Robur the Conqueror
Chapter 16. Over The Atlantic
Yes, the Atlantic! The fears of the two colleagues were realized; but it did not
seem as though Robur had the least anxiety about venturing over this vast
ocean. Both he and his men seemed quite unconcerned about it and had gone
back to their stations.
Whither was the "Albatross" bound? Was she going more than round the world
as Robur had said? Even if she were, the voyage must end somewhere. That
Robur spent his life in the air on board the aeronef and never came to the ground
was impossible. How could he make up his stock of provisions and the materials
required for working his machines? He must have some retreat, some harbor of
refuge--in some unknown and inaccessible spot where the "Albatross" could
revictual. That he had broken off all connections with the inhabitants of the land
might be true, but with every point on the surface of the earth, certainly not.
That being the case, where was this point? How had the engineer come to
choose it? Was he expected by a little colony of which he was the chief? Could
he there find a new crew?
What means had he that he should be able to build so costly a vessel as the
"Albatross" and keep her building secret? It is true his living was not expensive.
But, finally, who was this Robur? Where did he come from? What had been his
history? Here were riddles impossible to solve; and Robur was not the man to
assist willingly in their solution.
It is not to be wondered at that these insoluble problems drove the colleagues
almost to frenzy. To find themselves whipped off into the unknown without
knowing what the end might be doubting even if the adventure would end,
sentenced to perpetual aviation, was this not enough to drive the President and
secretary of the Weldon Institute to extremities?
Meanwhile the "Albatross" drove along above the Atlantic, and in the morning
when the sun rose there was nothing to be seen but the circular line where earth
met sky. Not a spot of land was insight in this huge field of vision. Africa had
vanished beneath the northern horizon.
When Frycollin ventured out of his cabin and saw all this water beneath him, fear
took possession of him.
Of the hundred and forty-five million square miles of which the area of the world's
waters consists, the Atlantic claims about a quarter; and it seemed as though the
engineer was in no hurry to cross it. There was now no going at full speed, none
of the hundred and twenty miles an hour at which the "Albatross" had flown over
Europe. Here, where the southwest winds prevail, the wind was ahead of them,
and though it was not very strong, it would not do to defy it and the "Albatross"
was sent along at a moderate speed, which, however, easily outstripped that of
the fastest mail-boat.
On the 13th of July she crossed the line, and the fact was duly announced to the
crew. It was then that Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans ascertained that they were
bound for the southern hemisphere. The crossing of the line took place without
any of the Neptunian ceremonies that still linger on certain ships. Tapage was