Robur the Conqueror
Chapter 20. The Wreck Of The Albatross
It was then twenty minutes after midnight. Five or six shots had been fired from
the aeronef. Uncle Prudent and Frycollin, supporting Phil Evans, had taken
shelter among the rocks. They had not been hit. For the moment there was
nothing to fear.
As the "Albatross" drifted off from Pitt Island she rose obliquely to nearly three
thousand feet. It was necessary to increase the ascensional power to prevent her
falling into the sea.
When the look-out man had got clear of his gag and shouted, Robur and Tom
Turner had rushed up to him and torn off his bandage. The mate had then run
back to the stern cabin. It was empty! Tapage had searched Frycollin's cabin,
and that also was empty.
When he saw that the prisoners had escaped, Robur was seized with a
paroxysm of anger. The escape meant the revelation of his secret to the world.
He had not been much concerned at the document thrown overboard while they
were crossing Europe, for there were so many chances that it would be lost in its
fall; but now!
As he grew calm, "They have escaped," said he. "Be it so! But they cannot get
away from Pitt Island, and in a day or so I will go back! I will recapture them! And
In fact, the safety of the three fugitives was by no means assured. The
"Albatross" would be repaired, and return well in hand. Before the day was out
they might again be in the power of the engineer.
Before the day was out! But in two hours the "Albatross" would be annihilated!
The dynamite cartridge was like a torpedo fastened to her hull, and would
accomplish her destruction in mid-air. The breeze freshened, and the aeronef
was carried to the northeast. Although her speed was but moderate, she would
be out of sight of the Chatham Islands before sunrise. To return against the wind
she must have her propellers going, particularly the one in the bow.
"Tom," said the engineer, "Turn the lights full on."
"And all hands to work."
There was no longer any idea of putting off the work till tomorrow. There was
now no thought of fatigue. Not one of the men of the "Albatross" failed to share in
the feelings of his chief. Not one but was ready to do anything to recapture the
As soon as the screw was in place they would return to the island and drop
another anchor, and give chase to the fugitives. Then only would they begin
repairing the stern-screw; and then the aeronef could resume her voyage across
the Pacific to X Island.
It was important, above all things, that the "Albatross" should not be carried too
far to the northeast, but unfortunately the breeze grew stronger, and she could
not head against it, or even remain stationary. Deprived of her propellers she