Robur the Conqueror
Chapter 23. The Grand Collapse
It was indeed the "Albatross!" It was indeed Robur who had reappeared in the
heights of the sky! It was he who like a huge bird of prey was going to strike the
And yet, nine months before, the aeronef, shattered by the explosion, her screws
broken, her deck smashed in two, had been apparently annihilated.
Without the prodigious coolness of the engineer, who reversed the gyratory
motion of the fore propeller and converted it into a suspensory screw, the men of
the "Albatross" would all have been asphyxiated by the fall. But if they had
escaped asphyxia, how had they escaped being drowned in the Pacific?
The remains of the deck, the blades of the propellers, the compartments of the
cabins, all formed a sort of raft. When a wounded bird falls on the waves its
wings keep it afloat. For several hours Robur and his men remained unhelped, at
first on the wreck, and afterwards in the india-rubber boat that had fallen
uninjured. A few hours after sunrise they were sighted by a passing ship, and a
boat was lowered to their rescue.
Robur and his companions were saved, and so was much of what remained of
the aeronef. The engineer said that his ship had perished in a collision, and no
further questions were asked him.
The ship was an English three-master, the "Two Friends," bound for Melbourne,
where she arrived a few days afterwards.
Robur was in Australia, but a long way from X Island, to which he desired to
return as soon as possible.
In the ruins of the aftermost cabin he had found a considerable sum of money,
quite enough to provide for himself and companions without applying to anyone
for help. A short time after he arrived in Melbourne he became the owner of a
small brigantine of about a hundred tons, and in her he sailed for X Island.
There he had but one idea--to be avenged. But to secure his vengeance he
would have to make another "Albatross." This after all was an easy task for him
who made the first. He used up what he could of the old material; the propellers
and engines he had brought back in the brigantine. The mechanism was fitted
with new piles and new accumulators, and, in short, in less than eight months,
the work was finished, and a new "Albatross," identical with the one destroyed by
the explosion, was ready to take flight. And he had the same crew.
The "Albatross" left X Island in the first week of April. During this aerial passage
Robur did not want to be seen from the earth, and he came along almost always
above the clouds. When he arrived over North America he descended in a
desolate spot in the Far West. There the engineer, keeping a profound incognito,
learnt with considerable pleasure that the Weldon Institute was about to begin its
experiments, and that the "Go-Ahead," with Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans, was
going to start from Philadelphia on the 29th of April.
Here was a chance for Robur and his crew to gratify their longing for revenge.
Here was a chance for inflicting on their foes a terrible vengeance, which in the
"Go-Ahead" they could not escape. A public vengeance, which would at the