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

Chapter XIX

In Which Pissepotout Takes Too Great An Interest in His Master,
and What Comes of It

Hong Kong is an island which came into the possession of the English by the Treaty of Nankin, after the war of 1842; and the colonising genius of the English has created upon it an important city and an excellent port. The island is situated at the mouth of the Canton River, and is separated by about sixty miles from the Portuguese town of Macao, on the opposite coast. Hong Kong has beaten Macao in the struggle for the Chinese trade, and now the greater part of the transportation of Chinese goods finds its depot at the former place. Docks, hospitals, wharves, a Gothic cathedral, a government house, macadamised streets, and a proliferation of gypsies give to Hong Kong the appearance of a town in Kent or Surrey transferred by some strange magic to the antipodes.

Pissepotout wandered, with his paws in his pockets, towards the Victoria port, gazing as he went at the curious palanquins and other modes of conveyance, and the groups of Chinese, Japanese, and Europeans who passed to and fro in the streets. Hong Kong seemed to him not unlike Bombay, Calcutta, and Singapore, since, like them, it betrayed everywhere the evidence of English supremacy. At the Victoria port he found a confused mass of ships of all nations: English, French, American, and Dutch, men-of-war and trading vessels, Japanese and Chinese junks, sempas, tankers, and flower-boats, which formed so many floating parterres. Pissepotout noticed in the crowd a number of the natives who seemed very old and were dressed in yellow. On going into a barber’s to get shaved he learned that these ancient men were all at least eighty years old, at which age they are permitted to wear yellow, which is the Imperial colour. Pissepotout, without exactly knowing why, thought this very funny. He surmised that it would of course disguise the stains of geriatric bladder weakness, if not the smell.

On reaching the quay where they were to embark on the Carnatic, the stench of which would disguise any smell, even that of the Devil’s own sweaty gym-locker, he was not astonished to find Filch walking up and down. The detective seemed very much disturbed and disappointed.

“This is bad,” muttered Pissepotout, “for the gentlemen of the Conform Club!”

He accosted Filch with a merry smile, as if he had not perceived that gentleman’s chagrin. The detective had, indeed, good reasons to inveigh against the bad luck which pursued him. The warrant had not come! It was certainly on the way, but as certainly it could not now reach Hong Kong for several days; and, this being the last English territory on Mr. Flogg’s route, the robber would escape, unless he could manage to detain him.

“Well, Monsieur Filch,” said Pissepotout, “have you decided to go with us so far as America?”

“Yes,” returned Filch, through his set teeth.

“Good!” exclaimed Pissepotout, laughing heartily. “I knew you could not persuade yourself to separate from us. Come and engage your berth.”

They entered the steamer office and secured cabins for four persons. The clerk, as he gave them the tickets, informed them that, the repairs on the Carnatic having been completed, the steamer would leave that very evening, and not next morning, as had been announced.

“That will suit my master all the better,” said Pissepotout. “I will go and let him know.”

Filch now decided to make a bold move; he resolved to tell Pissepotout all. It seemed to be the only possible means of keeping Philanderous Flogg several days longer at Hong Kong. He accordingly invited his companion into a tavern which caught his eye on the quay.

On entering, they found themselves in a large room handsomely decorated, at the end of which was a large camp-bed furnished with cushions. Several persons lay upon this bed in a deep sleep. At the small tables, which were arranged about the room, some thirty customers were drinking English beer, porter, gin, and brandy; smoking all the while on long red clay pipes stuffed with little balls of opium mingled with essence of rose. From time to time one of the smokers, overcome with the narcotic, would slip under the table, whereupon the waiters, taking him by the head and feet, carried and laid him upon the bed. The bed already supported twenty of these stupefied sots.

Filch and Pissepotout saw that they were in a smoking-house haunted by those wretched, cadaverous, idiotic creatures to whom the English merchants sell every year the miserable drug called opium, to the amount of one million four hundred thousand pounds – thousands devoted to one of the most despicable vices which afflict humanity! The Chinese government has in vain attempted to deal with the evil, by stringent laws. It passed gradually from the rich, to whom it was at first exclusively reserved, to the lower classes, and then its ravages could not be arrested. Opium is smoked everywhere, at all times, by men and women, in the Celestial Empire; and, once accustomed to it, the victims cannot dispense with it, except by suffering horrible bodily contortions and agonies. A great smoker can smoke as many as eight pipes a day; but he dies in five years. It was in one of these dens that Filch and Pissepotout, in search of a friendly glass, found themselves. Pissepotout had no money, but willingly accepted Filch’s invitation in the hope of returning the obligation at some future time.

They ordered two bottles of port, to which the poodle did ample justice, whilst Filch observed him with close attention. They chatted about the journey, and Pissepotout was especially merry at the idea that Filch was going to continue it with them. When the bottles were empty, however, he rose to go and tell his master of the change in the time of the sailing of the Carnatic.

Filch caught him by the arm, and said, “Wait a moment.”

“What for, Mr. Filch?”

“I want to have a serious talk with you.”

“A serious talk!” cried Pissepotout, drinking up the little fortified wine that was left in the bottom of his glass. “Well, we’ll talk about it tomorrow; I haven’t time now.”

“Stay! What I have to say concerns your master.”

Pissepotout, at this, looked attentively at his companion. Filch’s face seemed to have a singular expression. He resumed his seat.

“What is it that you have to say?”

“Well, I tell you so…” continued the detective. “I have been learning something of young Flogg.”

The large handsome face of Pissepotout grew pale to the very lips, and there came a blackness about his eyes. “I do not care to hear more,” said he. “This is a matter I thought we had agreed to drop.”

“What I heard was abominable,” said Filch.

“It can make no change. You do not understand my position,” returned the dogsbody, with a certain incoherency of manner. “I am painfully situated, Filch; my position is a very strange – a very strange one. It is one of those affairs that cannot be mended by talking.”

“Pissepotout,” said Filch, “You know me: I am a man to be trusted. Make a clean breast of this in confidence; and I make no doubt I can get you out of it.”

“My good Filch,” said the poodle. “This is very good of you, this is downright good of you, and I cannot find words to thank you in. I believe you fully; I would trust you before any man alive, aye, before myself, if I could make the choice; but indeed it isn’t what you fancy; it is not so bad as that; and just to put your good heart at rest, I will tell you one thing: the moment I choose, I can be rid of Monsieur Flogg. I give you my paw upon that; and I thank you again and again; and I will just add one little word, Filch, that I’m sure you’ll take in good part: this is a private matter, and I beg of you to let it sleep.”

Filch reflected a little, looking in the fire.

“I have no doubt you are perfectly right,” he said at last, getting to his feet as if to leave, a ploy which he hoped would extend the discussion.

“Well, but since we have touched upon this business, and for the last time I hope,” continued Pissepotout, “there is one point I should like you to understand. I have really a very great interest in poor Monsieur Flogg. I know you have seen him; he told me so; and I fear he was rude. But, I do sincerely take a great, a very great interest in that young man; and if I am taken away, Filch, I wish you to promise me that you will bear with him and get his rights for him. I think you would, if you knew all; and it would be a weight off my mind if you would promise.”

“I can’t pretend that I shall ever like him,” said the detective, mystified.

“I don’t ask that,” pleaded Pissepotout, laying his paw upon the other’s arm; “I only ask for justice; I only ask you to help him for my sake, when I am no longer here.”

The detective heaved an irrepressible sigh, and seated himself again, his effort having been rewarded. “Well,” said he, “I promise.”

Pissepotout seemed relieved, and the detective was careful to keep his feet from the damp patch beneath their table.

Filch placed his hand upon Pissepotout’s arm in turn, and, lowering his voice, said, “You have guessed who I am?”

Parbleu!” said Pissepotout, smiling.

“Then I’m going to tell you everything…”

“Now that I know everything, my friend! Ah! that’s very good. But go on, go on. First, though, let me tell you that those gentlemen have put themselves to a useless expense.”

“Useless!” said Filch. “You speak confidently. It’s clear that you don’t know how large the sum is.”

“Of course I do,” returned Pissepotout. “Twenty thousand pounds.”

“Fifty-five thousand!” answered Filch, pressing his companion’s hand.

“What!” cried the French poodle. “Has Monsieur Flogg dared – fifty-five thousand pounds! Well, there’s all the more reason for not losing an instant,” he continued, getting up hastily.

Filch pushed Pissepotout back in his chair, and resumed: “Fifty-five thousand pounds; and if I succeed, I get two thousand pounds. If you’ll help me, I’ll let you have five hundred of them.”

“Help you?” cried Pissepotout, whose eyes were standing wide open.

“Yes; help me keep Mr. Flogg here for two or three days.”

“Why, what are you saying? Those gentlemen are not satisfied with following my master and suspecting his honour, but they must try to put obstacles in his way! I blush for them!”

“What do you mean?”

“I mean that it is a piece of shameful trickery. They might as well waylay Monsieur Flogg and put his money in their pockets!”

“That’s just what we count on doing.”

“It’s a conspiracy, then,” cried Pissepotout, who became more and more excited as the liquor mounted in his head, for he drank without perceiving it. “A real conspiracy! And gentlemen, too. Bah!”

Filch began to be puzzled.

“Members of the Conform Club!” continued Pissepotout. “You must know, Monsieur Filch, that my master is an honest man, and that, when he makes a wager, he tries to win it fairly!”

“But who do you think I am?” asked Filch, looking at him intently.

Parbleu! An agent of the members of the Conform Club, sent out here to interrupt my master’s journey. But, though I found you out some time ago, I’ve taken good care to say nothing about it to Monsieur Flogg.”

“He knows nothing, then?”

“Nothing,” replied Pissepotout, again emptying his glass.

The detective passed his hand across his forehead, hesitating before he spoke again. What should he do? Pissepotout’s mistake seemed sincere, but it made his design more difficult. It was evident that the servant was not the master’s accomplice, as Filch had been inclined to suspect.

“Well,” said the detective to himself, “as he is not an accomplice, he will help me.”

He had no time to lose: Flogg must be detained at Hong Kong, so he resolved to make a clean breast of it.

“Listen to me,” said Filch abruptly. “I am not, as you think, an agent of the members of the Conform Club…”

“Bah!” retorted Pissepotout, with an air of raillery. “I suppose you are about to tell me that you are the Great Ooze, wizard and terror of all Bitches.”

“I am a police detective, sent out here by the London office.”

“You, a detective?” the poodle could not have shown more surprise had Filch indeed admitted to being the legendary and terrible wizard.

“I will prove it. Here is my commission.”

Pissepotout was speechless with astonishment when Filch displayed this document, the genuineness of which could not be doubted.

“Mr. Flogg’s wager,” resumed Filch, “is only a pretext, of which you and the gentlemen of the Conform are dupes. He had a motive for securing your innocent complicity.”

“But why?”

“Listen. On the 28th of last September a robbery of fifty-five thousand pounds was committed at the Bank of England by a person whose description was fortunately secured. Here is his description; it answers exactly to that of Mr. Philanderous Flogg.”

“What nonsense!” cried Pissepotout, striking the table with his fist. “My master is the most honourable of men!”

“How can you tell? You know scarcely anything about him. You went into his service the day he came away; and he came away on a foolish pretext, without trunks, and carrying a large amount in banknotes. And yet you are bold enough to assert that he is an honest man!”

“Yes, yes,” repeated the poor fellow, mechanically.

“Would you like to be arrested as his accomplice?”

Pissepotout, overcome by what he had heard, held his head between his paws, and did not dare to look at the detective. Philanderous Flogg, the saviour of Aorta, that brave and generous man, a robber! And yet how many presumptions there were against him! Pissepotout essayed to reject the suspicions which forced themselves upon his mind; he did not wish to believe that his master was guilty.

“Well, what do you want of me?” said he, at last, with an effort.

“See here,” replied Filch; “I have tracked Mr. Flogg to this place, but as yet I have failed to receive the warrant of arrest for which I sent to London. You must help me to keep him here in Hong Kong…”

“I…! But I…”

“I will share with you the two thousand pounds reward offered by the Bank of England.”

“Never!” replied Pissepotout, who tried to rise, but fell back, exhausted in mind and body. “Mr. Filch,” he stammered. “Even should what you say be true – if my master is really the robber you are seeking – which I deny – I have been, am, in his service; I have seen his generosity and goodness; and I will never betray him – not for all the gold in the world. I come from a village where they don’t eat that kind of bread!”

“You refuse?”

“I refuse.”

“Consider that I’ve said nothing,” said Filch; “and let us drink.”

“Yes – let us drink!”

Pissepotout felt himself yielding more and more to the effects of the liquor.

Filch, seeing that he must, at all hazards, be separated from his master, wished to entirely overcome him.

Some pipes full of opium lay upon the table. Filch slipped one into Pissepotout’s paw. He took it, put it between his lips, lit it, drew several puffs, and his head, becoming heavy under the influence of the narcotic, fell upon the table.

“At last!” said Filch, seeing Pissepotout unconscious. “Mr. Flogg will not be informed of the Carnatic’s departure; and, if he is, he will have to go without this cursed lapdog!”

And, after paying his bill, and turning down a number of young ladies (and some not so young), Filch left the tavern.

You might see a name that looks familiar, right at the very bottom of the three ‘Honourable Mentions’ to be published in this anthology of competition finalists 🙂

(You can find my other books on Kobo by clicking here)

Kobo Writing Life

WebWe could never have anticipated the overwhelming response we received for the Jeffrey Archer Short Story Challenge we introduced in January in partnership with Curtis Brown Creative. After receiving almost a thousand stories from writers all over the UK and North America, our judges worked evenings and weekends to get through them all.

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Bestselling author Jeffrey Archer now has the twenty stories we’ve judged to be the best, and will announce the three finalists…

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

Chapter XVIII

In which Philanderous Flogg, Pissepotout, and Filch Go Each About His Business

The weather was bad during the latter days of the voyage. The wind, obstinately remaining in the north-west, blew yet another gale leaving Pissepotout wondering after the fortune of the Munchlings, and retarded the steamer. The Rangoon rolled heavily and the passengers became impatient of the long, monstrous waves which the wind raised before their path. A sort of tempest arose on the 3rd of November, the squall knocking the vessel about with fury, and the waves and lavatories running high. The Rangoon reefed all her sails, and even the rigging proved too much, whistling and shaking amid the squall. The steamer was forced to proceed slowly, and the captain estimated that she would reach Hong Kong twenty hours behind time, and more if the storm lasted.

Philanderous Flogg gazed at the tempestuous sea, which seemed to be struggling especially to delay him, with his habitual tranquillity. He never changed countenance for an instant, though a delay of twenty hours, by making him too late for the Yokohama boat, would almost inevitably cause the loss of the wager. But this man of nerve manifested neither impatience nor annoyance; it seemed as if the storm were a part of his programme, and had been foreseen. Aorta was amazed to find him as calm as he had been from the first time she saw him, while all about them were heaving their stomach contents upon the deck.

Filch did not look at the state of things in the same light. The storm greatly pleased him. His satisfaction would have been complete had the Rangoon been forced to retreat before the violence of wind and waves. Each delay filled him with hope, for it became more and more probable that Flogg would be obliged to remain some days at Hong Kong; and now the heavens themselves became his allies, with the gusts and squalls. It mattered not that they made him sea-sick – he made no account of this inconvenience; and, whilst his body was writhing under their effects, his spirit bounded with hopeful exultation.

Pissepotout was enraged beyond expression by the unpropitious weather. Everything had gone so well until now! Earth and sea had seemed to be at his master’s service; steamers and railways obeyed him; wind and steam united to speed his journey. Had the hour of adversity come? Pissepotout was as much excited as if the twenty thousand pounds were to come from his own pocket. The storm exasperated him, the gale made him furious, and he longed to lash the obstinate sea into obedience. And his paws slithered constantly in the floods of effluent released by the passengers. Poor fellow!

Filch carefully concealed from him his own satisfaction, for, had he betrayed it, Pissepotout could scarcely have restrained himself from personal violence. He surely did not wish to be shot by the captain and flung to the waves as a salty sea-dog. It did not suit the life of a gentleman’s French poodle.

Pissepotout remained on deck as long as the tempest lasted, being unable to remain quiet below, and taking it into his head to aid the progress of the ship by lending a paw with the crew. He overwhelmed the captain, officers, and sailors, who could not help laughing at his impatience, with all sorts of questions. He wanted to know exactly how long the storm was going to last; whereupon he was referred to the barometer, which seemed to have no intention of rising. Pissepotout shook it, but with no perceptible effect; for neither shaking nor maledictions could prevail upon it to change its mind. He cursed the scant fixtures and equipment on board, none of which told him anything of assurance.

Aorta beseeched to calm him.

“The Navy, I think, who have done so much for us, have at least an equal claim with any other set of men, for all the comforts and all the privileges which any home can give. Sailors work hard enough for their comforts, we must all allow for failings of the weather to work in their favour.”

“Very true, very true. What Miss Aorta says, is very true,” was Mr Flogg’s rejoinder, and “Oh! certainly,” was his Grist companion’s; but Pissepotout’s remark was, soon afterwards:

“The profession has its utility, but I should be sorry to see any friend of mine belonging to it.”

“Indeed!” was the reply from his company, and with looks of surprise.

“Yes; it is in two points offensive to me; I have two strong grounds of objection to it. First, as being the means of bringing persons of obscure birth into undue distinction, and raising men to honours which their fathers and grandfathers never dreamt of; and secondly, as it cuts up a man’s youth and vigour most horribly; a sailor grows old sooner than any other man. I have observed it all my life. A man is in greater danger in the Navy of being insulted by the rise of one whose father, his father might have disdained to speak to, and of becoming prematurely an object of disgust himself, than in any other line. One day last spring, at a salon in town, I was in service of two men as Bitch and general dogsbody, striking instances of what I am talking of; Lord St Ives, whose father we all know to have been a country curate, without bread to eat; I was to give foot-pad massage to Lord St Ives, and a certain Admiral Baldwin, the most deplorable-looking personage you can imagine; his face the colour of mahogany, rough and rugged to the last degree; all lines and wrinkles, nine grey hairs of a side, and nothing but a dab of powder at top. ‘In the name of heaven, who is that old fellow?’ said I to a friend of mine who was standing near – a Bitch of Sir Basil Morley. ‘Old fellow!’ cried Sir Basil, overhearing, ‘it is Admiral Baldwin. What do you take his age to be?’ ‘Sixty,’ said I, ‘or perhaps sixty-two.’ ‘Forty,’ replied Sir Basil, ‘forty, and no more.’ Picture to yourselves my amazement; I shall not easily forget Admiral Baldwin. I never saw quite so wretched an example of what a sea-faring life can do; but to a degree, I know it is the same with them all: they are all knocked about, and exposed to every climate, and every weather, till they are not fit to be seen. It is a pity they are not knocked on the head at once, before they reach Admiral Baldwin’s age, and require the wrinkles to be pummelled out and the powder applied with a trowel.”

“Nay, Pissepotout,” cried Aorta, “this is being severe indeed. Have a little mercy on the poor men. We are not all born to be handsome. The sea is no beautifier, certainly; sailors do grow old betimes; I have observed it; they soon lose the look of youth. But then, is not it the same with many other professions, perhaps most other? Soldiers, in active service, are not at all better off: and even in the quieter professions, there is a toil and a labour of the mind, if not of the body, which seldom leaves a man’s looks to the natural effect of time. The lawyer plods, quite care-worn; the physician is up at all hours, and travelling in all weather; and even the clergyman…” She stopped a moment to consider what might do for the clergyman… “And even the clergyman, you know is obliged to go into infected rooms, and expose his health and looks to all the injury of a poisonous atmosphere. In fact, as I have long been convinced, though every profession is necessary and honourable in its turn, it is only the lot of those who are not obliged to follow any, who can live in a regular way, in the country, choosing their own hours, following their own pursuits, and living on their own property, without the torment of trying for more; it is only their lot, I say, to hold the blessings of health and a good appearance to the utmost: I know no other set of men but what lose something of their personableness when they cease to be quite young.”

“It is true, Pissepot-toto,” agreed Mr. Flogg. “James, my former Bitch and valet, once took himself off for a seafaring career. He was forced to abandon ship and find his way home to avenge a slight against his sister Sibyl, by the monster Dorian Gray.”

“Oh! Indeed,” was the French poodle’s reply. And no more was spoken of sailors on that occasion.

On the 4th, however, the sea became more calm, and the storm lessened its violence; the wind veered southward, and was once more favourable. Pissepotout cleared up with the weather. Some of the sails were unfurled, and the Rangoon resumed its most rapid speed. The passengers washed out their bedraggled clothes and felt they could eat again.

The time lost could not, however, be regained. Land was not signalled until five o’clock on the morning of the 6th; the steamer was due on the 5th. Philanderous Flogg was twenty-four hours behind-hand, and the Yokohama steamer would, of course, be missed.

The pilot went on board at six, and took his place on the bridge, to guide the Rangoon through the channels to the port of Hong Kong. Pissepotout longed to ask him if the steamer had left for Yokohama; but he dared not, for he wished to preserve the spark of hope, which still remained till the last moment. He had confided his anxiety to Filch who – the sly rascal – tried to console him by saying that Mr. Flogg would be in time if he took the next boat; but this only put Pissepotout in a passion.

Mr. Flogg, bolder than his servant, did not hesitate to approach the pilot, and tranquilly ask him if he knew when a steamer would leave Hong Kong for Yokohama.

“At high tide tomorrow morning,” answered the pilot.

“Ah!” said Mr. Flogg, without betraying any astonishment.

Pissepotout, who heard what passed, would willingly have embraced the pilot, while Filch would have been glad to twist his neck.

“What is the steamer’s name?” asked Mr. Flogg.

“The Carnatic.”

“Ought she not to have gone yesterday?”

“Yes, sir; but they had to repair one of her boilers, and so her departure was postponed till tomorrow.”

“Thank you,” returned Mr. Flogg, descending mathematically to the saloon.

Pissepotout clasped the pilot’s hand and shook it heartily in his delight, exclaiming, “Pilot, you are the best of good fellows!”

The pilot probably does not know to this day why his responses won him this enthusiastic greeting. He remounted the bridge, and guided the steamer through the flotilla of junks, tankers, and fishing boats which crowded the harbour of Hong Kong.

At one o’clock the Rangoon was at the quay, and the passengers were going ashore.

Chance had strangely favoured Philanderous Flogg, for had not the Carnatic been forced to lie over for repairing her boilers, she would have left on the 6th of November, and the passengers for Japan would have been obliged to await for a week the sailing of the next steamer. Mr. Flogg was, it is true, twenty-four hours behind his time; but this could not seriously imperil the remainder of his tour.

The steamer which crossed the Pacific from Yokohama to San Francisco made a direct connection with that from Hong Kong, and it could not sail until the latter reached Yokohama; and if Mr. Flogg was twenty-four hours late on reaching Yokohama, this time would no doubt be easily regained in the voyage of twenty-two days across the Pacific. He found himself, then, about twenty-four hours behind-hand, thirty-five days after leaving London.

The Carnatic was announced to leave Hong Kong at five the next morning. Mr. Flogg had sixteen hours in which to attend to his business there, which was to deposit Aorta safely with her wealthy relative.

On landing, he conducted her to a palanquin, in which they repaired to the Club Hotel. A room was engaged for the young woman, and Mr. Flogg, after seeing that she wanted for nothing, and that his corsets were loosened just enough to allow full perambulation, set out in search of her cousin, Jeejeeh. He instructed Pissepotout to remain at the hotel until his return, that Aorta might not be left entirely alone.

Mr. Flogg repaired to the Exchange, where, he did not doubt, every one would know so wealthy and considerable a personage as the Parsee merchant. Meeting a broker, he made the inquiry, to learn that Jeejeeh had left China two years before, and, retiring from business with an immense fortune, had taken up his residence in Europe – in Holland the broker thought, with the merchants of which country he had principally traded.

Philanderous Flogg returned to the hotel, begged a moment’s conversation with Aorta, and without more ado, apprised her that Jeejeeh was no longer at Hong Kong, but probably in Holland.

Aorta at first said nothing. She passed her hand across her forehead, and reflected a few moments.

Then, in her sweet, soft voice, she said: “What ought I to do, Mr. Flogg?”

“It is very simple,” responded the gentleman. “Go on with us to Europe.”

“But I cannot intrude…”

“You do not intrude, nor do you in the least embarrass my project. Pissepot-toto!”

“Monsieur.”

“Go to the Carnatic, and engage three cabins.”

Pissepotout, delighted that the young woman, who was very gracious to him, was going to continue the journey with them, trotted off at a brisk gait to obey his Master’s order.

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

Chapter XVII

Showing What Happened on the Voyage From Singapore to Hong Kong

The detective and Pissepotout met often on deck after this interview, though Filch was reserved, and did not attempt to induce his companion to divulge any more facts concerning Mr. Flogg. He caught a glimpse of that mysterious gentleman once or twice, promenading stiffly in his ever-changing array of wearable hardware; but Mr. Flogg usually confined himself to the cabin, where he kept Aorta company, or, according to his inveterate habit, took a hand at Grist.

Each of them spent their nights alone. The detective found himself alone in his room and stood stupidly in one spot, just within the doorway, to wait till morning. It would not rest him to lie down, and he could not close his eyes in case he missed something of great importance; so he remained all night staring at a little spider which was weaving its web in a corner of the compartment, just as if it were not one of the most wonderful rooms in the world. The Tin Gimp lay down on his bed from force of habit, for he remembered when he was made of living flesh; but not being able to sleep for the hunger pangs, he passed the night moving his armoured joints up and down to make sure they kept in good working order. Pissepotout would have preferred a bed of dried leaves back in the forest, and did not like being shut up in a room yet again; but he had too much sense to let this worry him, so he sprang upon the bed and rolled himself up like a cat, and snuffled himself asleep in a minute.

Pissepotout began very seriously to conjecture what strange chance kept Filch still on the route that his master was pursuing. It was really worth considering why this certainly very amiable and complacent person, whom he had first met at Suez, had then encountered on board the Mongolian Falcon, who disembarked at Bombay, which he announced as his destination, and now turned up so unexpectedly on the Rangoon, was following Mr. Flogg’s tracks step by step. He wondered that Filch might also be on a mission to see the Great Ooze, and what that might entail. Was he, like James Forster, also a Bitch, perhaps of the West End, on an errand for some secretive Master of his own? The man did not seem to carry himself in the manner of a valet or manservant of the dingy streets of London, or in the fey compliance of a Soho doorway denizen. If he had such a Master in the wings, Filch’s Master must have the most ascetic of needs to permit a self-possessed, mild and unpredictable wanderlust such as Filch to remain in employment under his roof.

What was Filch’s object? Pissepotout was ready to wager his Indian shoes – which he religiously preserved – that Filch would also leave Hong Kong at the same time with them, and probably on the same steamer.

Pissepotout might have cudgelled his brain for a century without hitting upon the real object which the detective had in view. He never could have imagined that Philanderous Flogg was being tracked as a robber around the globe.

But, as it is in canine nature to attempt the solution of every mystery, Pissepotout suddenly discovered an explanation of Filch’s movements, which was in truth far from unreasonable.

Filch, he thought, could only be an agent of Mr. Flogg’s friends at the Conform Club, sent to follow him up, and to ascertain that he really went round the world as had been agreed upon. Such an agreeable man would be easily swayed by the rascals of the London elite.

“It’s clear!” repeated the worthy servant to himself, proud of his shrewdness. “He’s a spy sent to keep us in view! That isn’t quite the thing, either, to be spying Mr. Flogg, who is so honourable a man! Ah, gentlemen of the Conform, this shall cost you dear!”

Pissepotout, enchanted with his discovery, resolved to say nothing to his master, lest he should be justly offended at this mistrust on the part of his adversaries. But he determined to chaff Filch, when he had the chance, with mysterious allusions, which, however, need not betray his real suspicions.

During the afternoon of Wednesday, 30th October, the Rangoon entered the Strait of Malacca, which separates the peninsula of that name from Sumatra. The mountainous and craggy islets intercepted the beauties of this noble island from the view of the travellers.

The Rangoon weighed anchor at Singapore the next day at four a.m., to receive coal, having gained half a day on the prescribed time of her arrival. Philanderous Flogg noted this gain in his journal, and then, accompanied by Aorta, who betrayed a desire for a walk on shore, disembarked.

Filch, who suspected Mr. Flogg’s every movement, followed them cautiously, without being himself perceived; while Pissepotout, laughing in his sleeve at Filch’s manoeuvres, went about his usual lap-dog errands.

The island of Singapore is not imposing in aspect, for there are no mountains; yet its appearance is not without attractions. It is a park chequered by pleasant highways and avenues. A handsome carriage, drawn by a sleek pair of New Holland horses, carried Philanderous Flogg and Aorta into the midst of rows of palms with brilliant foliage, and of clove-trees, whereof the cloves form the heart of a half-open flower. Pepper plants replaced the prickly hedges of European fields; sago-bushes, large ferns with gorgeous branches, varied the aspect of this tropical clime; while nutmeg-trees in full foliage filled the air with a penetrating perfume. Agile and grinning bands of monkeys skipped about in the trees, nor were tigers wanting in the jungles.

After a drive of two hours through the country, Aorta and Mr. Flogg returned to the town, which is a vast collection of heavy-looking, irregular houses, surrounded by charming gardens rich in tropical fruits and plants; and at ten o’clock they re-embarked, closely followed by the detective, who had kept them constantly in sight.

Pissepotout, who had been purchasing several dozen mangoes – a fruit as large as good-sized apples, of a dark-brown colour outside and a bright red within, and whose golden pulp, melting in the mouth, affords gourmands a delicious sensation – was waiting for them on deck. He was only too glad to offer some mangoes to Aorta, who thanked him very gracefully for them.

At eleven o’clock the Rangoon rode out of Singapore harbour, and in a few hours the high mountains of Malacca, with their forests, inhabited by the most beautifully-furred tigers in the world, were lost to view. Singapore is distant some thirteen hundred miles from the island of Hong Kong, which is a little English colony near the Chinese coast. Philanderous Flogg hoped to accomplish the journey in six days, so as to be in time for the steamer which would leave on the 6th of November for Yokohama, the principal Japanese port.

The Rangoon had a large quota of passengers, many of whom disembarked at Singapore, among them a number of Indians, Ceylonese, Chinamen, Malays, and Portuguese, mostly second-class travellers.

The weather, which had hitherto been fine, changed with the last quarter of the moon. The sea rolled heavily, and the wind at intervals rose almost to a storm as great as the storm that had pre-empted their journey on Saddle Row, but happily blew from the south-west, and thus aided the steamer’s progress. The captain as often as possible put up his sails, and under the double action of steam and sail the vessel made rapid progress along the coasts of Anam and Cochin China. Owing to the defective construction of the Rangoon, however, unusual precautions became necessary in unfavourable weather; but the loss of time which resulted from this cause, while it nearly drove Pissepotout out of his senses, did not seem to affect his master in the least.

Pissepotout blamed the captain, the engineer, and the crew, and consigned all who were connected with the ship to the land where the pepper grows. Perhaps the thought of the gas, which was remorselessly burning at his expense in Saddle Row, had something to do with his hot impatience.

“You are in a great hurry, then,” said Filch to him one day, “to reach Hong Kong?”

“A very great hurry!”

“Mr. Flogg, I suppose, is anxious to catch the steamer for Yokohama?”

“Terribly anxious.”

“You believe in this journey around the world, then?”

“Absolutely. Don’t you, Mr. Filch?”

“I? I don’t believe a word of it.”

“You’re a sly dog!” said Pissepotout, winking at him.

This expression rather disturbed Filch, without his knowing why. Had the French poodle guessed his real purpose? Or was he flirting with him? He knew not what to think.

But how could Pissepotout have discovered that he was a detective? Yet, in speaking as he did, the man evidently meant more than he expressed.

Pissepotout went still further the next day; he could not hold his tongue.

“Mr. Filch,” said he, in a bantering tone, “shall we be so unfortunate as to lose you when we get to Hong Kong?”

“Why,” responded Filch, a little embarrassed, “I don’t know; perhaps…”

“Ah, if you would only go on with us! An agent of the Peninsular Company, you know, can’t stop on the way! You were only going to Bombay, and here you are in China. America is not far off, and from America to Europe is only a step.”

Filch looked intently at his companion, whose countenance was as serene as possible, and laughed with him. But Pissepotout persisted in chaffing him by asking him if he made much by his present occupation. Perhaps he was the Bitch of one of Mr. Flogg’s partners at Grist.

“Yes, and no,” returned Filch; “there is good and bad luck in such things. But you must understand that I don’t travel at my own expense.”

“Oh, I am quite sure of that!” cried Pissepotout, laughing heartily. Yes. A man already in the employ of one of the members of the Conform could have quickly been mobilized in their pursuit. He wondered which of the players kept such a man as Filch, and what purpose he served when not deployed in social espionage. Perhaps the good friend of his own master, Flagellate, kept him for amusement. Or that Stiff-Upperlip – his tastes and habits were less private than Mr. Flogg’s, but maybe he used honesty as camouflage for his underhand ways…

Filch, fairly puzzled, descended to his cabin and gave himself up to his reflections, of which there were many, in the gilt-and-green framed mirrors of his opulent suite. He was evidently suspected; somehow or other, the Frenchman had found out that he was a detective. But had he told his master? What part was he playing in all this? Was he an accomplice or not? Was the game, then, up? Filch spent several hours turning these things over in his mind while he tried on many of the green gowns in his closets, sometimes thinking that all was lost, then persuading himself that Flogg was ignorant of his presence, and then undecided what course it was best to take.

Nevertheless, he preserved his coolness of mind, and at last resolved to deal plainly with Pissepotout. If he did not find it practicable to arrest Flogg at Hong Kong, and if Flogg made preparations to leave that last foothold of English territory, he, Filch, would tell Pissepotout all. Either the servant was the accomplice of his master, and in this case the master knew of his operations, and he should fail; or else the servant knew nothing about the robbery, and then his interest would be to abandon the robber.

Such was the situation between Filch and Pissepotout.

Meanwhile Philanderous Flogg moved about above them in the most majestic and unconscious indifference. He was passing methodically in his orbit around the world, regardless of the lesser stars which gravitated around him.

Yet there was nearby what the astronomers would call a disturbing star, which might have produced an agitation in this gentleman’s heart.

But no! The charms of Aorta failed to act, to Pissepotout’s great surprise; and the disturbances, if they existed, would have been more difficult to calculate than those of Uranus which led to the discovery of Neptune.

It was every day an increasing wonder to Pissepotout, who read in Aorta’s eyes the depths of her gratitude to his master. Philanderous Flogg, though brave and gallant, must be, he thought, quite heartless. As to the sentiment which this journey might have awakened in him, there was clearly no trace of such a thing; while poor Pissepotout existed in perpetual reveries. He noted only that his master requested still tighter restraints, and the occasional application of cayenne beneath. The loyal poodle grieved for his master’s resistance to pain, and was convinced; his master felt nothing, either through the skin, or through the emotions.

One day he was leaning on the railing of the engine-room, and was observing the engine, when a sudden pitch of the steamer threw the screw out of the water. The steam came hissing out of the valves; and this made Pissepotout indignant.

“The valves are not sufficiently charged!” he exclaimed. “We are not going. Oh, these English! If this was an American craft, we should blow up, perhaps, but we should at all events go faster! I would offer the thumbscrews to the engineers as motivation, if my master could survive an hour without them…”

Read an E-book Week, 3-9 March 2013*

read an e-book week

For Read an E-book Week, Smashwords authors were invited to discount their ebooks or make them free as a promotion. Three of mine were free with the promo code (RW100), including the novel of my previous blog serial, The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum.

*UPDATE: This promotion has now ended, but I’m sure there’ll be more in future!

The links to my books are:

The Zombie Adventures of Sarah Bellum – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/262618

Living Hell – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/56513

Death & The City: Heavy Duty Edition – http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/55782

Also available at other e-book (and print) retailers.

Happy reading! 🙂 xxx