Around the World in 80 Days HTML version

Chapter 9
The distance between Suez and Aden is precisely thirteen hundred and ten miles, and the
regulations of the company allow the steamers one hundred and thirty-eight hours in
which to traverse it. The Mongolia, thanks to the vigorous exertions of the engineer,
seemed likely, so rapid was her speed, to reach her destination considerably within that
time. The greater part of the passengers from Brindisi were bound for India some for
Bombay, others for Calcutta by way of Bombay, the nearest route thither, now that a
railway crosses the Indian peninsula. Among the passengers was a number of officials
and military officers of various grades, the latter being either attached to the regular
British forces or commanding the Sepoy troops, and receiving high salaries ever since the
central government has assumed the powers of the East India Company: for the sub-
lieutenants get 280 pounds, brigadiers, 2,400 pounds, and generals of divisions, 4,000
pounds. What with the military men, a number of rich young Englishmen on their travels,
and the hospitable efforts of the purser, the time passed quickly on the Mongolia. The
best of fare was spread upon the cabin tables at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and the eight
o'clock supper, and the ladies scrupulously changed their toilets twice a day; and the
hours were whirled away, when the sea was tranquil, with music, dancing, and games.
But the Red Sea is full of caprice, and often boisterous, like most long and narrow gulfs.
When the wind came from the African or Asian coast the Mongolia, with her long hull,
rolled fearfully. Then the ladies speedily disappeared below; the pianos were silent;
singing and dancing suddenly ceased. Yet the good ship ploughed straight on, unretarded
by wind or wave, towards the straits of Bab-el-Mandeb. What was Phileas Fogg doing all
this time? It might be thought that, in his anxiety, he would be constantly watching the
changes of the wind, the disorderly raging of the billows--every chance, in short, which
might force the Mongolia to slacken her speed, and thus interrupt his journey. But, if he
thought of these possibilities, he did not betray the fact by any outward sign.
Always the same impassible member of the Reform Club, whom no incident could
surprise, as unvarying as the ship's chronometers, and seldom having the curiosity even to
go upon the deck, he passed through the memorable scenes of the Red Sea with cold
indifference; did not care to recognise the historic towns and villages which, along its
borders, raised their picturesque outlines against the sky; and betrayed no fear of the
dangers of the Arabic Gulf, which the old historians always spoke of with horror, and
upon which the ancient navigators never ventured without propitiating the gods by ample
sacrifices. How did this eccentric personage pass his time on the Mongolia? He made his
four hearty meals every day, regardless of the most persistent rolling and pitching on the
part of the steamer; and he played whist indefatigably, for he had found partners as
enthusiastic in the game as himself. A tax-collector, on the way to his post at Goa; the
Rev. Decimus Smith, returning to his parish at Bombay; and a brigadier-general of the