THE panels had closed on this dreadful vision, but light had not returned t_he saloon: all was silence and darkness within the Nautilus. At wonderfu_peed, a hundred feet beneath the water, it was leaving this desolate spot.
Whither was it going? To the north or south? Where was the man flying to afte_uch dreadful retaliation? I had returned to my room, where Ned and Consei_ad remained silent enough. I felt an insurmountable horror for Captain Nemo.
Whatever he had suffered at the hands of these men, he had no right to punis_hus. He had made me, if not an accomplice, at least a witness of hi_engeance. At eleven the electric light reappeared. I passed into the saloon.
It was deserted. I consulted the different instruments. The Nautilus wa_lying northward at the rate of twenty-five miles an hour, now on the surface, and now thirty feet below it. On taking the bearings by the chart, I saw tha_e were passing the mouth of the Manche, and that our course was hurrying u_owards the northern seas at a frightful speed. That night we had crossed tw_undred leagues of the Atlantic. The shadows fell, and the sea was covere_ith darkness until the rising of the moon. I went to my room, but could no_leep. I was troubled with dreadful nightmare. The horrible scene o_estruction was continually before my eyes. From that day, who could tell int_hat part of the North Atlantic basin the Nautilus would take us? Still wit_naccountable speed. Still in the midst of these northern fogs. Would it touc_t Spitzbergen, or on the shores of Nova Zembla? Should we explore thos_nknown seas, the White Sea, the Sea of Kara, the Gulf of Obi, the Archipelag_f Liarrov, and the unknown coast of Asia? I could not say. I could no longe_udge of the time that was passing. The clocks had been stopped on board. I_eemed, as in polar countries, that night and day no longer followed thei_egular course. I felt myself being drawn into that strange region where th_oundered imagination of Edgar Poe roamed at will. Like the fabulous Gordo_ym, at every moment I expected to see "that veiled human figure, of large_roportions than those of any inhabitant of the earth, thrown across th_ataract which defends the approach to the pole." I estimated (though, perhaps, I may be mistaken) — I estimated this adventurous course of th_autilus to have lasted fifteen or twenty days. And I know not how much longe_t might have lasted, had it not been for the catastrophe which ended thi_oyage. Of Captain Nemo I saw nothing whatever now, nor of his second. Not _an of the crew was visible for an instant. The Nautilus was almos_ncessantly under water. When we came to the surface to renew the air, th_anels opened and shut mechanically. There were no more marks on th_lanisphere. I knew not where we were. And the Canadian, too, his strength an_atience at an end, appeared no more. Conseil could not draw a word from him; and, fearing that, in a dreadful fit of madness, he might kill himself, watched him with constant devotion. One morning (what date it was I could no_ay) I had fallen into a heavy sleep towards the early hours, a sleep bot_ainful and unhealthy, when I suddenly awoke. Ned Land was leaning over me, saying, in a low voice, "We are going to fly." I sat up.
"When shall we go?" I asked.
"To-night. All inspection on board the Nautilus seems to have ceased. Al_ppear to be stupefied. You will be ready, sir?"
"Yes; where are we?"
"In sight of land. I took the reckoning this morning in the fog — twenty mile_o the east."
"What country is it?"
"I do not know; but, whatever it is, we will take refuge there."
"Yes, Ned, yes. We will fly to-night, even if the sea should swallow us up."
"The sea is bad, the wind violent, but twenty miles in that light boat of th_autilus does not frighten me. Unknown to the crew, I have been able t_rocure food and some bottles of water."
"I will follow you."
"But," continued the Canadian, "if I am surprised, I will defend myself ; _ill force them to kill me."
"We will die together, friend Ned."
I had made up my mind to all. The Canadian left me. I reached the platform, o_hich I could with difficulty support myself against the shock of the waves.
The sky was threatening; but, as land was in those thick brown shadows, w_ust fly. I returned to the saloon, fearing and yet hoping to see Captai_emo, wishing and yet not wishing to see him. What could I have said to him?
Could I hide the involuntary horror with which he inspired me? No. It wa_etter that I should not meet him face to face; better to forget him. And yet — How long seemed that day, the last that I should pass in the Nautilus. _emained alone. Ned Land and Conseil avoided speaking, for fear of betrayin_hemselves. At six I dined, but I was not hungry; I forced myself to eat i_pite of my disgust, that I might not weaken myself. At half-past six Ned Lan_ame to my room, saying, "We shall not see each other again before ou_eparture. At ten the moon will not be risen. We will profit by the darkness.
Come to the boat; Conseil and I will wait for you."
The Canadian went out without giving me time to answer. Wishing to verify th_ourse of the Nautilus, I went to the saloon. We were running N.N.E. a_rightful speed, and more than fifty yards deep. I cast a last look on thes_onders of nature, on the riches of art heaped up in this museum, upon th_nrivalled collection destined to perish at the bottom of the sea, with hi_ho had formed it. I wished to fix an indelible impression of it in my mind. _emained an hour thus, bathed in the light of that luminous ceiling, an_assing in review those treasures shining under their glasses. Then I returne_o my room.
I dressed myself in strong sea clothing. I collected my notes, placing the_arefully about me. My heart beat loudly. I could not check its pulsations.
Certainly my trouble and agitation would have betrayed me to Captain Nemo'_yes. What was he doing at this moment? I listened at the door of his room. _eard steps. Captain Nemo was there. He had not gone to rest. At every momen_ expected to see him appear, and ask me why I wished to fly. I was constantl_n the alert. My imagination magnified everything. The impression became a_ast so poignant that I asked myself if it would not be better to go to th_aptain's room, see him face to face, and brave him with look and gesture.
It was the inspiration of a madman; fortunately I resisted the desire, an_tretched myself on my bed to quiet my bodily agitation. My nerves wer_omewhat calmer, but in my excited brain I saw over again all my existence o_oard the Nautilus; every incident, either happy or unfortunate, which ha_appened since my disappearance from the Abraham Lincoln — the submarine hunt, the Torres Straits, the savages of Papua, the running ashore, the cora_emetery, the passage of Suez, the Island of Santorin, the Cretan diver, Vig_ay, Atlantis, the iceberg, the South Pole, the imprisonment in the ice, th_ight among the poulps, the storm in the Gulf Stream, the Avenger, and th_orrible scene of the vessel sunk with all her crew. All these events passe_efore my eyes like scenes in a drama. Then Captain Nemo seemed to gro_normously, his features to assume superhuman proportions. He was no longer m_qual, but a man of the waters, the genie of the sea.
It was then half-past nine. I held my head between my hands to keep it fro_ursting. I closed my eyes; I would not think any longer. There was anothe_alf-hour to wait, another half-hour of a nightmare, which might drive me mad.
At that moment I heard the distant strains of the organ, a sad harmony to a_ndefinable chant, the wail of a soul longing to break these earthly bonds. _istened with every sense, scarcely breathing; plunged, like Captain Nemo, i_hat musical ecstasy, which was drawing him in spirit to the end of life.
Then a sudden thought terrified me. Captain Nemo had left his room. He was i_he saloon, which I must cross to fly. There I should meet him for the las_ime. He would see me, perhaps speak to me. A gesture of his might destroy me, a single word chain me on board.
But ten was about to strike. The moment had come for me to leave my room, an_oin my companions.
I must not hesitate, even if Captain Nemo himself should rise before me. _pened my door carefully; and even then, as it turned on its hinges, it seeme_o me to make a dreadful noise. Perhaps it only existed in my own imagination.
I crept along the dark stairs of the Nautilus, stopping at each step to chec_he beating of my heart. I reached the door of the saloon, and opened i_ently. It was plunged in profound darkness. The strains of the organ sounde_aintly. Captain Nemo was there. He did not see me. In the full light I do no_hink he would have noticed me, so entirely was he absorbed in the ecstasy.
I crept along the carpet, avoiding the slightest sound which might betray m_resence. I was at least five minutes reaching the door, at the opposite side, opening into the library.
I was going to open it, when a sigh from Captain Nemo nailed me to the spot. _new that he was rising. I could even see him, for the light from the librar_ame through to the saloon. He came towards me silently, with his arm_rossed, gliding like a spectre rather than walking. His breast was swellin_ith sobs; and I heard him murmur these words (the last which ever struck m_ar):
"Almighty God! enough! enough!"
Was it a confession of remorse which thus escaped from this man's conscience?
In desperation, I rushed through the library, mounted the central staircase, and, following the upper flight, reached the boat. I crept through th_pening, which had already admitted my two companions.
"Let us go! let us go!" I exclaimed.
"Directly!" replied the Canadian.
The orifice in the plates of the Nautilus was first closed, and fastened dow_y means of a false key, with which Ned Land had provided himself; the openin_n the boat was also closed. The Canadian began to loosen the bolts whic_till held us to the submarine boat.
Suddenly a noise was heard. Voices were answering each other loudly. What wa_he matter? Had they discovered our flight? I felt Ned Land slipping a dagge_nto my hand.
"Yes," I murmured, "we know how to die!"
The Canadian had stopped in his work. But one word many times repeated, _readful word, revealed the cause of the agitation spreading on board th_autilus. It was not we the crew were looking after!
"The maelstrom! the maelstrom! Could a more dreadful word in a more dreadfu_ituation have sounded in our ears! We were then upon the dangerous coast o_orway. Was the Nautilus being drawn into this gulf at the moment our boat wa_oing to leave its sides? We knew that at the tide the pent-up waters betwee_he islands of Ferroe and Loffoden rush with irresistible violence, forming _hirlpool from which no vessel ever escapes. From every point of the horizo_normous waves were meeting, forming a gulf justly called the "Navel of th_cean," whose power of attraction extends to a distance of twelve miles.
There, not only vessels, but whales are sacrificed, as well as white bear_rom the northern regions.
It is thither that the Nautilus, voluntarily or involuntarily, had been run b_he Captain.
It was describing a spiral, the circumference of which was lessening b_egrees, and the boat, which was still fastened to its side, was carried alon_ith giddy speed. I felt that sickly giddiness which arises from long- continued whirling round.
We were in dread. Our horror was at its height, circulation had stopped, al_ervous influence was annihilated, and we were covered with cold sweat, like _weat of agony! And what noise around our frail bark! What roarings repeate_y the echo miles away! What an uproar was that of the waters broken on th_harp rocks at the bottom, where the hardest bodies are crushed, and tree_orn away, "with all the fur rubbed off," according to the Norwegian phrase!
What a situation to be in! We rocked frightfully. The Nautilus defended itsel_ike a human being. Its steel muscles cracked. Sometimes it seemed to stan_pright, and we with it!
"We must hold on," said Ned, "and look after the bolts. We may still be save_f we stick to the Nautilus."
He had not finished the words, when we heard a crashing noise, the bolts gav_ay, and the boat, torn from its groove, was hurled like a stone from a slin_nto the midst of the whirlpool.
My head struck on a piece of iron, and with the violent shock I lost al_onsciousness.