sledge rigged
like a sloop. During the winter, when the trains are blocked up by the snow,
these sledges make extremely rapid journeys across the frozen plains from one
station to another. Provided with more sails than a cutter, and with the wind
behind them, they slip over the surface of the prairies with a speed equal
if not superior to that of the express trains.
Mr. Fogg readily made a bargain with the owner of this land-craft.
The wind was favourable, being fresh, and blowing from the west.
The snow had hardened, and Mudge was very confident of being able
to transport Mr. Fogg in a few hours to Omaha. Thence the trains
eastward run frequently to Chicago and New York. It was not impossible
that the lost time might yet be recovered; and such an opportunity
was not to be rejected.
Not wishing to expose Aouda to the discomforts of travelling
in the open air, Mr. Fogg proposed to leave her with Passepartout
at Fort Kearney, the servant taking upon himself to escort her
to Europe by a better route and under more favourable conditions.
But Aouda refused to separate from Mr. Fogg, and Passepartout
was delighted with her decision; for nothing could induce him
to leave his master while Fix was with him.
It would be difficult to guess the detective's thoughts. Was this
conviction shaken by Phileas Fogg's return, or did he still regard him
as an exceedingly shrewd rascal, who, his journey round the world completed,
would think himself absolutely safe in England? Perhaps Fix's opinion
of Phileas Fogg was somewhat modified; but he was nevertheless resolved
to do his duty, and to hasten the return of the whole party to England
as much as possible.
At eight o'clock the sledge was ready to start. The passengers
took their places on it, and wrapped themselves up closely
in their travelling-cloaks. The two great sails were hoisted,
and under the pressure of the wind the sledge slid over the hardened
snow with a velocity of forty miles an hour.
The distance between Fort Kearney and Omaha, as the birds fly,
is at most two hundred miles. If the wind held good, the distance
might be traversed in five hours; if no accident happened the sledge
might reach Omaha by one o'clock.
What a journey! The travellers, huddled close together, could not speak
for the cold, intensified by the rapidity at which they were going.
The sledge sped on as lightly as a boat over the waves. When the breeze
came skimming the earth the sledge seemed to be lifted off the ground
by its sails. Mudge, who was at the rudder, kept in a straight line,
and by a turn of his hand checked the lurches which the vehicle
had a tendency to make. All the sails were up, and the jib
was so arranged as not to screen the brigantine. A top-mast was hoisted,
and another jib, held out to the wind, added its force to the other sails.
Although the speed could not be exactly estimated, the sledge could not
be going at less than forty miles an hour.
"If nothing breaks," said Mudge, "we shall get there!"
Mr. Fogg had made it for Mudge's interest to reach Omaha
within the time agreed on, by the offer of a handsome reward.
The prairie, across which the sledge was moving in a straight
line, was as flat as a sea. It seemed like a vast frozen lake.
The railroad which ran through this section ascended from the
south-west to the north-west by Great Island, Columbus,
an important Nebraska town, Schuyler, and Fremont, to Omaha.
It followed throughout the right bank of the Platte River.
The sledge, shortening this route, took a chord of the arc
described by the railway. Mudge was not afraid of being stopped
by the Platte River, because it was frozen. The road, then, was quite
clear of obstacles, and Phileas Fogg had but two things to fear--
an accident to the sledge, and a change or calm in the wind.
But the breeze, far from lessening its force, blew as if to
bend the mast, which, however, the metallic lashings held firmly.
These lashings, like the chords of a stringed instrument,
resounded as if vibrated by a violin bow. The sledge slid along
in the midst of a plaintively intense melody.
"Those chords give the fifth and the octave," said Mr. Fogg.
These were the only words he uttered during the journey.
Aouda, cosily packed in furs and cloaks, was sheltered
as much as possible from the attacks of the freezing wind.
As for Passepartout, his face was as red as the sun's disc
when it sets in the mist, and he laboriously inhaled the biting air.
With his natural buoyancy of spirits, he began to hope again.
They would reach New York on the evening, if not on the morning,
of the 11th, and there was still some chances that it would be before
the steamer sailed for Liverpool.
Passepartout even felt a strong desire to grasp his ally, Fix, by the hand.
He remembered that it was the detective who procured the sledge,
the only means of reaching Omaha in time; but, checked by some presentiment,
he kept his usual reserve. One thing, however, Passepartout would
never forget, and that was the sacrifice which Mr. Fogg had made,
without hesitation, to rescue him from the Sioux. Mr. Fogg had risked