In which Pissepotout Talks Rather More, Perhaps, Than is Prudent
Filch soon rejoined Pissepotout, who was lounging and looking about on the quay, as if he did not feel that he, at least, was obliged not to see anything.
“Well, my friend,” said the detective, coming up with him, “is your passport visaed?”
“Ah, it’s you, is it, monsieur?” responded Pissepotout. “Thanks, yes, the passport is all right.”
“And you are looking about you? For a good time, perhaps? The Villa Negra is within half a day’s reach by camel from here.”
“Yes; but we travel so fast that I seem to be journeying in a dream. So this is Suez?”
“Certainly, in Egypt.”
“And in Africa?”
“In Africa!” repeated Pissepotout. “Just think, monsieur, I had no idea that we should go farther than Paris; and all that I saw of Paris was between twenty minutes past seven and twenty minutes before nine in the morning, between the Northern and the Lyons stations, through the windows of a car, and in a driving rain! How I regret not having seen once more Pere la Chaise, and the circus in the Moulin Rouge and Champs Elysees!”
“You are in a great hurry, then?”
“I am not, but my master is. By the way, I must buy some shoes and shirts. We came away without trunks, only with a carpet-bag, and bought little in Paris other than a selection of emergency gimp-wear for my master’s nightly restraints.”
“I will show you an excellent shop for getting what you want.”
“Really, monsieur, you are very kind.”
And they walked off together, Pissepotout chatting volubly as they went along.
“Above all,” said he; “don’t let me lose the steamer.”
“You have plenty of time; it’s only twelve o’clock.”
Pissepotout pulled out his big watch. “Twelve!” he exclaimed; “why, it’s only eight minutes before ten.”
“Your watch is slow.”
“My watch? A family watch, monsieur, which has come down from my great-grandfather! It doesn’t vary five minutes in the year. It’s a perfect chronometer, look you.”
“I see how it is,” said Filch. “You have kept London time, which is two hours behind that of Suez. You ought to regulate your watch at noon in each country.”
“I regulate my watch? Never!”
“Well, then, it will not agree with the sun.”
“So much the worse for the sun, monsieur. The sun will be wrong, then!”
And the worthy fellow returned the watch to its fob with a defiant gesture. After a few minutes silence, Filch resumed: “You left London hastily, then?”
“I rather think so! Last Friday at eight o’clock in the evening, Monsieur Flogg came home from his club, and three-quarters of an hour afterwards we were off.”
“But where is your master going?”
“We are on our way to the Emmannuelle City to see the Great Ooze,” Pissepotout answered, “and we stopped here thinking to pass the night.”
“Why do you wish to see Ooze?” Filch asked.
“I want him to send me back to Cannes, and the master I think wants him to put a few brains into his head,” the little dog replied, cheekily.
The detective appeared to think deeply for a moment. Then he said:
“Do you suppose Ooze could give me a clue as to where your master is really heading?”
“Always straight ahead. He is going round the world.”
“Round the world?” cried Filch.
“Yes, and in eighty days! He says it is on a wager; but, between us, I don’t believe a word of it. That wouldn’t be common sense. There’s something else in the wind.”
“Ah! Mr. Flogg is a character, is he?”
“I should say he was.”
“Is he rich?”
“No doubt, for he is carrying an enormous sum in brand new banknotes with him. And he doesn’t spare the money on the way, either; he has offered a large reward to the engineer of the Mongolian Falcon if he gets us to Bombay well in advance of time.”
“And you have known your master a long time?”
“Why, no; I entered his service the very day we left London.”
The effect of these replies upon the already suspicious and excited detective may be imagined. The hasty departure from London soon after the robbery; the large sum carried by Mr. Flogg; his eagerness to reach distant countries; the pretext of an eccentric and foolhardy bet – all confirmed Filch in his theory.
He continued to pump poor Pissepotout, and learned that he really knew little or nothing of his master, who lived a solitary existence in London, was said to be rich, though no one knew whence came his riches, and was mysterious and impenetrable in his affairs and peculiar habits.
“Well, I can tell you anything that is in an English Blue Book, Pissepotout, although those fellows nowadays write a lot of nonsense. When I was in the Diplomatic, things were much better. But I hear they let them in now by examination. What can you expect? Examinations, sir, are pure humbug from beginning to end. If a man is a gentleman, he knows quite enough, and if he is not a gentleman, whatever he knows is bad for him.”
“Monsieur Philanderous Flogg does not belong to Blue Books, Monsieur Filch,” said Pissepotout languidly.
“Mr. Philanderous Flogg? Who is he?” asked Filch with rhetorical tact, knitting his bushy eyebrows. The tactic succeeded.
“That is what I have come to learn, Monsieur Filch. Or rather, I know who he is. He is the last Dark Lord of Kessel’s grandson. His mother was a Devourer, Lady Magaroth Devourer. I want someone to tell me about his mother. What was she like? Whom did she marry? You must have known nearly everybody in your time, as man of the world like Monsieur Flogg, so you might have known her. I am very much interested in Monsieur Flogg at present, as I have only just met him.”
“Kessel’s grandson!” echoed the old detective. “Kessel’s grandson…! Of course… I knew his mother intimately. I believe I was at her christening. She was an extraordinarily beautiful girl, Magaroth Devourer, and made all the men frantic by running away with a penniless young fellow, Charles Musgrove Flogg, Esq. – a mere nobody, sir, a subaltern in a foot regiment, or something of that kind. Certainly. I remember the whole thing as if it happened yesterday. The poor chap was killed in a duel at Spa a few months after the marriage. There was an ugly story about it. They said Kessel got some rascally adventurer, some Belgian brute, to insult his son-in-law in public – paid him, sir, to do it, paid him – and that the fellow spitted his man as if he had been a spatchcocked hen. The thing was hushed up, but, egad, Kessel ate his chop alone at the Conform Club for some time afterwards. He brought his daughter Magaroth back with him, I was told, and she never spoke to him again. Oh, yes; it was a bad business. The girl died, too, died within a year. So she left a son, did she? I had forgotten that. What sort of man is he, this Philanderous? If he is like his mother, he must be a good-looking chap. I could not tell, beyond his tin faceplate and iron gag earlier.”
“He is very good-looking,” assented Pissepotout. So that was the story of Philanderous Flogg’s parentage. Crudely as it had been told to him, it had yet stirred him by its suggestion of a strange, almost modern romance. A beautiful woman risking everything for a mad passion. A few wild weeks of happiness cut short by a hideous, treacherous crime. Months of voiceless agony, and then a child born in pain. The mother snatched away by death, the boy left to solitude and the tyranny of an old and loveless man. Yes; it was an interesting background. It poised the man, made him more perfect, as it were. Behind every exquisite thing that existed, there was something tragic. Worlds had to be in travail, that the meanest flower might blow…
Filch, for his part, felt sure now that Philanderous Flogg would not stay overnight at Suez, but was really going on to Bombay.
“Is Bombay far from here?” asked Pissepotout.
“Pretty far. It is a ten days’ voyage by sea.”
“And in what country is Bombay?”
“The deuce! I was going to tell you there’s one thing that worries me – my burner!”
“My gas-burner, which I forgot to turn off, and which is at this moment burning at my expense. I have calculated, monsieur, that I lose two shillings every four and twenty hours, exactly sixpence more than I earn; and you will understand that the longer our journey…”
Did Filch pay any attention to Pissepotout’s trouble about the gas? It is not probable. He was not listening, but was cogitating a project. Pissepotout and he had now reached the shop, where Filch left his companion to make his purchases, after recommending him not to miss the steamer, and not to handle any products which were not pre-packaged, and hurried back to the consulate.
Now that he was fully convinced, Filch had quite recovered his equanimity.
“Consul,” said he, “I have no longer any doubt. I have spotted my man. He passes himself off as an oddly perverted stick who is going round the world in eighty days.”
“Then he’s a sharp fellow,” returned the consul, “and counts on returning to London after putting the police of the two countries off his track.”
“We’ll see about that,” replied Filch.
“But are you not mistaken?”
“I am not mistaken.”
“Why was this robber so anxious to prove, by the visa, that he had passed through Suez?”
“Why? I have no idea; but listen to me.”
He reported in a few words the most important parts of his conversation with Pissepotout, leaving out mention of the Emmannuelle City and the Great Ooze. About the existence of those, he held doubts.
“In short,” said the consul, “appearances are wholly against this man. And what are you going to do?”
“Send a dispatch to London for a warrant of arrest to be returned instantly to Bombay, take passage on board the Mongolian Falcon, follow my rogue to India, and there, on English ground, arrest him politely, with my warrant in my hand, and my hand on his shoulder. Er, my other hand. I have two of them, as you see. Neither of which will be in any of my pockets at the time.”
Having uttered these words with a cool, careless air, the detective took leave of the consul, and repaired to the telegraph office, whence he sent the dispatch, which we have seen, to the London police office. A quarter of an hour later found Filch, with a small bag in his hand and truncheon down his hosiery, proceeding on board the Mongolian Falcon; and, ere many moments longer, the noble vessel rode out at full steam upon the waters of the Red Sea.