Around the World in Eighty Days Yeller Brick Road – Chapter Twenty-One

Chapter XXI

In Which the Master of the ‘Tankadere’ Runs Great Risk
of Losing a Reward of Two Hundred Pounds

This voyage of eight hundred miles was a perilous venture on a craft of twenty tons, and at that season of the year. The Chinese seas are usually boisterous, subject to terrible gales of wind akin to a chronically legume-intolerant vegetarian, and especially during the equinoxes; and it was now early November. Too late in the season for beans and pulses, fortuitously.

It would clearly have been to the master’s advantage to carry his passengers to Yokohama, since he was paid a certain sum per day; but he would have been rash to attempt such a voyage, and it was imprudent even to attempt to reach Shanghai. But John Bunsby believed in the Tankadere, which rode on the waves like a seagull; and perhaps he was not wrong.

Late in the day they passed through the capricious channels of Hong Kong, and the Tankadere, impelled by favourable winds, conducted herself admirably.

“I do not need to advise you, pilot,” said Philanderous Flogg, when they got into the open sea, “to use all possible speed.”

“Trust me, your honour. We are carrying all the sail the wind will let us. The poles would add nothing, and are only used when we are going into port.”

“It’s your trade, not mine, pilot, and I confide in you.” Mr. Flogg bowed, and moved on.

The detective passed by, and was himself greeted by the pilot.

“If you had been a week later at Lisbon, last spring, Filch, you would have been asked to give a passage to Lady Mary Grierson and her daughters.”

“Should I? I am glad I was not a week later then.”

The pilot abused him for his want of gallantry. Filch defended himself; though professing that he would never willingly admit any ladies on board a ship of his, excepting for a ball, or a visit, which a few hours might comprehend.

“But, if I know myself,” said he, “this is from no want of gallantry towards them. It is rather from feeling how impossible it is, with all one’s efforts, and all one’s sacrifices, to make the accommodations on board such as women ought to have. There can be no want of gallantry, Captain, in rating the claims of women to every personal comfort high, and this is what I do. I hate to hear of women on board, or to see them on board; and no ship under my command shall ever convey a family of ladies anywhere, if I can help it.”

This brought Aorta upon him.

“Oh! Mr. Filch! But I cannot believe it of you. All idle refinement! Women may be as comfortable on board, as in the best house in England. I believe I have lived as much on board as most women, and I know nothing superior to the accommodations of a man-of-war. I declare I have not a comfort or an indulgence about me, even at Kellynch Hall, beyond what I always had in most of the ships I have lived in; and they have been five altogether.”

“Nothing to the purpose,” replied Filch. “You were living with your husband, and were the only woman on board.”

“But you, yourself tell us, brought Mrs Forster, her sister, her cousin, and three children, round from Portsmouth to Plymouth. Where was this superfine, extraordinary sort of gallantry of yours then?”

“All merged in my friendship, Aorta. I would assist any brother officer’s wife that I could, and I would bring anything of Forster’s from the world’s end, if he wanted it. But do not imagine that I did not feel it was an evil in itself.”

“Depend upon it, they were all perfectly comfortable.”

“I might not like them the better for that perhaps. Such a number of women and children have no right to be comfortable on board.”

“My dear Filch, you are talking quite idly. Pray, what would become of those poor sailors’ wives, who often want to be conveyed to one port or another, after their husbands, if everybody had your feelings?”

“My feelings, you see, did not prevent my taking Mrs Forster and all her family to Plymouth.”

“But I hate to hear you talking so like a fine gentleman, and as if women were all fine ladies, instead of rational creatures. We none of us expect to be in smooth water all our days.”

Philanderous Flogg, with body erect and legs wide apart, standing like a sailor, gazed without staggering at the swelling waters. The young woman, who was now seated aft, was profoundly affected as she looked out upon the ocean, darkening now with the twilight, on which she had ventured in so frail a vessel. Above her head rustled the white sails, which seemed like great white wings. The boat, carried forward by the wind, seemed to be flying in the air.

Night came. The moon was entering her first quarter, and her insufficient light would soon die out in the mist on the horizon. Clouds were rising from the east, and already overcast a part of the heavens.

The pilot had hung out his lights, which was very necessary in these seas crowded with vessels bound landward; for collisions are not uncommon occurrences, and, at the speed she was going, the least shock would shatter the gallant little craft.

Filch, seated in the bow, gave himself up to meditation. He kept apart from his fellow-travellers, knowing Mr. Flogg’s taciturn tastes; besides, he did not quite like to talk to the man whose favours he had accepted. He was thinking, too, of the future. It seemed certain that Flogg would not stop at Yokohama, but would at once take the boat for San Francisco; and the vast extent of America would ensure him impunity and safety. Flogg’s plan appeared to him the simplest in the world. Instead of sailing directly from England to the United States, like a common villain, he had traversed three quarters of the globe, so as to gain the American continent more surely; and there, after throwing the police off his track, he would quietly enjoy himself with the fortune stolen from the bank. But, once in the United States, what should he, Filch, do? Should he abandon this man? No, a hundred times no! Until he had secured his extradition, he would not lose sight of him for an hour. It was his duty, and he would fulfil it to the end. At all events, there was one thing to be thankful for; Pissepotout was not with his master; and it was above all important, after the confidences Filch had imparted to him, that the servant should never have speech with his master.

Philanderous Flogg was also thinking of Pissepotout, who had so strangely disappeared. Looking at the matter from every point of view, it did not seem to him impossible that, by some mistake, the man might have embarked on the Carnatic at the last moment; and this was also Aorta’s opinion, who regretted very much the loss of the worthy fellow to whom she owed so much. They might then find him at Yokohama; for, if the Carnatic was carrying him thither, it would be easy to ascertain if he had been on board.

A brisk breeze arose about ten o’clock; but, though it might have been prudent to take in a reef, the pilot, after carefully examining the heavens, let the craft remain rigged as before. The Tankadere bore sail admirably, as she drew a great deal of water, and everything was prepared for high speed in case of a gale.

Mr. Flogg and Aorta descended into the cabin at midnight, having been already preceded by Filch, who had lain down on one of the cots. The pilot and crew remained on deck all night, accompanied by the creaking of the rigging, while down below it was the creaking of Mr. Flogg’s whalebone and steel which lulled the passengers to sleep.

At sunrise the next day, which was 8th November, the boat had made more than one hundred miles. The log indicated a mean speed of between eight and nine knots. The Tankadere still carried all sail, and was accomplishing her greatest capacity of speed. If the wind held as it was, the chances would be in her favour. During the day she kept along the coast, where the currents were favourable; the coast, irregular in profile, and visible sometimes across the clearings, was at most five miles distant. The sea was less boisterous, since the wind came off land – a fortunate circumstance for the boat, which would suffer, owing to its small tonnage, by a heavy surge on the sea.

The breeze subsided a little towards noon, and set in from the south-west. The pilot put up his poles, but took them down again within two hours, as the wind freshened up anew.

Mr. Flogg and Aorta, happily unaffected by the roughness of the sea, ate with a good appetite, Filch being invited to share their repast, which he accepted with secret chagrin. To travel at this man’s expense and live upon his provisions was not palatable to him. Still, he was obliged to eat, and so he ate.

When the meal was over, he took Mr. Flogg apart, and said, “Sir…” (this “sir” scorched his lips, and he had to control himself to avoid collaring this “gentleman”) “…Sir, you have been very kind to give me a passage on this boat. But, though my means will not admit of my expending them as freely as you, I must ask to pay my share…”

“Let us not speak of that, sir,” replied Mr. Flogg.

“But, if I insist…”

“No, sir,” repeated Mr. Flogg, in a tone which did not admit of a reply. “This enters into my general expenses.”

Filch, as he bowed, had a stifled feeling, and, going forward, where he ensconced himself, did not open his mouth for the rest of the day. He might as well have worn one of his enemy’s decorative ball-gags and gimp-masks for that duration, so disinclined was he to deliver an utterance.

Meanwhile they were progressing famously, and John Bunsby was in high hope. He several times assured Mr. Flogg that they would reach Shanghai in time; to which that gentleman responded that he counted upon it. The crew set to work in good earnest, inspired by the reward to be gained. There was not a sheet which was not tightened, not a sail which was not vigorously hoisted; not a lurch could be charged to the man at the helm. They worked as desperately as if they were contesting in a Royal yacht regatta.

By evening, the log showed that two hundred and twenty miles had been accomplished from Hong Kong, and Mr. Flogg might hope that he would be able to reach Yokohama without recording any delay in his journal; in which case, the many misadventures which had overtaken him since he left London would not seriously affect his journey.

But the gentleman found himself yearning for a hand of Grist, and was amused that no-one aboard seemed familiar with the game.

Philanderous Flogg left his seat, and walked to the fire-place in the cabin; probably for the sake of walking away from it soon afterwards, and taking a station, with less bare-faced design, by Aorta.

“You would not have not been long enough in Bath,” said he, “to enjoy the evening parties of the place.”

“Oh! No… The usual character of them has nothing for me. I am no card-player.”

“You were not formerly, I know. You did not use to like cards; but time makes many changes.”

“I am not yet so much changed,” cried Aorta, and stopped, fearing she hardly knew what misconstruction awaited her words.

After waiting a few moments he said, and as if it were the result of immediate feeling: “It is a period, indeed! Eight years and a half is a period.”

Leaving her even more darkly wary and bemused, he retired to his cot and lowered the modesty curtain. Whereupon much noisome struggling and scratching within illustrated the absence of Pissepotout, who would normally by this time have loosened his master’s restraints.

The Tankadere entered the Straits of Fo-Kien, which separate the island of Formosa from the Chinese coast, in the small hours of the night, and crossed the Tropic of Cancer. The sea was very rough in the straits, full of eddies formed by the counter-currents, and the chopping waves broke her course, whilst it became very difficult to stand on deck.

At daybreak the wind began to blow hard again, and the heavens seemed to predict a gale. The barometer announced a speedy change, the mercury rising and falling capriciously; the sea also, in the south-east, raised long surges which indicated a tempest. The sun had set the evening before in a red mist, in the midst of the phosphorescent scintillations of the ocean.

John Bunsby long examined the threatening aspect of the heavens, muttering indistinctly between his teeth. At last he said in a low voice to Mr. Flogg, “Shall I speak out to your honour?”

“Of course.”

“Well, we are going to have a squall.”

“Is the wind north or south?” asked Mr. Flogg quietly.

“South. Look! A typhoon is coming up.”

“Glad it’s a typhoon from the south, for it will carry us forward.”

“Oh, if you take it that way,” said John Bunsby, “I’ve nothing more to say.”

John Bunsby’s suspicions were confirmed. At a less advanced season of the year the typhoon, according to a famous meteorologist, would have passed away like a luminous cascade of electric flame; but in the winter equinox it was to be feared that it would burst upon them with great violence.

The pilot took his precautions in advance. He reefed all sail, the pole-masts were dispensed with; all hands went forward to the bows. A single triangular sail, of strong canvas, was hoisted as a storm-jib, so as to hold the wind from behind. Then they waited.

John Bunsby had requested his passengers to go below; but this imprisonment in so narrow a space, with little air, and the boat bouncing in the gale, was far from pleasant. Neither Mr. Flogg, Filch, nor Aorta consented to leave the upper deck.

“There’s a cyclone coming, Aorta,” he called to his passenger. “I’ll go look after the stock.” Then he ran toward the sheds where the cows and horses were kept.

Aorta dropped her needlework and came to the door. One glance told her of the danger close at hand. A whirling vortex in the sky was coming closer, closer.

The storm of rain and wind descended upon them towards eight o’clock. With but its bit of sail, the Tankadere was lifted like a feather by a wind, an idea of whose violence can scarcely be given. To compare her speed to four times that of a locomotive going on full steam would be below the truth.

The boat scudded thus northward during the whole day, borne on by monstrous waves, preserving always, fortunately, a speed equal to theirs. Twenty times she seemed almost to be submerged by these mountains of water which rose behind her; but the adroit management of the pilot saved her. The passengers were often bathed in spray, but they submitted to it philosophically. Filch cursed it, no doubt; but Aorta, with her eyes fastened upon her protector, whose coolness amazed her, showed herself worthy of him, and bravely weathered the storm. As for Philanderous Flogg, it seemed just as if the typhoon were a part of his most precise programme.

Up to this time the Tankadere had always held her course to the north; but towards evening the wind, veering three quarters, bore down from the north-west. The boat, now lying in the trough of the waves, shook and rolled terribly; the sea struck her with fearful violence. At night the tempest increased in violence. John Bunsby saw the approach of darkness and the rising of the storm with dark misgivings. He thought awhile, and then asked his crew if it was not time to slacken speed. After a consultation he approached Mr. Flogg, and said, “I think, your honour, that we should do well to make for one of the ports on the coast.”

“I think so too.”

“Ah!” said the pilot. “But which one?”

“I know of but one,” returned Mr. Flogg tranquilly.

“And that is…”

“Shanghai.”

The pilot, at first, did not seem to comprehend; he could scarcely realise so much determination and tenacity. Then he cried, “Well – yes! Your honour is right. To Shanghai!”

So the Tankadere kept steadily on her northward track.

The night was really terrible; it would be a miracle if the craft did not founder. Twice it could have been all over with her if the crew had not been constantly on the watch. Aorta was exhausted, but did not utter a complaint. More than once Mr. Flogg rushed to protect her from the violence of the waves, as she had refused his kind offer to lash her to the mast for better safety and security.

Day reappeared. The tempest still raged with undiminished fury; but the wind now returned to the south-east. It was a favourable change, and the Tankadere again bounded forward on this mountainous sea, though the waves crossed each other, and imparted shocks and counter-shocks which would have crushed a craft less solidly built. From time to time the coast was visible through the broken mist, but no vessel was in sight. The Tankadere was alone upon the sea.

There were some signs of a calm at noon, and these became more distinct as the sun descended toward the horizon. The tempest had been as brief as terrific. The passengers, thoroughly exhausted, could now eat a little, and take some repose.

The night was comparatively quiet. Some of the sails were again hoisted, and the speed of the boat was very good. The next morning at dawn they espied the coast, and John Bunsby was able to assert that they were not one hundred miles from Shanghai. A hundred miles, and only one day to traverse them! That very evening Mr. Flogg was due at Shanghai, if he did not wish to miss the steamer to Yokohama. Had there been no storm, during which several hours were lost, they would be at this moment within thirty miles of their destination.

The wind grew decidedly calmer, and happily the sea fell with it. All sails were now hoisted, and at noon the Tankadere was within forty-five miles of Shanghai. There remained yet six hours in which to accomplish that distance. All on board feared that it could not be done, and every one – Philanderous Flogg, no doubt, excepted within the rigidity of his corsets – felt his heart beat with impatience. The boat must keep up an average of nine miles an hour, and the wind was becoming calmer every moment! It was a capricious breeze, coming from the coast, and after it passed the sea became smooth. Still, the Tankadere was so light, and her fine sails caught the fickle zephyrs so well, that with the aid of the currents John Bunsby found himself at six o’clock not more than ten miles from the mouth of Shanghai River. Shanghai itself is situated at least twelve miles up the stream. At seven they were still three miles from Shanghai. The pilot swore an angry oath; the reward of two hundred pounds was evidently on the point of escaping him. He looked at Mr. Flogg. Mr. Flogg was perfectly tranquil; and yet his whole fortune was at this moment at stake.

At this moment, also, a long black funnel, crowned with wreaths of smoke, appeared on the edge of the waters.

It was the American steamer, leaving for Yokohama at the appointed time!

“Confound them!” cried John Bunsby, pushing back the rudder with a desperate jerk.

“Signal her!” said Philanderous Flogg quietly.

A small brass cannon stood on the forward deck of the Tankadere, for making signals in the fogs. It was loaded to the muzzle; but just as the pilot was about to apply a red-hot coal to the touch-hole, Mr. Flogg said: “Hoist your flag!”

The flag was run up at half-mast, and, this being the signal of distress, it was hoped that the American steamer, perceiving it, would change her course a little, so as to succour the pilot-boat.

“Fire!” said Mr. Flogg.

And the booming of the little cannon resounded in the air.

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

Chapter XX

In Which Filch Comes Face to Face With Philanderous Flogg

While these events were passing at the opium-house, Mr. Flogg, unconscious of the danger he was in of losing the steamer, was quietly escorting Aorta about the streets of the English quarter, making the necessary purchases for the long voyage before them. It was all very well for an Englishman like Mr. Flogg to make the tour of the world with a carpet-bag; but a lady could not be expected to travel comfortably under such conditions. He acquitted his task with characteristic serenity, and invariably replied to the remonstrances of his fair companion, who was confused by his patience and generosity:

“It is in the interest of my journey – a part of my programme.”

She tried to be calm, and leave things to take their course, and tried to dwell much on this argument of rational dependence.

“Surely, if there be constant attachment on each side, our hearts must understand each other ere long. We are not boy and girl, to be captiously irritable, misled by every moment’s inadvertence, and wantonly playing with our own happiness,” she thought to herself.

And yet, a few minutes afterwards, she felt as if their being in company with each other, under their present circumstances, could only be exposing them to inadvertencies and misconstructions of the most mischievous kind.

The purchases made, they returned to the hotel, where they dined at a sumptuously served table-d’hote; after which Aorta, shaking hands with her protector after the English fashion, retired to her room for rest. After stopping in his own room, finding his French servant still absent and unavailable to remove his corsets and restraints for the evening, Flogg took himself to the bar, with the intention of relaxing instead with a sherry.

But he felt himself suddenly seized from behind, and before he had time to defend himself, he was thrust back against the wall, with a brutal hand round his throat.

He struggled madly for life, and by a terrible effort wrenched the tightening fingers away. In a second he heard the click of a revolver, and saw the gleam of a polished barrel, pointing straight at his head, and the dusky form of a short, thick-set man facing him.

“What do you want?” he gasped.

“Keep quiet,” said the man. “If you stir, I shoot you.”

“You are mad. What have I done to you?”

“You wrecked the life of Sibyl Vane,” was the answer, “and Sibyl Vane was my sister. She killed herself. I know it. Her death is at your door. I swore I would kill you in return. For years I have sought you. I had no clue, no trace. The two people who could have described you were dead. I knew nothing of you but the pet name she used to call you. I heard it tonight by chance. Make your peace with God, for tonight you are going to die.”

Philanderous Flogg grew sick with fear. “I never knew her,” he stammered. “I never heard of her. You are mad.”

“You had better confess your sin, for as sure as I am James Vane Forster, you are going to die.” There was a horrible moment. Flogg did not know what to say or do. His prior valet, James Forster – alive! And hunting his sister’s abuser like a dog! “Down on your knees!” growled the ex-servant. “I give you one minute to make your peace – no more. I go on board tonight for India, and I must do my job first. One minute. That’s all.”

Flogg’s arms fell to his sides. Paralysed with terror, he did not know what to do. If only Piss-pot-toto was here! Suddenly a wild hope flashed across his brain. “Stop,” he cried. “How long ago is it since your sister died? Quick, tell me!”

“Eighteen years,” said the man. “Why do you ask me? What do years matter?”

“Eighteen years,” laughed Philanderous Flogg, with a touch of triumph in his voice. “Eighteen years! Set me under the lamp and look at my face!”

James Forster hesitated for a moment, not understanding what was meant. Then he seized Flogg and dragged him from the archway.

Dim and wavering as was the hotel bar’s light, yet it served to show him the hideous error, as it seemed, into which he had fallen, for the face of the man he had sought to kill had all the bloom of boyhood through the ornate gimp-mask, all the unstained purity of youth in its undead countenance. He seemed little more than a lad of twenty summers, hardly older, if older indeed at all, than his sister had been when they had parted so many years ago. It was obvious that this was not the French poodle who had destroyed her life.

He loosened his hold and reeled back. “My God! My God!” he cried. “You are not the lap-dog scum I thought you to be! You remind me of my former Master in London… a gentleman too, indeed… and I would have murdered you!”

Philanderous Flogg drew a long breath. “You have been on the brink of committing a terrible crime, my man,” he said, looking at him sternly. “Let this be a warning to you not to take vengeance into your own hands.”

“Forgive me, sir,” muttered James Vane Forster. “I was deceived. A chance word I heard in that damned opium den set me on the wrong track.”

“You had better go home and put that pistol away, or you may get into trouble,” said Flogg, turning on his heel and continuing slowly down the corridor.

At the bar, as I entered, I looked about me with so black a countenance as made the attendants tremble; not a look did they exchange in my presence; but obsequiously took my orders, led me to a private room, and brought me wherewithal to write. A zombie in danger of his life was a creature new to me; shaken with inordinate anger, strung to the pitch of murder, lusting to inflict pain. Yet the creature was astute; mastered his fury with a great effort of the will; composed his two important letters of progress, one to Flagellate and one to Ravish; and that he might receive actual evidence of their being posted, sent them out with directions that they should be registered…”

Mr. Flogg then absorbed himself until evening in the perusal of The Times and Illustrated London News.

Thenceforward, he sat all twilight over the fire in the private room, gnawing his nails; there he dined again, sitting alone with his fears and a roasted wild boar with candied melon, the waiter visibly quailing before his eye at his insatiable appetite; and thence, when the night was fully come, he set forth in the corner of a closed cab, and was driven to and fro about the streets of the city. That child of Hell had nothing human; nothing lived in him but fear and hatred. And when at last, thinking the driver had begun to grow suspicious, he discharged the cab and ventured on foot attired in his misfitting clothes and restraints, an object marked out for observation, into the midst of the nocturnal passengers, these two base passions raged within him like a tempest. He walked fast, hunted by his fears, chattering to himself, skulking through the less-frequented thoroughfares, counting the minutes that still divided him from midnight. Once a woman spoke to him, offering a box of lights. He smote her in the face, and she fled.

Had he been capable of being astonished at anything, it would have been not to see his servant return to the hotel at bedtime. But, knowing that the steamer was not to leave for Yokohama until the next morning, he did not disturb himself about the matter, and instead slept off his exertions.

When Pissepotout did not appear the next morning to answer his master’s bell, Mr. Flogg, not betraying the least vexation, contented himself with taking his carpet-bag, calling Aorta, and sending for a palanquin.

It was then eight o’clock; at half-past nine, it being then high tide, the Carnatic would leave the harbour. Mr. Flogg and Aorta got into the palanquin, their luggage being brought after on a wheelbarrow, and half an hour later stepped upon the quay whence they were to embark. Mr. Flogg then learned that the Carnatic had sailed the evening before. He had expected to find not only the steamer, but his domestic, and was forced to give up both; but no sign of disappointment appeared on his face, and he merely remarked to Aorta, “It is an accident, madam; nothing more.”

At this moment a man who had been observing him attentively approached. It was Filch, who, bowing, addressed Mr. Flogg: “Were you not, like me, sir, a passenger by the Rangoon, which arrived yesterday?”

“I was, sir,” replied Mr. Flogg coldly. “But I have not the honour…”

“Pardon me; I thought I should find your servant here.”

“Do you know where he is, sir?” asked Aorta anxiously.

“What!” responded Filch, feigning surprise. “Is he not with you?”

“No,” said Aorta. “He has not made his appearance since yesterday. Could he have gone on board the Carnatic without us?”

“Without you, madam?” answered the detective. “Excuse me, did you intend to sail in the Carnatic?

“Yes, sir.”

“So did I, madam, and I am excessively disappointed. The Carnatic, its repairs being completed, left Hong Kong twelve hours before the stated time, without any notice being given; and we must now wait a week for another steamer.”

As he said “a week” Filch felt his heart leap for joy. Flogg detained at Hong Kong for a week! There would be time for the warrant to arrive, and fortune at last favoured the representative of the law.

His horror may be imagined when he heard Mr. Flogg say, in his placid voice, “But there are other vessels besides the Carnatic, it seems to me, in the harbour of Hong Kong.”

And, offering his arm to Aorta, he directed his steps toward the docks in search of some craft about to start. Filch, stupefied, followed; it seemed as if he were attached to Mr. Flogg by an invisible thread.

Chance, however, appeared really to have abandoned the man it had hitherto served so well. For three hours Philanderous Flogg wandered about the docks, with the determination, if necessary, to charter a vessel to carry him to Yokohama; but he could only find vessels which were loading or unloading, and which could not therefore set sail. Filch began to hope again.

Flogg had no fortune. He had been lucky in his profession; but spending freely, what had come freely, had realized nothing. But he was confident that he should soon be rich: full of life and ardour, he knew that he should soon have a ship, and soon be on a station that would lead to everything he wanted. He had always been lucky; he knew he should be so still. Such confidence, powerful in its own warmth, and bewitching in the wit which often expressed it, must have been enough for Aorta; but Filch saw it very differently. Flogg’s sanguine temper, and fearlessness of mind, operated very differently on him. He saw in it but an aggravation of the evil. It only added a dangerous character to himself. He was brilliant, he was headstrong. Filch had little taste for wit, and of anything approaching to imprudence a horror. He deprecated the connection in every light.

Such opposition, as these feelings produced, was more than Aorta could combat.

Filch suppressed a smile, and listened kindly, while Aorta relieved her heart a little more; and for a few minutes, therefore, could not keep pace with the conversation.

When she could let her attention take its natural course again, she found Mr. Flogg just fetching the Navy List, and sitting down together to pore over it, with the professed view of finding out the ships that Mr. Fellatio of the Conform Club had commanded.

“His first was the Asp, I remember; we will look for the Asp.”

“You will not find her here,” said Filch. “Quite worn out and broken up. I was the last man who commanded her. Hardly fit for service then. Reported fit for home service for a year or two, and so I was sent off to the West Indies.”

The pair looked all amazement.

“The Admiralty,” he continued, “entertain themselves now and then, with sending a few hundred men to sea, in a ship not fit to be employed. But they have a great many to provide for; and among the thousands that may just as well go to the bottom as not, it is impossible for them to distinguish the very set who may be least missed.”

“Phoo! Phoo!” cried Flogg, the Tin Gimp. “What stuff these young fellows talk! Never was a better sloop than the Asp in her day. For an old built sloop, you would not see her equal. Lucky fellow to get her! He knows there must have been twenty better men than himself applying for her at the same time. Lucky fellow to get anything so soon, with no more interest than his.”

“I felt my luck, Flogg, I assure you;” replied Filch, seriously. “I was as well satisfied with my appointment as you can desire. It was a great object with me at that time to be at sea; a very great object, I wanted to be doing something.”

“To be sure you did. What should a young fellow like you do ashore for half a year together? If a man had not a wife, he soon wants to be afloat again.”

“But, Mr. Filch,” cried Aorta, “how vexed you must have been when you came to the Asp, to see what an old thing they had given you.”

“I knew pretty well what she was before that day;” said he, smiling. “I had no more discoveries to make than you would have as to the fashion and strength of any old pelisse, which you had seen lent about among half your acquaintance ever since you could remember, and which at last, on some very wet day, is lent to yourself. Ah! She was a dear old Asp to me. She did all that I wanted. I knew she would. I knew that we should either go to the bottom together, or that she would be the making of me; and I never had two days of foul weather all the time I was at sea in her; and after taking privateers enough to be very entertaining, I had the good luck in my passage home the next autumn, to fall in with the very French frigate I wanted. I brought her into Plymouth; and here another instance of luck. We had not been six hours in the Sound, when a strange gale came on, a cyclone; which lasted four days and nights, and which would have done for poor old Asp in half the time; our touch with the Great Nation not having much improved our condition. Four-and-twenty hours later, and I should only have been a gallant Captain Filch, in a small paragraph at one corner of the newspapers; and being lost in only a sloop, nobody would have thought about me.” Aorta’s shudderings were to herself alone; but the pair could be as open as they were sincere, in their exclamations of pity and horror.

They were now hunting for the Laconia; and Filch could not deny himself the pleasure of taking the precious volume into his own hands to save them the trouble, and once more read aloud the little statement of her name and rate, and present non-commissioned class, observing over it that she too had been one of the best friends man ever had.

“Ah! Those were pleasant days when I had the Laconia! How fast I made money in her. A friend of mine and I had such a lovely cruise together off the Western Islands. Poor James Vane Forster, Flogg! You know – he wanted money: Worse than myself. He had a wife, a mother and a sister. Excellent fellow. I shall never forget his happiness. He felt it all, so much for her sake. I wished for him again the next summer, when I had still the same luck in the Mediterranean.”

“And I am sure, Sir,” said Flogg, distantly. “It was a lucky day for them, when you were put Captain into that ship. They shall never forget what you did.”

His feelings made him speak low; and Filch, hearing only in part, and probably not having the ex-servant James Forster at all near his thoughts as Philanderous Flogg did, looked rather in suspense, and as if waiting for more.

“My friend Filch,” whispered Aorta; “Mr. Flogg is thinking of poor Pissepotout.”

“Poor dear fellow!” continued Filch; “he has grown so steady, and such an excellent correspondent, while he was under your care! Ah! It would have been a happy thing, if he had never left you. I assure you, Mr. Flogg, we are very sorry he ever left you.”

But Mr. Flogg, far from being discouraged, was continuing his search, resolved not to stop if he had to resort to Macao, when he was accosted by a sailor on one of the wharves.

“Is your honour looking for a boat?”

“Have you a boat ready to sail?”

“Yes, your honour; a pilot-boat – No. 43 – the best in the harbour.”

“Does she go fast?”

“Between eight and nine knots the hour. Will you look at her?”

“Yes.”

“Your honour will be satisfied with her. Is it for a sea excursion?”

“No; for a voyage.”

“A voyage?”

“Yes, will you agree to take me to Yokohama?”

The sailor leaned on the railing, opened his eyes wide, and said, “Is your honour joking?”

“No. I have missed the Carnatic, and I must get to Yokohama by the 14th at the latest, to take the boat for San Francisco.”

“I am sorry,” said the sailor; “but it is impossible. Even the Great and Terrible Ooze could not fly you there in time; not without the power of a supernatural cyclone behind him.”

“I offer you a hundred pounds per day, and an additional reward of two hundred pounds if I reach Yokohama in time.”

“Are you in earnest?”

“Very much so.”

The pilot walked away a little distance, and gazed out to sea, evidently struggling between the anxiety to gain a large sum and the fear of venturing so far. Filch was in mortal suspense.

Mr. Flogg turned to Aorta and asked her, “You would not be afraid, would you, madam?”

“Not with you, Mr. Flogg,” was her loyal answer.

The pilot now returned, shuffling his hat in his hands.

“Well, pilot?” said Mr. Flogg.

“Well, your honour,” replied he, “I could not risk myself, my men, or my little boat of scarcely twenty tons on so long a voyage at this time of year. Besides, we could not reach Yokohama in time, for it is sixteen hundred and sixty miles from Hong Kong.”

“Only sixteen hundred,” said Mr. Flogg.

“It’s the same thing.”

Filch breathed more freely.

“But,” added the pilot, “it might be arranged another way.”

Filch ceased to breathe at all.

“How?” asked Mr. Flogg.

“By going to Nagasaki, at the extreme south of Japan, or even to Shanghai, which is only eight hundred miles from here. In going to Shanghai we should not be forced to sail wide of the Chinese coast, which would be a great advantage, as the currents run northward, and would aid us.”

“Pilot,” said Mr. Flogg, “I must take the American steamer at Yokohama, and not at Shanghai or Nagasaki.”

“Why not?” returned the pilot. “The San Francisco steamer does not start from Yokohama. It puts in at Yokohama and Nagasaki, but it starts from Shanghai.”

“You are sure of that?”

“Perfectly.”

“And when does the boat leave Shanghai?”

“On the 11th, at seven in the evening. We have, therefore, four days before us, that is ninety-six hours; and in that time, if we had good luck and a south-west wind, and the sea was calm, we could make those eight hundred miles to Shanghai.”

“And you could go…?”

“In an hour; as soon as provisions could be got aboard and the sails put up.”

“It is a bargain. Are you the master of the boat?”

“Yes; John Bunsby, master of the Tankadere.”

“Would you like some earnest-money?”

“If it would not put your honour out…”

“Here are two hundred pounds on account sir,” added Philanderous Flogg, turning to Filch, “if you would like to take advantage…?”

“Thanks to you, sir; I was about to ask the favour,” said Filch, bowing graciously.

“Very well. In half an hour we shall go on board.”

“But poor Pissepotout?” urged Aorta, who was much disturbed by the servant’s disappearance.

“I shall do all I can to find him,” replied Philanderous Flogg.

While Filch, in a feverish, nervous state, repaired to the pilot-boat, the others directed their course to the police-station at Hong Kong. Philanderous Flogg there gave Pissepotout’s description, and left a sum of money to be spent in the search for him. The same formalities having been gone through at the French consulate (where his strange mask and buckled restraints raised not even half an eyebrow), and the palanquin having stopped at the hotel for the luggage, which had been sent back there, they returned to the wharf.

It was now three o’clock; and pilot-boat No. 43, with its crew on board, and its provisions stored away, was ready for departure.

The Tankadere was a neat little craft of twenty tons, as gracefully built as if she were a racing yacht. Her shining copper sheathing, her galvanised iron-work, her deck, white as ivory, betrayed the pride taken by John Bunsby in making her presentable. Her two masts leaned a trifle backward; she carried brigantine, foresail, storm-jib, and standing-jib, and was well rigged for running before the wind; and she seemed capable of brisk speed, which, indeed, she had already proved by gaining several prizes in pilot-boat races. The crew of the Tankadere was composed of John Bunsby, the master, and four hardy mariners, who were familiar with the Chinese seas. John Bunsby, himself, a man of forty-five or thereabouts, vigorous, sunburnt, with a sprightly expression of the eye, and energetic and self-reliant countenance, would have inspired confidence in the most timid.

Philanderous Flogg and Aorta went on board, where they found Filch already installed. Below deck was a square cabin, of which the walls bulged out in the form of cots, above a circular divan; in the centre was a table provided with a swinging lamp. The accommodation was confined, but neat.

“I am sorry to have nothing better to offer you,” said Mr. Flogg to Filch, who bowed again, without responding.

The detective had a feeling akin to humiliation in profiting by the kindness of Mr. Flogg.

“It’s certain,” thought he, “though rascal as he is, he is a polite one!”

The sails and the English flag were hoisted at ten minutes past three. Mr. Flogg and Aorta, who were seated on deck, cast a last glance at the quay, in the hope of espying Pissepotout. Filch was not without his fears lest chance should direct the steps of the unfortunate servant, whom he had so badly treated, in this direction; in which case an explanation the reverse of satisfactory to the detective must have ensued. But the French poodle did not appear, and, without doubt, was still lying under the stupefying influence of the opium.

John Bunsby, master, at length gave the order to start, and the Tankadere, taking the wind under her brigantine, foresail, and standing-jib, bounded briskly forward over the waves.

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

Chapter V:

In which a New Species of Parody, Unknown to the Moneyed Men, Appears to Change…

Philanderous Flogg rightly suspected that his departure from London would create a lively sensation at the West End, and not just amongst the Munchlings and their household bitches. The news of the bet spread through the Conform Club, and afforded an exciting topic of conversation to its members. From the club it soon got into the papers throughout England.

The boasted ‘tour of the world’ was talked about, disputed, argued with as much warmth as if the subject were another copyright dispute claim over Lady Chatterley’s Lover. Some took sides with Philanderous Flogg, but the large majority shook their heads and declared against him; it was absurd, impossible, they declared, that the tour of the world could be made, except theoretically and on paper, in this minimum of time, and with the existing means of transport. The Times, Standard, Morning Post, and Daily News, and twenty other highly respectable newspapers scouted Mr. Flogg’s project as madness; the Daily Telegraph alone hesitatingly supported him.

People in general thought him a lunatic, and blamed his Conform Club friends for having accepted a wager which betrayed the mental aberration of its proposer.

Articles no less passionate than logical appeared on the question, for geography is one of the pet subjects of the English; and the columns devoted to Philanderous Flogg’s venture were eagerly devoured by all classes of reader. At first some rash individuals, principally of the gentler sex, espoused his cause, which became still more popular when the Illustrated London News came out with his flattering portrait, copied from a photograph in the Conform Club. Yes, he was certainly wonderfully handsome, with his finely curved scarlet lips, his frank blue eyes, his crisp gold hair. There was something in his face that made one trust him at once. All the candour of youth was there, as well as all youth’s passionate purity. One felt that he had kept himself unspotted from the world. No wonder Oscar Wilde had worshipped him, when he was alive.

A few readers of the Daily Telegraph even dared to say: “Why not, after all? Stranger things have come to pass.”

At last a long article appeared, on the 7th of October, in the bulletin of the Royal Geographical Society, which treated the question from every point of view, and demonstrated the utter folly of the enterprise.

Everything, it said, was against the travellers, every obstacle imposed alike by man and by nature. A miraculous agreement of the times of departure and arrival, which was impossible, was absolutely necessary to his success. He might, perhaps, reckon on the arrival of trains at the designated hours, in Europe, where the distances were relatively moderate; but when he calculated upon crossing India in three days, and the United States in seven, could he rely beyond misgiving upon accomplishing his task? There were accidents to machinery, the liability of trains to run off the line, collisions, bad weather, the blocking up by snow – were not all these against Philanderous Flogg? Would he not find himself, when travelling by steamer in winter, at the mercy of the winds and fogs? Is it uncommon for the best ocean steamers to be two or three days behind time? But a single delay would suffice to fatally break the chain of communication; should Philanderous Flogg once miss, even by an hour; a steamer, he would have to wait for the next, and that would irrevocably render his attempt vain.

This article made a great deal of noise, and, being copied into all the papers, seriously depressed the advocates of the rash tourist.

Everybody knows that England is the world of betting men, who are of a higher class than mere gamblers; to bet is in the English temperament. Not only the members of the Conform, but the general public, made heavy wagers for or against Philanderous Flogg, who was set down in the betting books as if he were a race-horse. Bonds were issued, and made their appearance on Change; ‘Philanderous Flogg’s bonds’ were offered at par or at a premium, and a great business was done in them. But five days after the article in the bulletin of the Geographical Society appeared, the demand began to subside: ‘Philanderous Flogg’ declined. They were offered by packages, at first of five, then of ten, until at last nobody would take less than twenty, fifty, a hundred!

Lord Albatross, an elderly paralytic gentleman, was now the only advocate of Philanderous Flogg left. He was a man who, for his own amusement, never took up any book but the Baronetage; there he found occupation for an idle and soon-to-be-forgotten hour, and consolation in a distressed one, for almost every day he forgot his own name and the whereabouts of the latrine. There his deteriorating mental faculties were roused into admiration and respect, by contemplating the limited remnant of the earliest patents. There any unwelcome sensations, arising from domestic affairs and clenching while in search of the privy, changed naturally into pity and contempt as he turned over the almost endless creations of the last century. And there, if every other leaf were powerless, he could read his own history with an interest which never failed, for he had the memory-span of a common goldfish.

This noble lord, who was fastened to his bath-chair day and night so as not to do himself (or others) a mischief, would have given his fortune to be able to make the tour of the world, if it took ten years; and he bet five thousand pounds on his fellow bondage-enthusiast, Philanderous Flogg.

When the folly as well as the uselessness of the adventure was pointed out to him, he contented himself with replying, “If the thing is feasible, the first to do it ought to be an Englishman. I believe that if one man were to live out his life fully and completely, were to give form to every feeling, expression to every thought, reality to every dream – I believe that the world would gain such a fresh impulse of joy that we would forget all the maladies of Medievalism, and return to the Hellenic ideal – to something finer, richer than the Hellenic ideal, it may be. But the bravest man amongst us is afraid of himself. The mutilation of the savage has its tragic survival in the self-denial that mars our lives. We are punished for our refusals. Every impulse that we strive to strangle broods in the mind and poisons us. The body sins once, and has done with its sin, for action is a mode of purification. Nothing remains then but the recollection of a pleasure, or the luxury of a regret. The only way to get rid of a temptation is to yield to it. Resist it, and your soul grows sick with longing for the things it has forbidden to itself, with desire for what its monstrous laws have made monstrous and unlawful. It has been said that the great events of the world take place in the brain. It is in the brain, and the brain only, that the great sins of the world take place also. The pulse of joy that beats in us at twenty becomes sluggish. Our limbs fail, our senses rot. We degenerate into hideous puppets, haunted by the memory of the passions of which we were too much afraid, and the exquisite temptations that we had not the courage to yield to.”

Vanity was the beginning and the end of Lord Albatross’s character; vanity of person and of situation. He had been remarkably handsome in his youth; and, at seventy-four, was still a very fine man, at least in outward presentation. Few women could think more of their personal appearance than he did, nor could even the valet of any new-made lord be more delighted with the place he held in society. He considered the blessing of beauty as inferior only to the blessing of a fetish; and Philanderous Flogg, who united these gifts, was the constant object of his warmest respect and devotion. However, it is fair to say that primarily it was the mirror that was still no stranger to him, for which Lord Albatross was much relieved, although occasionally he had forgetfully enquired of the handsome devil reflected within if there were a gentleman’s lavatory in the vicinity.

The Flogg party dwindled more and more, everybody was going against him, and the bets stood a hundred and fifty and two hundred to one; and a week after his departure an incident occurred which deprived him of backers at any price.

The Commissioner of Police was sitting in his office at nine o’clock one evening, when the following telegraphic dispatch was put into his hands:

Suez to London.

Rowan, Commissioner of Police, Scotland Yard:

I’ve found the bank robber, Philanderous Flogg. Send without delay warrant of arrest to Bombay.

Filch, Detective.

Precisely such had the paragraph originally stood from the printer’s hands; but the Commissioner Rowan had improved it by adding, for the information of himself and his officers these words, after the date of the Suez-bound ship’s berth: “Unmarried, according to records of December 16, 1871; Philanderous, son and heir of Charles Musgrove Flogg, Esq. of Uppercross, in the county of Somerset,” and by inserting most accurately the day of the month on which he had jilted Lady Jane, his wife-to-be.

The effect of this dispatch was instantaneous. The perceived polished gentleman disappeared, to give place to the pursued, runaway robber of the Bank of England.

His photograph, which was hung with those of the rest of the members at the Conform Club, was minutely examined, and it betrayed, feature by feature, the description of the thief which had been provided to the police. His good looks and his rank had one fair claim on his attachment; since to them he must have owed a future wife of very superior character to anything deserved by his own. Lady Jane Ostentatious had been an excellent woman, sensible and amiable; whose judgement and conduct, if they might be pardoned the youthful infatuation which made her doggedly pursue the evasive and now undead Flogg to the altar, had never found indulgence or satisfaction afterwards.

The mysterious habits of Philanderous Flogg were recalled; his solitary ways, his insatiable appetite, his latex corset collection, his fixation with restraints, his obsession with Dr. Jekkyl, his favouring of trained dogs as staff, his sudden departure, and the strange smell that seemed to linger in his presence; and it seemed clear that, in undertaking a tour round the world on the pretext of a wager, he had had no other end in view than to elude the detectives, and throw them off his track.