Robur the Conqueror
Chapter 21. The Institute Again
Some weeks before, on the 13th of June, on the morning after the sitting during
which the Weldon Institute had been given over to such stormy discussions, the
excitement of all classes of the Philadelphia population, black or white, had been
much easier to imagine than to describe.
>From a very early hour conversation was entirely occupied with the unexpected
and scandalous incident of the night before. A stranger calling himself an
engineer, and answering to the name of Robur, a person of unknown origin, of
anonymous nationality, had unexpectedly presented himself in the club-room,
insulted the balloonists, made fun of the aeronauts, boasted of the marvels of
machines heavier than air, and raised a frightful tumult by the remarks with which
he greeted the menaces of his adversaries. After leaving the desk, amid a volley
of revolver shots, he had disappeared, and in spite of every endeavor, no trace
could be found of him.
Assuredly here was enough to exercise every tongue and excite every
imagination. But by how much was this excitement increased when in the
evening of the 13th of June it was found that neither the president nor secretary
of the Weldon Institute had returned to their homes! Was it by chance only that
they were absent? No, or at least there was nothing to lead people to think so. It
had even been agreed that in the morning they would be back at the club, one as
president, the other as secretary, to take their places during a discussion on the
events of the-preceding evening.
And not only was there the complete disappearance of these two considerable
personages in the state of Pennsylvania, but there was no news of the valet
Frycollin. He was as undiscoverable as his master. Never had a Negro since
Toussaint L'Ouverture, Soulouque, or Dessaline had so much talked about him.
The next day there was no news. Neither the colleagues nor Frycollin had been
found. The anxiety became serious. Agitation commenced. A numerous crowd
besieged the post and telegraph offices in case any news should be received.
There was no news.
And they had been seen coming out of the Weldon Institute loudly talking
together, and with Frycollin in attendance, go down Walnut Street towards
Fairmount Park! Jem Chip, the vegetarian, had even shaken hands with the
president and left him with "Tomorrow!"
And William T. Forbes, the manufacturer of sugar from rags, had received a
cordial shake from Phil Evans who had said to him twice, "Au revoir! Au revoir!"
Miss Doll and Miss Mat Forbes, so attached to Uncle Prudent by the bonds of
purest friendship, could not get over the disappearance, and in order to obtain
news of the absent, talked even more than they were accustomed to.
Three, four, five, six days passed. Then a week, then two weeks, and there was
nothing to give a clue to the missing three. The most minute search had been
made in every quarter. Nothing! In the park, even under the trees and
brushwood. Nothing! Always nothing! Although here it was noticed that the grass
looked to be pressed down in a way that seemed suspicious and certainly was