Robur the Conqueror
Chapter 14. The Aeronef At Full Speed
If ever Prudent and Evans despaired on escaping from the "Albatross" it was
during the two days that followed. It may be that Robur considered it more
difficult to keep a watch on his prisoners while he was crossing Europe, and he
knew that they had made up their minds to get away.
But any attempt to have done so would have been simply committing suicide. To
jump from an express going sixty miles an hour is to risk your life, but to jump
from a machine going one hundred and twenty miles an hour would be to seek
And it was at this speed, the greatest that could be given to her, that the
"Albatross" tore along. Her speed exceeded that of the swallow, which is one
hundred and twelve miles an hour.
At first the wind was in the northeast, and the "Albatross" had it fair, her general
course being a westerly one. But the wind began to drop, and it soon became
impossible for the colleagues to remain on the deck without having their breath
taken away by the rapidity of the flight. And on one occasion they would have
been blown overboard if they had not been dashed up against the deck-house by
the pressure of the wind.
Luckily the steersman saw them through the windows of his cage, and by the
electric bell gave the alarm to the men in the fore-cabin. Four of them came aft,
creeping along the deck.
Those who have been at sea, beating to windward in half a gale of wind, will
understand what the pressure was like. But here it was the "Albatross" that by
her incomparable speed made her own wind.
To allow Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans to get back to their cabin the speed had
to be reduced. Inside the deck-house the "Albatross" bore with her a perfectly
breathable atmosphere. To stand such driving the strength of the apparatus must
have been prodigious. The propellers spun round so swiftly that they seemed
immovable, and it was with irresistible power that they screwed themselves
through the air.
The last town that had been noticed was Astrakhan, situated at the north end of
the Caspian Sea. The Star of the Desert--it must have been a poet who so called
it--has now sunk from the first rank to the fifth or sixth. A momentary glance was
afforded at its old walls, with their useless battlements, the ancient towers in the
center of the city, the mosques and modern churches, the cathedral with its five
domes, gilded and dotted with stars as if it were a piece of the sky, as they rose
from the bank of the Volga, which here, as it joins the sea, is over a mile in width.
Thenceforward the flight of the "Albatross" became quite a race through the
heights of the sky, as if she had been harnessed to one of those fabulous
hippogriffs which cleared a league at every sweep of the wing.
At ten o'clock in the morning, of the 4th of July the aeronef, heading northwest,
followed for a little the valley of the Volga. The steppes of the Don and the Ural
stretched away on each side of the river. Even if it had been possible to get a
glimpse of these vast territories there would have been no time to count the