Three passengers including Passepartout had disappeared. Had they been kille_n the struggle? Were they taken prisoners by the Sioux? It was impossible t_ell.
There were many wounded, but none mortally. Colonel Proctor was one of th_ost seriously hurt; he had fought bravely, and a ball had entered his groin.
He was carried into the station with the other wounded passengers, to receiv_uch attention as could be of avail.
Aouda was safe; and Phileas Fogg, who had been in the thickest of the fight, had not received a scratch. Fix was slightly wounded in the arm. Bu_assepartout was not to be found, and tears coursed down Aouda's cheeks.
All the passengers had got out of the train, the wheels of which were staine_ith blood. From the tyres and spokes hung ragged pieces of flesh. As far a_he eye could reach on the white plain behind, red trails were visible. Th_ast Sioux were disappearing in the south, along the banks of Republica_iver.
Mr. Fogg, with folded arms, remained motionless. He had a serious decision t_ake. Aouda, standing near him, looked at him without speaking, and h_nderstood her look. If his servant was a prisoner, ought he not to ris_verything to rescue him from the Indians? "I will find him, living or dead,"
said he quietly to Aouda.
"Ah, Mr.—Mr. Fogg!" cried she, clasping his hands and covering them wit_ears.
"Living," added Mr. Fogg, "if we do not lose a moment."
Phileas Fogg, by this resolution, inevitably sacrificed himself; he pronounce_is own doom. The delay of a single day would make him lose the steamer at Ne_ork, and his bet would be certainly lost. But as he thought, "It is my duty,"
he did not hesitate.
The commanding officer of Fort Kearney was there. A hundred of his soldier_ad placed themselves in a position to defend the station, should the Siou_ttack it.
"Sir," said Mr. Fogg to the captain, "three passengers have disappeared."
"Dead?" asked the captain.
"Dead or prisoners; that is the uncertainty which must be solved. Do yo_ropose to pursue the Sioux?"
"That's a serious thing to do, sir," returned the captain. "These Indians ma_etreat beyond the Arkansas, and I cannot leave the fort unprotected."
"The lives of three men are in question, sir," said Phileas Fogg.
"Doubtless; but can I risk the lives of fifty men to save three?"
"I don't know whether you can, sir; but you ought to do so."
"Nobody here," returned the other, "has a right to teach me my duty."
"Very well," said Mr. Fogg, coldly. "I will go alone."
"You, sir!" cried Fix, coming up; "you go alone in pursuit of the Indians?"
"Would you have me leave this poor fellow to perish— him to whom every on_resent owes his life? I shall go."
"No, sir, you shall not go alone," cried the captain, touched in spite o_imself. "No! you are a brave man. Thirty volunteers!" he added, turning t_he soldiers.
The whole company started forward at once. The captain had only to pick hi_en. Thirty were chosen, and an old sergeant placed at their head.
"Thanks, captain," said Mr. Fogg.
"Will you let me go with you?" asked Fix.
"Do as you please, sir. But if you wish to do me a favour, you will remai_ith Aouda. In case anything should happen to me—"
A sudden pallor overspread the detective's face. Separate himself from the ma_hom he had so persistently followed step by step! Leave him to wander abou_n this desert! Fix gazed attentively at Mr. Fogg, and, despite his suspicion_nd of the struggle which was going on within him, he lowered his eyes befor_hat calm and frank look.
"I will stay," said he.
A few moments after, Mr. Fogg pressed the young woman's hand, and, havin_onfided to her his precious carpet-bag, went off with the sergeant and hi_ittle squad. But, before going, he had said to the soldiers, "My friends, _ill divide five thousand dollars among you, if we save the prisoners."
It was then a little past noon.
Aouda retired to a waiting-room, and there she waited alone, thinking of th_imple and noble generosity, the tranquil courage of Phileas Fogg. He ha_acrificed his fortune, and was now risking his life, all without hesitation, from duty, in silence.
Fix did not have the same thoughts, and could scarcely conceal his agitation.
He walked feverishly up and down the platform, but soon resumed his outwar_omposure. He now saw the folly of which he had been guilty in letting Fogg g_lone. What! This man, whom he had just followed around the world, wa_ermitted now to separate himself from him! He began to accuse and abus_imself, and, as if he were director of police, administered to himself _ound lecture for his greenness.
"I have been an idiot!" he thought, "and this man will see it. He has gone, and won't come back! But how is it that I, Fix, who have in my pocket _arrant for his arrest, have been so fascinated by him? Decidedly, I a_othing but an ass!"
So reasoned the detective, while the hours crept by all too slowly. He did no_now what to do. Sometimes he was tempted to tell Aouda all; but he could no_oubt how the young woman would receive his confidences. What course should h_ake? He thought of pursuing Fogg across the vast white plains; it did no_eem impossible that he might overtake him. Footsteps were easily printed o_he snow! But soon, under a new sheet, every imprint would be effaced.
Fix became discouraged. He felt a sort of insurmountable longing to abando_he game altogether. He could now leave Fort Kearney station, and pursue hi_ourney homeward in peace.
Towards two o'clock in the afternoon, while it was snowing hard, long whistle_ere heard approaching from the east. A great shadow, preceded by a wil_ight, slowly advanced, appearing still larger through the mist, which gave i_ fantastic aspect. No train was expected from the east, neither had ther_een time for the succour asked for by telegraph to arrive; the train fro_maha to San Francisco was not due till the next day. The mystery was soo_xplained.
The locomotive, which was slowly approaching with deafening whistles, was tha_hich, having been detached from the train, had continued its route with suc_errific rapidity, carrying off the unconscious engineer and stoker. It ha_un several miles, when, the fire becoming low for want of fuel, the steam ha_lackened; and it had finally stopped an hour after, some twenty miles beyon_ort Kearney. Neither the engineer nor the stoker was dead, and, afte_emaining for some time in their swoon, had come to themselves. The train ha_hen stopped. The engineer, when he found himself in the desert, and th_ocomotive without cars, understood what had happened. He could not imagin_ow the locomotive had become separated from the train; but he did not doub_hat the train left behind was in distress.
He did not hesitate what to do. It would be prudent to continue on to Omaha, for it would be dangerous to return to the train, which the Indians migh_till be engaged in pillaging. Nevertheless, he began to rebuild the fire i_he furnace; the pressure again mounted, and the locomotive returned, runnin_ackwards to Fort Kearney. This it was which was whistling in the mist.
The travellers were glad to see the locomotive resume its place at the head o_he train. They could now continue the journey so terribly interrupted.
Aouda, on seeing the locomotive come up, hurried out of the station, and aske_he conductor, "Are you going to start?"
"At once, madam."
"But the prisoners, our unfortunate fellow-travellers—"
"I cannot interrupt the trip," replied the conductor. "We are already thre_ours behind time."
"And when will another train pass here from San Francisco?"
"To-morrow evening, madam."
"To-morrow evening! But then it will be too late! We must wait—"
"It is impossible," responded the conductor. "If you wish to go, please ge_n."
"I will not go," said Aouda.
Fix had heard this conversation. A little while before, when there was n_rospect of proceeding on the journey, he had made up his mind to leave For_earney; but now that the train was there, ready to start, and he had only t_ake his seat in the car, an irresistible influence held him back. The statio_latform burned his feet, and he could not stir. The conflict in his min_gain began; anger and failure stifled him. He wished to struggle on to th_nd.
Meanwhile the passengers and some of the wounded, among them Colonel Proctor, whose injuries were serious, had taken their places in the train. The buzzin_f the over-heated boiler was heard, and the steam was escaping from th_alves. The engineer whistled, the train started, and soon disappeared, mingling its white smoke with the eddies of the densely falling snow.
The detective had remained behind.
Several hours passed. The weather was dismal, and it was very cold. Fix sa_otionless on a bench in the station; he might have been thought asleep.
Aouda, despite the storm, kept coming out of the waiting-room, going to th_nd of the platform, and peering through the tempest of snow, as if to pierc_he mist which narrowed the horizon around her, and to hear, if possible, som_elcome sound. She heard and saw nothing. Then she would return, chille_hrough, to issue out again after the lapse of a few moments, but always i_ain.
Evening came, and the little band had not returned. Where could they be? Ha_hey found the Indians, and were they having a conflict with them, or wer_hey still wandering amid the mist? The commander of the fort was anxious, though he tried to conceal his apprehensions. As night approached, the sno_ell less plentifully, but it became intensely cold. Absolute silence reste_n the plains. Neither flight of bird nor passing of beast troubled th_erfect calm.
Throughout the night Aouda, full of sad forebodings, her heart stifled wit_nguish, wandered about on the verge of the plains. Her imagination carrie_er far off, and showed her innumerable dangers. What she suffered through th_ong hours it would be impossible to describe.
Fix remained stationary in the same place, but did not sleep. Once a ma_pproached and spoke to him, and the detective merely replied by shaking hi_ead.
Thus the night passed. At dawn, the half-extinguished disc of the sun ros_bove a misty horizon; but it was now possible to recognise objects two mile_ff. Phileas Fogg and the squad had gone southward; in the south all was stil_acancy. It was then seven o'clock.
The captain, who was really alarmed, did not know what course to take.
Should he send another detachment to the rescue of the first? Should h_acrifice more men, with so few chances of saving those already sacrificed?
His hesitation did not last long, however. Calling one of his lieutenants, h_as on the point of ordering a reconnaissance, when gunshots were heard. Wa_t a signal? The soldiers rushed out of the fort, and half a mile off the_erceived a little band returning in good order.
Mr. Fogg was marching at their head, and just behind him were Passepartout an_he other two travellers, rescued from the Sioux.
They had met and fought the Indians ten miles south of Fort Kearney. Shortl_efore the detachment arrived, Passepartout and his companions had begun t_truggle with their captors, three of whom the Frenchman had felled with hi_ists, when his master and the soldiers hastened up to their relief.
All were welcomed with joyful cries. Phileas Fogg distributed the reward h_ad promised to the soldiers, while Passepartout, not without reason, muttere_o himself, "It must certainly be confessed that I cost my master dear!"
Fix, without saying a word, looked at Mr. Fogg, and it would have bee_ifficult to analyse the thoughts which struggled within him. As for Aouda, she took her protector's hand and pressed it in her own, too much moved t_peak.
Meanwhile, Passepartout was looking about for the train; he thought he shoul_ind it there, ready to start for Omaha, and he hoped that the time lost migh_e regained.
"The train! the train!" cried he.
"Gone," replied Fix.
"And when does the next train pass here?" said Phileas Fogg.