Robur the Conqueror
Chapter 8. The Balloonists Refuse To Be Convinced
The President of the Weldon Institute was stupefied; his companion was
astonished. But neither of them would allow any of their very natural amazement
to be visible.
The valet Frycollin did not conceal his terror at finding himself borne through
space on such a machine, and he took no pains whatever to hide it.
The suspensory screws were rapidly spinning overhead. Fast as they were
going, they would have to triple their speed if the "Albatross" was to ascend to
higher zones. The two propellers were running very easily and driving the ship at
about eleven knots an hour.
As they leaned over the rail the passengers of the "Albatross" could perceive a
long sinuous liquid ribbon which meandered like a mere brook through a varied
country amid the gleaming of many lagoons obliquely struck by the rays of the
sun. The brook was a river, one of the most important in that district. Along its left
bank was a chain of mountains extending out of sight.
"And will you tell us where we are?" asked Uncle Prudent, in a voice tremulous
"I have nothing to teach you," answered Robur.
"And will you tell us where we are going?" asked Phil Evans.
"And how long will that last?"
"Until it ends."
"Are we going round the world?" asked Phil Evans ironically.
"Further than that," said Robur.
"And if this voyage does not suit us?" asked Uncle Prudent.
"It will have to suit you."
That is a foretaste of the nature of the relations that were to obtain between the
master of the "Albatross" and his guests, not to say his prisoners. Manifestly he
wished to give them time to cool down, to admire the marvelous apparatus which
was bearing them through the air, and doubtless to compliment the inventor. And
so he went off to the other end of the deck, leaving them to examine the
arrangement of the machinery and the management of the ship or to give their
whole attention to the landscape which was unrolling beneath them.
"Uncle Prudent," said Evans, "unless I am mistaken we are flying over Central
Canada. That river in the northwest is the St. Lawrence. That town we are
leaving behind is Quebec."
It was indeed the old city of Champlain, whose zinc roofs were shining like
reflectors in the sun. The "Albatross" must thus have reached the forty-sixth
degree of north latitude, and thus was explained the premature advance of the
day with the abnormal prolongation of the dawn.
"Yes," said Phil Evans, "There is the town in its amphitheater, the hill with its
citadel, the Gibraltar of North America. There are the cathedrals. There is the
Custom House with its dome surmounted by the British flag!"