Robur the Conqueror
Chapter 11. The Wide Pacific
Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans had quite made up their minds to escape. If they
had not had to deal with the eight particularly vigorous men who composed the
crew of the aeronef they might have tried to succeed by main force. But as they
were only two--for Frycollin could only be considered as a quantity of no
importance--force was not to be thought of. Hence recourse must be had to
strategy as soon as the "Albatross" again took the ground. Such was what Phil
Evans endeavored to impress on his irascible colleague, though he was in
constant fear of Prudent aggravating matters by some premature outbreak.
In any case the present was not the time to attempt anything of the sort. The
aeronef was sweeping along over the North Pacific. On the following morning,
that of June 16th, the coast was out of sight. And as the coast curves off from
Vancouver Island up to the Aleutians-- belonging to that portion of America
ceded by Russia to the United States in 1867--it was highly probable that the
"Albatross" would cross it at the end of the curve, if her course remained
How long the night appeared to be to the two friends! How eager they were to get
out of their cabins! When they came on deck in the morning the dawn had for
some hours been silvering the eastern horizon. They were nearing the June
solstice, the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere, when there is
hardly any night along the sixtieth parallel.
Either from custom or intention Robur was in no hurry to leave his deck-house,
When he came out this morning be contented himself with bowing to his two
guests as he passed them in the stern of the aeronef.
And now Frycollin ventured out of his cabin. His eyes red with sleeplessness,
and dazed in their look, he tottered along, like a man whose foot feels it is not on
solid ground. His first glance was at the suspensory screws, which were working
with gratifying regularity without any signs of haste. That done, the Negro
stumbled along to the rail, and grasped it with both hands, so as to make sure of
his balance. Evidently he wished to view the country over which the "Albatross"
was flying at the height of seven hundred feet or more.
At first he kept himself well back behind the rail. Then he shook it to make sure it
was firm; then he drew himself up; then he bent forward; then he stretched out
his head. It need not be said that while he was executing these different
maneuvers he kept his eyes shut. At last he opened them.
What a shout! And how quickly he fled! And how deeply his head sank back into
his shoulders! At the bottom of the abyss he had seen the immense ocean. His
hair would have risen on end--if it had not been wool.
"The sea! The sea!" he cried. And Frycollin would have fallen on the deck had
not the cook opened his arms to receive him.
This cook was a Frenchman, and probably a Gascon, his name being Francois
Tapage. If he was not a Gascon he must in his infancy have inhaled the breezes
of the Garonne. How did this Francois Tapage find himself in the service of the
engineer? By what chain of accidents had be become one of the crew of the