Around the World in Eighty Days Yeller Brick Road – Chapter Three

Chapter III:

In which a Conversation Takes Place which Seems Likely to Cost Philanderous Flogg Dear…

Philanderous Flogg, having shut the door of his house at half-past eleven, went on his way to the infamous ‘dessert club’. There were several roads nearby, but it did not take him long to find the one paved with yellow bricks. Within a short time he was walking briskly toward the Conform Club, his special orthopedic shoes clinking merrily on the hard, yellow road-bed. The sun shone bright and the birds sang sweetly, and Flogg did not feel nearly so bad as you might think a little gray masochist would who had been suddenly whisked away from his own building foundations, and set down again in the midst of a strange storm.

Having put his right foot before his left five hundred and seventy-five times, and his left foot before his right five hundred and seventy-six times, he reached the Conform Club, an imposing edifice in Pall Mall, which could not have cost less than three million pounds.

He repaired at once to the dining-room, the nine windows of which open upon a tasteful garden, where the trees were already gilded with an autumn colouring; if his new servant Piss-pot-oto had accompanied him there, he would have run over to the trees and begun to bark at the birds sitting there. Philanderous Flogg saw such delicious fruit hanging from the branches that he gathered some of it, finding it just what he wanted to help an appetite for breakfast; and then took his place at the habitual table, the cover of which had already been laid for him.

His breakfast, or rather brunch, consisted of a side-dish (today, a choice of fruited bread, although on occasion he had been presented with Baked Alaska or banana fritters as an appetiser), a broiled fish with Reading Sauce ice-cream, a scarlet slice of roast beef garnished with marshmallow mushrooms, a rhubarb and gooseberry tart, and a morsel of Cheshire cheesecake, the whole being washed down with several cups of tea, for which the Conform is famous – followed by the even more famous groaning dessert cart, which had to be wheeled in by three strong men, with the Spotted Dick and Jam Roly-Poly being doled out by the shovel.

Philanderous Flogg, a creature of habit, was apparently determined not to fall upon the traditional undead diet of human flesh, blood and brains; but all who witnessed his voraciously insatiable appetite could not help but wonder to themselves, in concern, what it would take to satisfy such a monstrous constitution.

He rose at thirteen minutes to one, and directed his steps towards the large hall, a sumptuous apartment adorned with lavishly-framed paintings of historical figures, caught in compromising positions with various puddings – a private gallery known fondly by the regular members as ‘The Just Desserts Collection’. A flunkey handed him an uncut Times, which he proceeded to cut with a skill which betrayed familiarity with this delicate operation, and worried all who noted it. The perusal of this paper absorbed Philanderous Flogg until a quarter before four, whilst the Standard, his next task, occupied him till the dinner hour.

Dinner passed as breakfast had done; duck pâté and toasted teacakes, then a suckling pig with roasted parsnips in caramel apple sauce, followed by the evening dessert wagon; and Mr. Flogg re-appeared in the reading-room and sat down to the Pall Mall at twenty minutes before six.

Half an hour later several members of the Conform came in and drew up to the fireplace, where a coal fire was steadily burning. They were Mr. Flogg’s usual partners at Grist. Andrew Stiff-Upperlip, an engineer; John Surlyman and Samuel Fellatio, bankers; Thomas Flagellate, a brewer; and Gauthier Ravish, one of the Directors of the Bank of England – all rich and highly respectable personages, even in a club which comprises the princes of English trade and finance.

“Well, Ravish,” said Thomas Flagellate, “what about that robbery?”

“Oh,” replied Stiff-Upperlip, “the Bank will lose the money.”

“On the contrary,” broke in Ravish, “I hope we may put our hands on the robber. Skilful detectives have been sent to all the principal ports of America and the Continent, and he’ll be a clever fellow if he slips through their fingers.”

“But have you got the robber’s description?” asked Stiff-Upperlip.

“In the first place, he is no robber at all,” returned Ravish, positively.

“What! a fellow who makes off with fifty-five thousand pounds, no robber?”

“No.”

“Perhaps he’s a manufacturer, then.”

“The Daily Telegraph says that he is a gentleman.” It was Philanderous Flogg, whose head now emerged from behind his newspapers, who made this remark.

He bowed to his friends, and entered into the conversation. The affair which formed its subject, and which was town talk, had occurred three days before at the Bank of England. A package of banknotes, to the value of fifty-five thousand pounds, had been taken from the principal cashier’s table, that functionary being at the moment engaged in registering the receipt of three shillings and sixpence. Of course, he could not have his eyes everywhere.

Let it be observed that the Bank of England reposes a touching confidence in the honesty of the public. There are neither guards nor gratings to protect its treasures; gold, silver, banknotes are freely exposed, at the mercy of the first comer. A keen observer of English customs relates that, being in one of the rooms of the Bank one day, he had the curiosity to examine a gold ingot weighing some seven or eight pounds. He took it up, scrutinised it, passed it to his neighbour, he to the next man, and so on until the ingot, going from hand to hand, was transferred to the end of a dark entry; nor did it return to its place for half an hour. Meanwhile, the cashier had not so much as raised his head.

But in the present instance things had not gone so smoothly. The package of notes not being found when five o’clock sounded from the ponderous clock in the “drawing office,” the amount was passed to the account of profit and loss. As soon as the robbery was discovered, select detectives hastened off to Liverpool, Glasgow, Le Havre, Suez, Brindisi, New York, and other ports, inspired by the proffered reward of two thousand pounds, and five percent on the sum that might be recovered. Detectives were also charged with narrowly watching those who arrived at or left London by rail, and a judicial examination was at once entered upon.

There were real grounds for supposing, as the Daily Telegraph said, that the thief did not belong to a professional band. On the day of the robbery a ‘well-dressed gentleman’ of polished manners, and with a well-to-do air, had been observed going to and fro in the paying room where the crime was committed. A description of him was easily procured: His head was a small sack stuffed with straw, with eyes, nose, and mouth painted on it to represent a face. An old, pointed blue hat, that had belonged to some Munchling, was perched on his head, and the rest of the figure was a blue suit of clothes, worn and faded, which had also been stuffed with straw. On his feet were some old boots with blue tops, such as every Munchling wore in this country, and the figure was supported by means of a pole stuck up its back. This was sent to the detectives; and some hopeful spirits, of whom Ravish was one, did not despair of his apprehension. The papers and clubs were full of the affair, and everywhere people were discussing the probabilities of a successful pursuit; and the Conform Club was especially agitated, several of its members being Bank officials.

Ravish would not concede that the work of the detectives was likely to be in vain, for he thought that the prize offered would greatly stimulate their zeal and activity. But Stiff-Upperlip was far from sharing this confidence; and, as they placed themselves at the Grist-table, they continued to argue the matter. Stiff-Upperlip and Flagellate played together, while Philanderous Flogg had Fellatio for his partner. As the game proceeded the conversation ceased, excepting between the rubbers, when it revived again.

“I maintain,” said Stiff-Upperlip, “that the chances are in favour of the thief, who must be a shrewd fellow.”

“Well, but where can he fly to?” asked Ravish. “No country is safe for him.”

“Pshaw!”

“Where could he go, then?”

“Oh, I don’t know that. The world is big enough.”

“It was once,” said Philanderous Flogg, in a low tone. “Cut, sir,” he added, handing the cards to Thomas Flagellate.

The discussion fell during the rubber, after which Stiff-Upperlip took up its thread.

“What do you mean by ‘once’? Has the world grown smaller?”

“Certainly,” returned Ravish. “I agree with Mr. Flogg. The world has grown smaller, since a man can now go round it ten times more quickly than a hundred years ago. And that is why the search for this thief will be more likely to succeed.”

“And also why the thief can get away more easily.”

“No, indeed? I don’t know anything. You see, I am stuffed with dinner, so I have no brains for this discussion at all,” Fellatio answered sadly.

“Be so good as to play, Stiffy,” said Philanderous Flogg.

But the incredulous Stiff-Upperlip was not convinced, and when the hand was finished, said eagerly: “You have a strange way, Ravish, of proving that the world has grown smaller. So, because you can go round it in three months…”

“In eighty days,” interrupted Philanderous Flogg.

“That is true, gentlemen,” added John Surlyman. “Only eighty days, now that the section between Rothal and Allahabad, on the Great Indian Peninsula Railway, has been opened. Here is the estimate made by the Daily Telegraph:

From London to Suez via Mont Cenis and Brindisi, by rail and steamboats: 7 days

From Suez to Bombay, by steamer: 13 days

From Bombay to Calcutta, by rail: 3 days

From Calcutta to Hong Kong, by steamer: 13 days

From Hong Kong to Yokohama (Japan), by steamer: 6 days

From Yokohama to San Francisco, by steamer: 22 days

From San Francisco to New York, by rail: 7 days

From New York to London, by steamer and rail: 9 days

Total: 80 days.”

“Yes, in eighty days!” exclaimed Stiff-Upperlip, who in his excitement made a false deal. “But that doesn’t take into account bad weather, contrary winds, shipwrecks, railway accidents, zombie attacks, and so on – present company excepted, Mr. Flogg…”

“All included,” returned Philanderous Flogg, continuing to play despite the discussion.

“But suppose the Voodoos or Indians pull up the rails?” replied Stiffy. “Suppose they stop the trains, pillage the luggage-vans, and scalp the passengers?!”

“All included,” calmly retorted Flogg; adding, as he threw down the cards, “Two trumps.”

Stiff-Upperlip, whose turn it was to deal, gathered them up, and went on: “You are right, theoretically, Mr. Flogg, but practically…”

“Practically also, Mr. Stiffy.”

“I’d like to see you do it in eighty days.”

“It depends on you. Shall we go?”

“Heaven preserve me! But I would wager four thousand pounds that such a journey, made under these conditions, is impossible.”

“Quite possible, on the contrary,” returned Mr. Flogg.

“Well, make it, then!”

“The journey round the world in eighty days?”

“Yes.”

“I should like nothing better.”

“When?”

“At once. Only I warn you that I shall do it at your expense.”

“It’s absurd!” cried Stiff-Upperlip, who was beginning to be annoyed at the persistence of his friend. “Come, let’s go on with the game.”

“Deal over again, then,” said Philanderous Flogg. “There’s a false deal.”

Stiff-Upperlip took up the pack with a feverish hand; then suddenly put them down again.

“Well, Mr. Flogg,” said he, “it shall be so: I will wager the four thousand on it.”

“Calm yourself, my dear Stiffy,” said Fellatio. “It’s only a joke.”

“When I say I’ll wager,” returned Stiff-Upperlip, “I mean it.”

“All right,” said Mr. Flogg; and, turning to the others, he continued: “I have a deposit of twenty thousand at Baring’s which I will willingly risk upon it.”

“Twenty thousand pounds!” cried Surlyman. “Twenty thousand pounds, which you would lose by a single accidental delay!”

“The unforeseen does not exist,” quietly replied Philanderous Flogg.

“But, Mr. Flogg, eighty days are only the estimate of the least possible time in which the journey can be made.”

“A well-used minimum suffices for everything.”

“But, in order not to exceed it, you must jump mathematically from the trains upon the steamers, and from the steamers upon the trains again.”

“I will jump – mathematically.”

“You are joking.”

“A true Englishman doesn’t joke when he is talking about so serious a thing as a wager,” replied Philanderous Flogg, solemnly. “I will bet twenty thousand pounds against anyone who wishes that I will make the tour of the world in eighty days or less; in nineteen hundred and twenty hours, or a hundred and fifteen thousand two hundred minutes. Do you accept?”

“We accept,” replied Messrs. Stiff-Upperlip, Fellatio, Surlyman, Flagellate, and Ravish, after consulting each other.

“Good,” said Mr. Flogg. “The train leaves for Dover at a quarter before nine. I will take it.”

“This very evening?” asked Stiff-Upperlip.

“This very evening,” returned Philanderous Flogg. He took out and consulted a pocket almanac, and added, “As today is Wednesday, the 2nd of October, I shall be due in London in this very room of the Conform Club, on Saturday, the 21st of December, at a quarter before nine p.m.; or else the twenty thousand pounds, now deposited in my name at Baring’s, will belong to you, in fact and in right, gentlemen. Here is a cheque for the amount.”

A memorandum of the wager was at once drawn up and signed by the six parties, during which Philanderous Flogg preserved a stoical composure. He certainly did not bet to win, and had only staked the twenty thousand pounds, half of his fortune, because he foresaw that he might have to expend the other half to carry out this difficult, not to say unattainable, project. As for his antagonists, they seemed much agitated; not so much by the value of their stake, as because they had some scruples about betting under conditions so difficult to their friend.

The clock struck seven, and the party offered to suspend the game so that Mr. Flogg might make his preparations for departure.

“I am quite ready now,” was his tranquil response. “I always am. Diamonds are trumps: be so good as to play on, gentlemen.”

Advertisements

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s