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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