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Robur the Conqueror

Chapter 15. A Skirmish In Dahomey
At this point in the circumnavigatory voyage of the "Albatross" it is only natural
that some such questions as the following should be asked. Who was this Robur,
of whom up to the present we know nothing but the name? Did he pass his life in
the air? Did his aeronef never rest? Had he not some retreat in some
inaccessible spot in which, if he had need of repose or revictualing, be could
betake himself? It would be very strange if it were not so. The most powerful
flyers have always an eyrie or nest somewhere.
And what was the engineer going to do with his prisoners? Was he going to keep
them in his power and condemn them to perpetual aviation? Or was he going to
take them on a trip over Africa, South America, Australasia, the Indian Ocean,
the Atlantic and the Pacific, to convince them against their will, and then dismiss
them with, "And now gentlemen, I hope you will believe a little more in heavier
than air?"
To these questions, it is now impossible to reply. They are the secrets of the
future. Perhaps the answers will be revealed. Anyhow the bird-like Robur was not
seeking his nest on the northern frontier of Africa. By the end of the day he had
traversed Tunis from Cape Bon to Cape Carthage, sometimes hovering, and
sometimes darting along at top speed. Soon he reached the interior, and flew
down the beautiful valley of Medjeida above its yellow stream hidden under its
luxuriant bushes of cactus and oleander; and scared away the hundreds of
parrots that perch on the telegraph wires and seem to wait for the messages to
pass to bear them away beneath their wings.
Two hours after sunset the helm was put up and the "Albatross" bore off to the
southeast; and on the morrow, after clearing the Tell Mountains, she saw the
rising of the morning star over the sands of the Sahara.
On the 30th of July there was seen from the aeronef the little village of Geryville,
founded like Laghouat on the frontier of the desert to facilitate the future
conquest of Kabylia. Next, not without difficulty, the peaks of Stillero were passed
against a somewhat boisterous wind. Then the desert was crossed, sometimes
leisurely over the Ksars or green oases, sometimes at terrific speed that far
outstripped the flight of the vultures. Often the crew had to fire into the flocks of
these birds which, a dozen or so at a time, fearlessly hurled them selves on to
the aeronef to the extreme terror of Frycollin.
But if the vultures could only reply with cries and blows of beaks and talons, the
natives, in no way less savage, were not sparing of their musket-shots,
particularly when crossing the Mountain of Sel, whose green and violet slope
bore its cape of white. Then the "Albatross" was at last over the grand Sahara;
and at once she rose into the higher zones so as to escape from a simoom which
was sweeping a wave of ruddy sand along the surface of the ground like a bore
on the surface of the sea.
Then the desolate tablelands of Chetka scattered their ballast in blackish waves
up to the, fresh. and verdant valley of Ain-Massin. It is difficult to conceive the
variety of the territories which could be seen at one view. To the green hills
 
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