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

Chapter VI

In which Filch, the Detective, Betrays a Very Natural Impatience

The circumstances under which this telegraphic dispatch about Philanderous Flogg was sent were as follows:

The steamer Mongolian Falcon, belonging to the Peculiar and Ornamental Company, built of iron, of two thousand eight hundred tons burden, and five hundred horse-power, complete with on-board casino, bordello and swimming-pool, was due at eleven a.m. on Wednesday, the 9th of October, at Suez. The Mongolian Falcon plied regularly between Brindisi, Italy, and Bombay, India, via the Suez Canal and was one of the fastest steamers belonging to the company, always making more than ten knots an hour between Brindisi and Suez, and nine and a half between Suez and Bombay, but not yet fast enough to cross the ten or twelve parsecs to Kessel in a single run.

Two men were promenading up and down the wharves, among the crowd of natives and strangers who were sojourning at this once straggling village – the farms were not nearly so well cared for here as they were farther back. There were fewer houses and fewer fruit trees, and the farther they went the more dismal and lonesome the country became. But now, thanks to the enterprise of M. Lesseps, a fast-growing town.

One of the men was the British consul at Suez, who, despite the prophecies of the English Government, and the unfavourable predictions of Stephenson, was in the habit of seeing, from his office window, English ships daily passing to and fro on the great canal, by which the old roundabout route from England to India by the Cape of Good Hope was abridged by at least a half. The consul was a man of a rugged countenance, that was never lighted by a smile; cold, scanty and embarrassed in discourse; backward in sentiment; lean, long, dusty, dreary, and yet somehow lovable. At friendly meetings, and when the wine was to his taste, something eminently human beaconed from his eye; something indeed which never found its way into his talk, but which spoke not only in these silent symbols of the after-dinner face, but more often and loudly in the acts of his life. He was austere with himself; drank gin when he was alone, to mortify a taste for vintages; and though he enjoyed the theatre, had not crossed the doors of one for twenty years – not since his dearest Sybil had turned her infatuated eye away from him, and onto the undead husk of the cussed Dorian Gray instead. But he had an approved tolerance for others; sometimes wondering, almost with envy, at the high pressure of spirits involved in their misdeeds; and in any extremity inclined to help rather than to reprove.

The other was a small, slight-built personage, with a nervous, intelligently-represented face, and bright eyes peering out from under eyebrows which he was incessantly twitching. He was just now manifesting unmistakable signs of impatience, nervously pacing up and down, and unable to stand still for a moment; as if, like Lord Albatross, he were caught short too far from the privy.

He was not easy to describe. There was something wrong with his appearance; something displeasing, something downright detestable. The consul never saw a man he so disliked, and yet he scarce knew why. ‘He must be deformed somewhere; he gives a strong feeling of deformity, although I couldn’t specify the point. He’s an extraordinary-looking man, and yet I really can name nothing out of the way. No, sir; I can make no hand of it; I can’t describe him,’ he thought.

This was Filch, one of the detectives who had been dispatched from England in search of the bank robber; it was his task to narrowly watch every passenger who arrived at Suez, and to follow up all who seemed to be suspicious characters, or bore a resemblance to the description of the criminal, which he had received two days before from the police headquarters at London. The detective was evidently inspired by the hope of obtaining the splendid reward which would be the prize of success, not to mention the Employee of the Month plaque which would adorn the wall above his desk; and awaited with a feverish impatience, easy to understand, the arrival of the steamer Mongolian Falcon.

Here and there, the road began to be rough, and the walking grew so difficult that the detective often stumbled over the yellow bricks, which were here very uneven. Sometimes, indeed, they were broken or missing altogether, leaving holes that natives jumped across and the consul walked around. As for the detective Filch, having no brains, he walked straight ahead, and so stepped into the holes and fell at full length on the hard bricks. It never hurt him, however, and the consul would pick him up and set him upon his feet again, while he joined him in laughing merrily at his own mishap.

Presently they sat down by the dockside, near a little boat, and the consul opened his basket and got out some bread. He offered a piece to the detective, but he refused.

“I am never hungry,” he said, “and it is a lucky thing I am not, for my mouth is only painted on, and if I should cut a hole in it so I could eat, the straw I am stuffed with would come out, and that would spoil the shape of my head.”

The consul saw at once that this was true, so he only nodded and went on eating.

“Tell me something about yourself and the country you came from,” said the consul, when he had finished his dinner. So Filch told him all about London, and how gray everything was there, and how the cyclone carried him here to the queer land of Suez.

The consul listened carefully, and said, “I cannot understand why you should wish to leave this beautiful country and go back to the dry, gray place you call London.”

“That is because we have no brains,” answered the detective. “No matter how dreary and gray our homes are, we people of lesser flesh and blood would rather live there than in any other country, be it ever so beautiful. There is no place like home.”

The consul sighed.

“Of course I cannot understand it. If your heads were all stuffed with straw, like yours is, you would probably all live in the beautiful places, and then London would have no people at all. It is fortunate for places like Suez that you have no brains.”

“So you say, consul,” asked Filch for the twentieth time, “that this steamer is never behind time?”

“No, Mr. Filch,” replied the consul. “She was bespoken yesterday at Port Said, and the rest of the way is of no account to such a craft. I repeat that the Mongolian Falcon has been in advance of the time required by the company’s regulations, and gained the prize awarded for excess of speed. She is no piece of junk, I can tell you.”

“Does she come directly from Brindisi?”

“Directly from Brindisi; she takes on the Indian mails there, and she left there Saturday at five p.m. Have patience, Mr. Filch; she will not be late. But really, I don’t see how, from the description you have, you will be able to recognise your man, even if he is on board the Mongolian Falcon.”

“A man rather feels the presence of these fellows, consul, than recognises them. You must have a scent for them, and a scent is like a sixth sense which combines hearing, seeing, smelling, and nonsense. I’ve arrested more than one of these gentlemen in my time, and, if my thief is on board, I’ll answer for it; he’ll not slip through my fingers.”

“I hope so, Mr. Filch, for it was a heavy robbery.”

“A magnificent robbery, consul; fifty-five thousand pounds! We don’t often have such windfalls. Burglars are getting to be so contemptible nowadays! A fellow gets hung for a handful of shillings!”

“Mr. Filch,” said the consul, “I like your way of talking, and hope you’ll succeed; but I fear you will find it far from easy. Don’t you see, the description which you have there has a singular resemblance to an honest man?”

“Consul,” remarked the detective, dogmatically, “great robbers always resemble honest folks. Fellows who have rascally faces have only one course to take, and that is to remain honest; otherwise they would be arrested off-hand. The artistic thing is, to unmask honest countenances; it’s no light task, I admit, but a real art.”

Mr. Filch evidently was not wanting in a tinge of self-conceit.

Little by little the scene on the quay became more animated; sailors of various nations, merchants, ship-brokers, porters, fellahs, ticket-touts and minicab drivers bustled to and fro, as if the steamer were immediately expected. The weather was clear, and slightly chilly. The minarets of the town loomed above the houses in the pale rays of the sun. A jetty pier, some two thousand yards along, extended into the roadstead. A number of fishing-smacks and coasting boats, some retaining the fantastic fashion of ancient galleys, were discernible on the Red Sea.

As he passed among the busy crowd, Filch, according to habit, scrutinised the passers-by with a keen, rapid glance.

It was now half-past ten.

“The steamer doesn’t come!” he exclaimed, as the port clock struck.

“She can’t be far off now,” returned his companion.

“How long will she stop at Suez?”

“Four hours; long enough to get in her coal. It is thirteen hundred and ten miles from Suez to Aden, at the other end of the Red Sea, and she has to take in a fresh coal supply.”

“And does she go from Suez directly to Bombay?”

“Without putting in anywhere.”

“Good!” said Filch. “If the robber is on board he will no doubt get off at Suez, so as to reach the Dutch or French colonies in Asia by some other route. He ought to know that he would not be safe an hour in India, which is English soil.”

“Unless,” objected the consul, “he is exceptionally shrewd. An English criminal, you know, is always better concealed in London than anywhere else.”

“You take care of the passports and the visas,” said Filch. “Let me deal with the miscreants.”

This observation, nonetheless, had furnished the detective food for thought, and meanwhile the consul went away to his office. Filch, left alone, was more impatient than ever, having a presentiment that the robber was on board the Mongolian Falcon. If he had indeed left London intending to reach the New World, he would naturally take the route via India, which was less watched and more difficult to watch than that of the Atlantic.

But Filch’s reflections were soon interrupted by a succession of sharp whistles, which announced the arrival of the Mongolian Falcon. The porters and fellahs rushed down the quay, and a dozen boats pushed off from the shore to go and meet the steamer. Soon her gigantic hull appeared passing along between the banks, and eleven o’clock struck as she anchored in the road. She brought an unusual number of passengers, some of whom remained on deck to scan the picturesque panorama of the town, while the greater part disembarked in the boats, and landed on the quay.

Filch took up a position, and carefully examined each face and figure which made its appearance.

Presently one of the passengers, after vigorously pushing his way through the importunate crowd of porters, came up to him and politely asked if he could point out the English consulate, at the same time showing a passport which he wished to have visaed. Filch instinctively took the passport, and with a rapid glance read the description of its bearer.

An involuntary motion of surprise nearly escaped him, for the description in the passport was identical with that of the bank robber which he had received from Scotland Yard.

“Is this your passport?” asked he, looking the French poodle up and down.

“No, it’s my master’s.”

“And your master is…?”

“He stayed on board.”

“But he must go to the consul’s in person, so as to establish his identity.”

“Oh, is that necessary? My master is rather inextricably tied up at the moment.”

“Quite indispensable.”

“And where is the consulate?”

“There, on the corner of the square,” said Filch, pointing to a house two hundred steps off.

It seemed scarcely a house. There was no other door, and nobody went in or out of that one, but once in a great while the gentleman consul of today’s adventure. There were three windows looking on the court on the first floor; none below; the windows were always shut but they were clean. And then there was a chimney which was generally smoking; so somebody must live there. And yet it was not so sure; for the buildings were so packed together about that court, that it was hard to say where one ended and another began.

“I’ll go and fetch my master, who won’t be much pleased, however, to be disturbed.”

The passenger bowed to Filch, took out a lockpick and a crowbar with a sigh, and returned to the steamer.

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

Chapter IV:

In which Philanderous Flogg Astounds Pissepotout, His Servant…

Having won twenty guineas at Grist, and taken leave of his friends along with quite possibly his senses, Philanderous Flogg, at twenty-five minutes past seven, left the Conform Club.

Pissepotout, who had conscientiously studied the programme of his duties, was more than surprised to see his master guilty of the inexactness of appearing at this unaccustomed hour; for, according to rule, he was not due in Saddle Row until precisely midnight.

Mr. Flogg repaired to his bedroom, and called out, “Piss-pot-oto!”

Pissepotout did not reply. It could not be he who was called; it was not the right hour.

“Piss-pot-oto!” repeated Mr. Flogg, without raising his voice. “Where are you hiding, my little yellow friend?”

Pissepotout made his appearance hastily, via the laundry chute from the top floor onto the landing, and hurried in. He fully expected to find his master struggling with some new constrictive contraption, purchased on a whim. He was surprised to find him seated, still fully-dressed in outdoor clothing, and apparently quite composed.

“I’ve called you twice,” observed his master.

“But it is not midnight,” responded the other, showing his watch.

“I know it; I don’t blame you. We start for Dover and Calais in ten minutes.”

A puzzled grin spread over Pissepotout’s round face; clearly he had not comprehended his master. His tail gave a nervous little half-wag.

“Monsieur is going to leave home?”

“Yes,” returned Philanderous Flogg. “We are going around the world.”

Pissepotout opened wide his eyes, raised his eyebrows, held up his paws, and seemed about to collapse, so overcome was he with stupefied astonishment.

“Around the world!” he murmured.

“In eighty days,” responded Mr. Flogg. “So we haven’t a moment to lose.”

“But the trunks?” gasped Pissepotout, unconsciously swaying his head from right to left. “Your nightly accoutrements, monsieur! Your routine! Your appetite! How will you cope?”

“We’ll have no trunks; only a carpet-bag, with two shirts and three pairs of stockings for me, and the same for you. We’ll buy our clothes on the way. All else, we will have to compromise upon, or even improvise. If we reach the City of Emmannuelle on our travels, all of our needs will be met by the Great Ooze.”

“Where is the Emmannuelle City?” he inquired. “And who is Ooze?”

“Why, don’t you know?” Flogg returned, in surprise. “He is great and powerful. He has been known to procure everything, from courage to spare human organs. Even balloon-rides. Bring down my mackintosh and travelling-cloak, and some stout shoes, though we shall do little walking. Make haste!”

Pissepotout tried to reply, but could not. He went out, mounted to his own room, fell into a chair, and muttered: “That’s good, that is! And I, who wanted to remain quiet! If I am going to the Emmannuelle City, I shall ask the Great Ooze to send me back to Cannes.”

He mechanically set about making the preparations for departure. Around the world in eighty days! Was his master a fool? No. Was this a joke, then? They were going to Dover; good! To Calais; good again! After all, Pissepotout, who had been away from France five years, would not be sorry to set foot on his native soil again. Perhaps they would go as far as Paris, and it would do his eyes good to see Paris once more. But surely a gentleman so chary of his steps would stop there; no doubt – but, then, it was none the less true that he was going away, this so domestic person hitherto!

By eight o’clock Pissepotout had packed the modest carpet-bag, containing the wardrobes of his master and himself; then, still troubled in mind, he carefully shut the door of his room, and descended to Mr. Flogg.

Mr. Flogg was quite ready. Under his arm might have been observed a red-bound copy of Bradshaw’s Continental Railway Steam Transit and General Guide, with its timetables showing the arrival and departure of steamers and railways, and in his pocket a dog-eared copy of Fifty Shades of Grey. He took the carpet-bag, opened it, and slipped into it a goodly roll of Bank of England notes, which would pass wherever he might go.

“You have forgotten nothing?” asked he.

“Nothing, monsieur.”

“My mackintosh and cloak?”

“Here they are.”

“Good! Take this carpet-bag,” handing it to Pissepotout. “Take good care of it, for there are twenty thousand pounds in it.”

Pissepotout nearly dropped the bag, as if the twenty thousand pounds were in gold, and weighed him down.

Master and pet then descended, the street-door was double-locked, and at the end of Saddle Row they took a cab and drove rapidly to Charing Cross. The cab stopped before the railway station at twenty minutes past eight. Pissepotout jumped off the box and followed his master, who, after paying the cabman, was about to enter the station, when a poor beggar-woman, with a child in her arms, her naked feet smeared with mud, her head covered with a wretched bonnet, from which hung a tattered feather, and her shoulders shrouded in a ragged shawl, approached, and mournfully asked for alms.

Mr. Flogg took out the twenty guineas he had just won at Grist, and handed them to the beggar, saying: “Here, my good woman. I’m glad that I met you,” and passed on.

Pissepotout had a moist sensation about the eyes; his master’s action touched his susceptible heart.

Two first-class tickets for Paris having been speedily purchased, Mr. Flogg was crossing the station to the train, when he perceived his five friends of the Conform.

“Well, gentlemen,” said he, “I’m off, you see; and, if you will examine my passport when I get back, you will be able to judge whether I have accomplished the journey agreed upon.”

“Oh, that would be quite unnecessary, Mr. Flogg,” said Ravish politely. “We will trust your word, as a gentleman of honour.”

“You do not forget when you are due in London again?” asked Stiff-Upperlip.

“In eighty days; on Saturday, the 21st of December, 1872, at a quarter before nine p.m. Goodbye, gentlemen.”

Philanderous Flogg and his servant seated themselves in a first-class carriage at twenty minutes before nine; five minutes later the whistle screamed, and the train slowly glided out of the station.

The night was dark, and a fine, steady rain was falling. Philanderous Flogg, snugly ensconced in his corner, did not open his lips. Pissepotout, not yet recovered from his stupefaction, clung mechanically to the carpet-bag, with its enormous treasure.

“Won’t you tell me a story, while we are resting?” asked the dog, presently.

The master looked at him, and answered:

“My afterlife has been so short that I really know nothing whatever. I was only made undead a year ago, on the month before yesterday. What happened in the world before that time is all unknown to me. Luckily, when the farmer made my head free of the hay-maker that had impaled me, one of the first things he did was to clean my ears, so that I heard what was going on. There was a Munchling with him, and the first thing I heard was the farmer saying, ‘How do you like those ears?’

“‘They aren’t straight,’ answered the other.

“‘Never mind,’ said the farmer. ‘They are ears just the same,’ which was true enough.

“‘Now I’ll check the eyes,’ said the farmer. So he cleaned my right eye, and as soon as it was finished I found myself looking at him and at everything around me with a great deal of curiosity, for this was my first glimpse of the world as a zombie.

“‘That’s a rather pretty eye,’ remarked the Munchling, who was watching the farmer. ‘Like blue paint. Just the colour for eyes.’

“‘I think I’ll make the other a little bigger,’ said the farmer. And when the second eye was done I could see much better than before. Then he cleaned out my nose and my mouth. But I did not speak, because at that time I didn’t recall what a mouth was for. I had the fun of watching them repair my body and my arms and legs; and when they fastened on my head, at last, I felt very proud, for I thought I was just as good a man as anyone.

“‘This fellow will scare the crows fast enough,’ said the farmer. ‘He looks just like a man.’

“‘Why, he is a man,’ said the other, and I quite agreed with him. The farmer carried me under his arm to Spitalfields, and set me up with a tall walking stick, where I found myself proficient again in a very short time. He and his friend soon after walked away and left me alone. I returned to my house on Saddle Row, with none the wiser as to my absence.

“But over the next few days I became aware of the most ravenous appetite, and my prior servant, James Forster, was obliged to lock the poor Munchlings under the stairs, so hungrily did I observe them. The Conform Club reassured me that this was a common ailment, having serviced Dorian Gray before me, and promised to discreetly cater for any craving I experienced. Whether poultry, game, steak, sapient, erect, or exotic creature – nothing would be too much trouble. I could not bring myself to take advantage of their kind offer, and so I adhered to the best of their traditional menu, consuming vast quantities to compensate for my unnatural and voracious desires, and wreaking havoc on my own body by night to suppress my dangerous urges. Like Dr. Jekkyl, so to restrain myself against acts that would be perceived as antisocial and vile. One evening, only this summer, the waiter at the Conform confided that a young woman could be procured for dinner if I wished, as the Bolshoi Ballet were visiting and the understudy would be unlikely missed…”

Just then, as the train was whirling through Sydenham, Pissepotout suddenly uttered a cry of despair.

“What’s the matter?” asked Mr. Flogg.

“Alas! In my hurry – I – I forgot…”

“What?”

“To turn off the gas in my room!”

“Very well, my little yellow friend,” returned Mr. Flogg, coolly. “It will burn – at your expense.”

Around the World in Eighty Days Yeller Brick Road ~ Chapter Two

Chapter II

In which Pissepotout is Convinced that He Has At Last Found His Ideal

“Faith,” muttered Pissepotout, somewhat flurried in his panting anxiousness. “I’ve seen people at Madame Tussaud’s more lively than my new master!”

Madame Tussaud’s ‘people’ let it be said, are of wax, and are much visited in London; speech is all that is wanting to make them human.

He had been awakened by a shock, so sudden and severe that if Pissepotout had not been lying on the floor, he might have been hurt. As it was, the jar made him catch his breath and wonder what had happened; and he put his cold little nose up to the door and whined dismally. He eventually sat up, and noticed that the house was not moving; nor was it dark, for the bright sunshine came in at the window, flooding the little hallway. He sprang up and opened the door, looking keenly for his new master’s return.

During his brief interview with Mr. Flogg, Pissepotout had been carefully observing him. He appeared to have been a man about forty years of age when alive, with fine, handsome features, and a tall, well-shaped figure; his hair and whiskers were light, his forehead compact and unwrinkled, his face rather pale as befitting the recently deceased, even his teeth magnificent. His countenance possessed in the highest degree what physiognomists call “repose in action,” a quality of those who act rather than talk. Calm and phlegmatic, with at least one clear eye, Mr. Flogg seemed to present a perfect mask of that English composure, which Andrew Lloyd-Webber has so skilfully represented in musicals such as Phantom. Seen in the various phases of his daily life, he gave the idea of being perfectly well-balanced, as exactly regulated as an elderly gentleman’s bladder – no doubt still enacting the very routines that had comforted him as living man. Philanderous Flogg was, indeed, exactitude personified, and this was betrayed even in the expression of his very hands and feet; for in men, as well as in animals, the limbs themselves are expressive of the congealed – er, concealed – passions.

He was so exact that he was never in a hurry, was always ready, and was economical alike of his steps and his motions. He never took one step too many, and always went to his destination by the shortest cut; he made no superfluous gestures, and was never seen to be moved or agitated. He was the most deliberate, unimaginative person in the world, yet always reached his destination at the exact moment, so as not to miss anything.

He lived alone, and, so to speak, outside of every social relation; and as he knew that in this world, account must be taken of friction, and that friction retards the sensibilities of even the most vibrantly alive, therefore he never rubbed against anybody.

Truly, no man but he in polite society had been spoken and speculated about by so many, for such an extent of time, and in such detail, while ensuring the art of gossip to have so little to discuss, to appear so vacuous, and to lead so empty and dead a life for so long. The proudest and most promising débutantes had died of boredom, or turned to a life of Christ, awaiting to hear something inspiring about him, or to learn of any spark of vitality behind those cold, calculating, clock-watching eyes.

As for Pissepotout, he was a true Parisian of Paris. Since he had abandoned his own country for England, taking service as a valet, he had in vain searched for a master after his own heart. Pissepotout was by no means one of those pet dunces depicted by Moliere with a bold gaze, a shiny coat, and a wet nose held high in the air; he was an honest fellow, with a pleasant face, lips a trifle protruding, soft-mannered and serviceable, with a good round head, such as one likes to see on the shoulders of man’s best friend. His eyes were blue, his complexion rubicund, his figure almost portly and well-built, his body muscular, and his physical powers fully developed by the exercises of his younger days. His fur was somewhat tumbled; for, while the ancient sculptors are said to have known eighteen methods of arranging Minerva’s tresses, Pissepotout was familiar with but one of dressing his own: three strokes of a large-toothed comb and a delightful roll upon the doormat completed his toilet.

It would be rash to predict how Pissepotout’s lively nature would agree with Mr. Flogg. It was impossible to tell whether the new servant would turn out as absolutely methodical as his undead master required; experience alone could solve the question. Why did he favour dogs as companions, when loyal hunchbacked misfits named ‘Igor’ were so much better suited to the coffin-dodgers of the upper-class? Pissepotout had been a sort of vagrant himself in his early years, and now yearned for repose; but so far he had failed to find it, though he had already served in ten English houses, and had ten different silver-plated engraved name-discs to prove it. But he could not take root in any of these; with chagrin, he found his masters invariably whimsical and irregular, constantly running about the countryside shouting at him ‘Fenton!’ or ‘Benton!’ and even ‘Jesus Christ!’ and on the look-out for misadventure. His last master, young Lord Longferry, Member of Parliament, after passing his nights in the Haymarket taverns, was too often brought home in the morning on policemen’s shoulders. Pissepotout, desirous of respecting the gentleman whom he served, ventured a mild remonstrance on such conduct, by relieving himself in the inebriated Lord’s slippers; which, being ill-received, he took his leave. Hearing that Mr. Philanderous Flogg was looking for a servant, and that his life was one of unbroken regularity, that he neither travelled nor stayed from home overnight, he felt sure that this would be the place he was after. He presented himself, and was accepted, as has been seen.

At half-past eleven, then, Pissepotout found himself alone in the house in Saddle Row. He began a storm-damage inspection without delay, scouring it from cellar to garret. So clean, well-arranged, solemn a mansion pleased him; it seemed to him like a snail’s shell, lighted and warmed by gas, which sufficed for both these purposes. When Pissepotout reached the second storey he recognised at once the room which he was to inhabit, and he was well satisfied with it. Electric bells and speaking-tubes afforded communication with the lower storeys; while on the mantel stood an electric clock, precisely like that in Mr. Flogg’s bedchamber, both beating the same second at the same instant.

“That’s good, that’ll do,” said Pissepotout to himself.

He suddenly observed, hung over the clock, a card which, upon inspection, proved to be a programme of the daily routine of the house. It comprised all that was required of the servant, from eight in the morning, exactly at which hour Philanderous Flogg rose, till half-past eleven, when he left the house for the Conform Club – all the details of service; the whipping and birching to thoroughly rouse at eight promptly, tea and toast and calamine lotion at twenty-three minutes past eight, the removal of the manacles and inflatable rubber corset at twelve minutes before nine, the removal of all overnight metal braces, clamps and piercings at ten minutes after nine, the shaving-water at thirty-seven minutes past nine, then the crowbar to open the nocturnal chastity belts and assistance at the toilet at twenty minutes before ten. Everything was regulated and foreseen that was to be done from half-past eleven a.m. till midnight, the hour at which the methodical gentleman retired, whereupon the morning’s instructions were repeated, mostly in reverse.

Mr. Flogg’s wardrobe was amply supplied and in the best taste. Each pair of trousers, coat, and vest bore a number, indicating the time of year and season at which they were in turn to be laid out for wearing; and the same system was applied to the master’s shoes. In short, the house in Saddle Row, which must have been a very temple of disorder and unrest under the illustrious but dissipated Shergar, was cosiness, comfort, and method idealised. There was no study, nor were there books, which would have been quite useless to the brain-dead Mr. Flogg; for at the Conform two libraries, one of general literature and the other of law and politics, were at his service. A moderate-sized safe stood in his bedroom, constructed so as to defy fire as well as burglars; but Pissepotout found neither arms nor hunting weapons anywhere, not even an axe; everything betrayed the most tranquil and peaceable attitude towards the general public.

But upon opening the under-stairs cupboard, he had another reason to be startled, after that morning’s tornado. For peeking out at him, was a group of the queerest people he had ever seen. They were not as big as the grown folk he had always been used to, and certainly nowhere near as big as Mr. Flogg; but neither were they very small. In fact, they seemed about as tall as Pissepotout, who was a well-grown dog for his age, although they were, so far as looks go, many years older.

Three were men and one a woman, and all were oddly dressed. They wore round hats that rose to a small point a foot above their heads, with little bells around the brims that tinkled sweetly as they moved. The hats of the men were blue; the little woman’s hat was white, and she wore a white gown that hung in pleats from her shoulders. Over it were sprinkled little stars that glistened like diamonds. The men were dressed in blue, of the same shade as their hats, and wore well-polished boots with a deep roll of blue at the tops. The men, Pissepotout thought, were about as old as Big Ben, for two of them had beards. But the little woman was doubtless much older. Her face was covered with wrinkles, her hair was nearly white, and she walked rather stiffly.

When these people drew near to where Pissepotout was standing in the doorway, they paused and whispered among themselves, as if afraid to come out farther into the hall. But the little old woman walked up to him, made a low bow and said, in a sweet voice:

“You are welcome, most noble Sorcerer, to the house of the Munchlings. We are so grateful to you for having killed the wicked James of Forster, and for setting our people free from bondage.”

Pissepotout listened to this speech with wonder. What could the little woman possibly mean by calling him a sorcerer, and saying he had killed James Forster? Pissepotout was an innocent, hardworking little poodle, who had been carried by circumstance many miles from home; and he had never killed anything in all his life.

But the little woman evidently expected him to answer; so he said, with hesitation, “You are very kind, but there must be some mistake. I have not killed anything.”

“The house did, anyway,” replied the little old woman, with a rather hysterical laugh. “And that is the same thing. See!” she continued, pointing out of the front door, to the corner of the house. “There are his two feet, still sticking out from under a block of wood.”

Pissepotout looked, and gave a little cry of fright. There, indeed, just under the corner of the great foundation beam the house rested on, where the external cellar door had been torn away in the storm, two feet were sticking out, shod in silver-buckled shoes with pointed toes.

“Oh, dear! Oh, dear!” cried Pissepotout, clasping his hands together in dismay. “He must have tripped and fallen under the house into the cellar, after our great upheaval earlier. Whatever shall we do?”

“There is nothing to be done,” said the little woman calmly.

“But who was he?” asked Pissepotout.

“He was the wicked James of Forster, as I said,” answered the little woman. “He has held all the Munchlings in bondage for many years while servicing the Great and Terrible Flogg, making them slave for him night and day. Now they are all set free, and are grateful to you for the favour.”

“Who are the Munchlings?” inquired Pissepotout.

“They are the people who live in this house of the Beast, where the wicked James ruled.”

“Are you a Munchling?” asked Pissepotout.

“No, but I am their friend, although I live in the house over to the North. When they saw the wicked Forster was dead the Munchlings sent a swift messenger to me via the plumbing, and I came at once. I am the Bitch of the North House.”

“Oh, my gracious me!” cried Pissepotout. Females of his species rarely crossed his path. “Are you a real bitch?”

“Yes, indeed,” answered the little woman, unconvincingly to the French poodle’s questing nose. “But I am a good bitch, and the people love me. I am not as powerful as the wicked bitch James was who ruled here, or I should have set the people free myself.”

“But I thought all bitches were neutered,” said the dog, who was half frightened at facing a real bitch. He had never prepared for the eventuality – having focused all of his efforts on finding the perfect master instead.

“Oh, no, that is a great mistake. There were only four true bitches in all of London, and two of them, those who live in the North and the South, are good bitches. I know this is true, for I am one of them myself, and cannot be mistaken. Those who dwelt in the East End and the West Central were, indeed, wicked bitches; but now that you have killed one of them, there is but one wicked bitch in all of London.”

“But,” said Pissepotout, after a moment’s thought, “Aunt Em has told me that the bitches were all dead – years and years ago.”

“Who is Aunt Em?” inquired the little old woman.

“She is my aunt who lives in Cannes, where I came from.”

The Bitch of the North House seemed to think for a time, with her head bowed and her eyes upon the ground. Then she looked up and said, “I do not know where Cannes is, for I have never heard that country mentioned before. But tell me, is it a civilized country?”

“Oh, yes,” replied Pissepotout.

“Then that accounts for it. In the civilized countries I believe there are no bitches left, no wickedness, nor submissives, nor masochists. But, you see, London has never been civilized, for we are cut off from all the rest of the world. Therefore we still have bitches and wicked people amongst us.”

“Who are the wicked ones?” asked Pissepotout.

“Flogg himself is the most wicked,” answered the Bitch, sinking her voice to a whisper. “He is more powerful than all the rest of us together. He is from the city of Emmannuelle.”

Pissepotout was going to ask another question, but just then the Munchlings, who had been standing silently by, gave a loud shout and pointed to the corner of the house where the wicked James Forster had been lying.

“What is it?” asked the little old woman, and looked, and began to laugh in her strange hysterical tone. The feet of the dead bitch James had disappeared entirely, and nothing was left but the silver-buckled shoes.

“He was so old-school,” explained the Bitch of the North, “that he dried up quickly in the sun. That is the end of him. But the silver-buckled shoes are yours, and you shall have them to wear.” She reached down and picked up the shoes, and after shaking the dust out of them, handed them to Pissepotout.

“The Bitch of the Beast was proud of those silver-buckled shoes,” said one of the Munchlings, “and there is some powerful charm connected with them; but what it is we never knew.”

Pissepotout quickly carried the shoes into the house and placed them on the table. Then he turned again to the Munchlings under the stairs and said:

“I am anxious to get back my master, for I am sure I will worry without him. Can you help me find him?”

The Munchlings and the Bitch first looked at one another, and then at Pissepotout, and then shook their heads.

“At the second home of the Beast, not far from here,” said one, “there is a great dessert club, the Conform; and none who is not a member could live to cross its threshhold.”

“It is the same at the South,” said another, “for I have been there and seen it. The South is the country of the Quadrilles. No-one enters or leaves there, without being challenged to the Danse Macabre.”

“I am told,” said the third man, “that it is the same at the Westminster. And that country is ruled by the wicked Bitch of the West, who would make you her slave if you passed her way.”

“The North is my home,” said the old lady, “and at its edge is the same great dessert club that obsesses this mind of Flogg. I’m afraid, my dear, you will have to stay in and wait with us.”

The three Munchlings bowed low to him and wished him a pleasant term in servitude, after which they walked away back down the cellar stairs. The Bitch gave Pissepotout a friendly little nod, whirled around on her left heel three times, and straight away disappeared, much to the surprise of the little poodle, who barked after her loudly enough when she had gone, because he had been afraid even to growl while she stood by.

But gradually Pissepotout, knowing her to be a bitch, found he had expected her to disappear in just that way, and presently was not surprised in the least.

Having scrutinised the house from top to bottom, he rubbed his hands, a broad smile overspread his features, and he said joyfully, “This is just what I wanted! Ah, we shall get on together, Mr. Flogg and I! What a domestic and regular gentleman! A real machine, almost as if constructed of tin; well, I don’t mind servicing a machine. All machines require a good kicking and beating once in a while to perform at their best.”

Around the World in Eighty Days Yeller Brick Road ~ Chapter One

Chapter I:

In which Philanderous Flogg and Pissepotout Accept Each Other,
the One as Master, the Other as Dog…

Mr. Philanderous Flogg lived, in 1872, at No.7, Saddle Row, Burlyman Gardens, the house in which Shergar died in 1984. When he stood in the doorway and looked around, he could see nothing but the great gray streets on every side. Not a tree nor a shrub broke the broad sweep of the city that reached to the edge of the sky in all directions. The summer sun had baked the road into a gray mass, with little cracks running through it. Even the grass in Hyde Park was not green, for the sun had burned the tops of the long blades until they were the same gray colour to be seen everywhere. Once the house on Saddle Row had been painted, but the sun blistered the paint and the rains washed it away, and now the house was as dull and gray as everything else.

He was one of the most noticeable members of the Conform Club, though he seemed always to avoid attracting attention; an enigmatic personage, about whom little was known, except that he was a self-polished man of the world. People said that he resembled Byron – at least that his head was Byronic; but the fantasy circulated that he was a tranquil Byron, who might live on a thousand years without growing old, rather like the equally charismatic and undead Dorian Gray himself.

Certainly an Englishman, it was more doubtful whether Philanderous Flogg was an indigenous Londoner. He was never seen on Change, nor at the Bank, nor in the counting-rooms of the “City”; no ships ever came into London docks of which he was the owner; he had no public employment; he had never been entered at any of the Inns of Court, either at the Temple, or Lincoln’s Inn, or Gray’s Inn; nor had his voice ever resounded in the Court of Chancery, or in the Exchequer, or the Queen’s Bench, or the Ecclesiastical Courts. He certainly was not a manufacturer; nor was he a merchant or a gentleman farmer. His name was strange to the scientific and learned societies, and he never was known to take part in the sage deliberations of the Royal Institution or the London Institution, the Artisan’s Association, or the Institution of Arts and Sciences. Nor was he known at the Jam-Maker’s and Chutneys Guild, nor by the Knights of Origami, nor the Remedial Potato-Printer’s Press. He belonged, in fact, to none of the numerous societies which swarm in the English capital, from the Harmonic to that of the Entomologists, founded mainly for the purpose of abolishing pernicious insects. And even if mentioned to the Seamstresses, they insisted that his wardrobe alterations were not known to them either.

Philanderous Flogg was a member of the Conform, and that was all.

The way in which he got admission to this exclusive club was simple enough.

He was recommended by the Barings, with whom he had an open credit. His cheques were regularly paid at sight from his account current, which was always flush.

Was Philanderous Flogg rich? Undoubtedly. But those who knew him best could not imagine how he had made his fortune, and Mr. Flogg was the last person to whom to apply for the information. He was not lavish, nor, on the contrary, avaricious; for, whenever he knew that money was needed for a noble, useful, or benevolent purpose, he supplied it quietly and sometimes anonymously. He was, in short, the least communicative of men. He talked very little, and seemed all the more mysterious for his taciturn manner. His daily habits were quite open to observation; but whatever he did was so exactly the same thing that he had always done before, that the wits of the curious were fairly puzzled.

Had he travelled? It was likely, for no one seemed to know the world more familiarly; there was no spot so secluded that he did not appear to have an intimate acquaintance with it. He often corrected, with a few clear words, the thousand conjectures advanced by members of the club as to lost and unheard-of travellers, pointing out the true probabilities, and seeming as if gifted with a sort of second sight, so often did events justify his predictions. He must have travelled everywhere, at least in the spirit.

It was at least certain that Philanderous Flogg had not absented himself from London for many years. Those who were honoured by a better acquaintance with him than the rest, declared that nobody could pretend to have ever seen him anywhere else. His sole pastimes were reading the papers and playing Grist. He often won at this game, which, as a silent one, harmonised with his nature; but his winnings never went into his purse, being reserved as a fund for his charities. Mr. Flogg played, not to win, but for the sake of playing. The game was in his eyes a contest, a struggle with a difficulty, yet a motionless, unwearying struggle, congenial to his tastes.

Was he married? No. But he had not the sallow complexion of a deprived man. More the twinkle in his eye of a depraved one. And the infrequent, unexplained bruise upon the throat, kept mostly hidden by a white silk cravat; or a candle-wax scald upon the palms, necessitating a pair of fine kid gloves. Occasionally, a carpet-burn on the head, curtained modestly by his Bohemian forelock.

Philanderous Flogg was not known to ever have had either wife or children, which may happen to the most honest people; neither relatives or near friends, which is certainly more unusual. He lived alone in his house in Saddle Row, whither none penetrated. A single, overworked, quite exhausted domestic sufficed to serve his particular needs. He breakfasted and dined at the club, at hours mathematically fixed, in the same room, at the same table, never taking his meals with other members, much less bringing a guest with him; and went home at exactly midnight, only to retire at once to bed. He never used the cosy chambers which the Conform provides for its favoured members, stating them to be too extravagantly equipped for his own sleeping arrangements. He passed ten hours out of the twenty-four in Saddle Row, either in sleeping, musing, flagellation, or making his toilet. When he chose to take a walk it was with a regular step in the entrance hall with its mosaic flooring, or in the circular gallery with its dome supported by twenty red porphyry Ionic columns, and illumined by blue painted windows. When he breakfasted or dined all the resources of the club – its kitchens and pantries, its buttery and dairy – aided to crowd his table with their most succulent stores; he was served by the gravest waiters, in dress coats, and shoes with swan-skin soles, who proffered the viands in special porcelain, and on the finest linen; club decanters, of a lost mould, contained his sherry, his port, and his cinnamon-spiced claret; while his beverages were refreshingly cooled with ice, brought at great cost from the American lakes.

If to live in this style is to be eccentric, it must be confessed that there is something good in eccentricity.

The mansion in Saddle Row, though not sumptuous, was exceedingly comfortable. The habits of its occupant were such as to demand little and often from the sole domestic, but Philanderous Flogg required him to be almost superhumanly prompt and regular. On this very 2nd of October he had dismissed James Forster, because that luckless lurcher had brought him shaving-water at eighty-four degrees Fahrenheit instead of eighty-six; and he was awaiting his successor, who was due at the house between eleven and half-past.

Philanderous Flogg was seated squarely in his armchair and looked anxiously at the sky through the windows, which was even grayer than usual; his feet close together like those of a grenadier on parade, his hands resting on his knees, his body straight, his head erect; he was steadily watching a complicated clock which indicated the hours, the minutes, the seconds, the days, the months, and the years. At exactly half-past eleven Mr. Flogg would, according to his daily habit, quit Saddle Row, and repair to the Conform.

A rap at this moment sounded on the door of the cosy apartment where Philanderous Flogg was seated, and James Forster, the dismissed pet, appeared.

“The new servant,” said he.

A young pedigree advanced and bowed.

“You are a French poodle, I believe,” asked Philanderous Flogg, “and your name is John?”

“Jean, if monsieur pleases,” replied the newcomer, “And I am indeed a French poodle; Jean Pissepotout, a surname which has clung to me because I have a natural aptness for going out to do one business into another. I believe I’m honest, monsieur, but, to be outspoken, I’ve had several trades. I’ve been an itinerant singer, a circus-mutt, when I used to vault like Leotard, and dance on a rope like Blondin. Then I got to be a professor of gymnastics, so as to make better use of my talents; and then I was an errant fire-dog in Paris, and arrested at many a big fire. But I quit France five years ago, and, wishing to taste the sweets of domestic life, took service as a valet here in England. Finding myself out of place, and hearing that Monsieur Philanderous Flogg was the most exact and settled gentleman in the United Kingdom, I have come to monsieur in the hope of living with him a tranquil life, and forgetting even the name of Pissepotout.”

“Piss-pot-oto suits me,” responded Mr. Flogg, with terribly patronising pronunciation. “Although somewhat long, to shout out in Hyde Park during afternoon walkies. I may shorten it to Toto, or Brian. You are well recommended to me; I hear a good report of you. You know my conditions, my little yellow friend?”

“Yes, monsieur.”

“Good! What time is it?”

“Twenty-two minutes after eleven,” returned Pissepotout, drawing an enormous silver watch from the depths of his pocket.

“You are too slow,” said Mr. Flogg.

“Pardon me, monsieur, it is impossible…”

“You are four minutes too slow. No matter; it’s enough to mention the error. Now from this moment, twenty-nine minutes after eleven a.m, this Wednesday, 2nd October, you are in my service.”

From the far north they heard a low wail of the wind, and Philanderous Flogg and Pissepotout could see from the windows where the passers-by bowed almost double before the coming storm. There now came a sharp whistling in the air from the south, and as they turned their eyes that way they saw dust-devils coming from that direction also.

Then a strange thing happened.

The house whirled around two or three times and rose slowly through the air. Pissepotout felt as if he were going up in a balloon.

The north and south winds met where the house stood, and made it the exact centre of the cyclone. In the middle of a cyclone the air is generally still, but the great pressure of the wind on every side of the house raised it up higher and higher, until it was at the very top of the cyclone; and there it remained and was carried miles and miles upwards, as easily as you could carry a feather.

It was very dark, and the wind howled horribly around them, but they found they were riding quite easily. After the first few whirls around, and one other time when the house tipped badly, it felt as if they were being rocked gently, like a baby in a cradle.

Pissepotout did not like it. He ran about the room, now here, now there, barking loudly; but Philanderous Flogg sat quite still on the chair and waited to see what would happen.

After what seemed like hour after hour passed away, and slowly the ashamed Pissepotout got over his fright; but the wind shrieked so loudly all about him that he nearly became deaf. At first he had wondered if he would be dashed to pieces when the house fell again; but as the time passed and nothing terrible happened, he stopped worrying and resolved to wait calmly and see what the future would bring.

Eventually, with a jolt, No.7 Saddle Row came to earth once more, slightly concussing the mailman, who had been awaiting patiently and a little bemusedly at the top step, with that day’s post.

Philanderous Flogg got up, took his hat in his left hand, put it on his head with an automatic motion, and went off without a word.

Pissepotout heard the street door shut once; it was his new master going out. He heard it shut again; it was his predecessor, James Forster, departing in his turn. Pissepotout remained alone in the house in Saddle Row, awaiting his master’s anticipated return in the hallway, ears pricked.