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Chapter 31

  • **IN WHICH FIX, THE DETECTIVE, CONSIDERABLY FURTHERS THE INTERESTS OF PHILEA_OGG**
  • Phileas Fogg found himself twenty hours behind time. Passepartout, th_nvoluntary cause of this delay, was desperate. He had ruined his master!
  • At this moment the detective approached Mr. Fogg, and, looking him intently i_he face, said:
  • "Seriously, sir, are you in great haste?"
  • "Quite seriously."
  • "I have a purpose in asking," resumed Fix. "Is it absolutely necessary tha_ou should be in New York on the 11th, before nine o'clock in the evening, th_ime that the steamer leaves for Liverpool?"
  • "It is absolutely necessary."
  • "And, if your journey had not been interrupted by these Indians, you woul_ave reached New York on the morning of the 11th?"
  • "Yes; with eleven hours to spare before the steamer left."
  • "Good! you are therefore twenty hours behind. Twelve from twenty leaves eight.
  • You must regain eight hours. Do you wish to try to do so?"
  • "On foot?" asked Mr. Fogg.
  • "No; on a sledge," replied Fix. "On a sledge with sails. A man has propose_uch a method to me."
  • It was the man who had spoken to Fix during the night, and whose offer he ha_efused.
  • Phileas Fogg did not reply at once; but Fix, having pointed out the man, wh_as walking up and down in front of the station, Mr. Fogg went up to him. A_nstant after, Mr. Fogg and the American, whose name was Mudge, entered a hu_uilt just below the fort.
  • There Mr. Fogg examined a curious vehicle, a kind of frame on two long beams,
  • a little raised in front like the runners of a sledge, and upon which ther_as room for five or six persons. A high mast was fixed on the frame, hel_irmly by metallic lashings, to which was attached a large brigantine sail.
  • This mast held an iron stay upon which to hoist a jib-sail. Behind, a sort o_udder served to guide the vehicle. It was, in short, a sledge rigged like _loop. During the winter, when the trains are blocked up by the snow, thes_ledges make extremely rapid journeys across the frozen plains from on_tation to another. Provided with more sails than a cutter, and with the win_ehind them, they slip over the surface of the prairies with a speed equal i_ot superior to that of the express trains.
  • Mr. Fogg readily made a bargain with the owner of this land-craft. The win_as favourable, being fresh, and blowing from the west. The snow had hardened,
  • and Mudge was very confident of being able to transport Mr. Fogg in a fe_ours to Omaha. Thence the trains eastward run frequently to Chicago and Ne_ork. It was not impossible that the lost time might yet be recovered; an_uch an opportunity was not to be rejected.
  • Not wishing to expose Aouda to the discomforts of travelling in the open air,
  • Mr. Fogg proposed to leave her with Passepartout at Fort Kearney, the servan_aking upon himself to escort her to Europe by a better route and under mor_avourable conditions. But Aouda refused to separate from Mr. Fogg, an_assepartout was delighted with her decision; for nothing could induce him t_eave his master while Fix was with him.
  • It would be difficult to guess the detective's thoughts. Was this convictio_haken by Phileas Fogg's return, or did he still regard him as an exceedingl_hrewd rascal, who, his journey round the world completed, would think himsel_bsolutely safe in England? Perhaps Fix's opinion of Phileas Fogg was somewha_odified; but he was nevertheless resolved to do his duty, and to hasten th_eturn of the whole party to England as much as possible.
  • At eight o'clock the sledge was ready to start. The passengers took thei_laces on it, and wrapped themselves up closely in their travelling-cloaks.
  • The two great sails were hoisted, and under the pressure of the wind th_ledge slid over the hardened snow with a velocity of forty miles an hour.
  • The distance between Fort Kearney and Omaha, as the birds fly, is at most tw_undred miles. If the wind held good, the distance might be traversed in fiv_ours; if no accident happened the sledge might reach Omaha by one o'clock.
  • What a journey! The travellers, huddled close together, could not speak fo_he cold, intensified by the rapidity at which they were going. The sledg_ped on as lightly as a boat over the waves. When the breeze came skimming th_arth the sledge seemed to be lifted off the ground by its sails. Mudge, wh_as at the rudder, kept in a straight line, and by a turn of his hand checke_he lurches which the vehicle had a tendency to make. All the sails were up,
  • and the jib was so arranged as not to screen the brigantine. A top-mast wa_oisted, and another jib, held out to the wind, added its force to the othe_ails. Although the speed could not be exactly estimated, the sledge could no_e going at less than forty miles an hour.
  • "If nothing breaks," said Mudge, "we shall get there!"
  • Mr. Fogg had made it for Mudge's interest to reach Omaha within the tim_greed on, by the offer of a handsome reward.
  • The prairie, across which the sledge was moving in a straight line, was a_lat as a sea. It seemed like a vast frozen lake. The railroad which ra_hrough this section ascended from the south-west to the north-west by Grea_sland, Columbus, an important Nebraska town, Schuyler, and Fremont, to Omaha.
  • It followed throughout the right bank of the Platte River. The sledge,
  • shortening this route, took a chord of the arc described by the railway. Mudg_as not afraid of being stopped by the Platte River, because it was frozen.
  • The road, then, was quite clear of obstacles, and Phileas Fogg had but tw_hings to fear— an accident to the sledge, and a change or calm in the wind.
  • But the breeze, far from lessening its force, blew as if to bend the mast,
  • which, however, the metallic lashings held firmly. These lashings, like th_hords of a stringed instrument, resounded as if vibrated by a violin bow. Th_ledge slid along in the midst of a plaintively intense melody.
  • "Those chords give the fifth and the octave," said Mr. Fogg.
  • These were the only words he uttered during the journey. Aouda, cosily packe_n furs and cloaks, was sheltered as much as possible from the attacks of th_reezing wind. As for Passepartout, his face was as red as the sun's disc whe_t sets in the mist, and he laboriously inhaled the biting air. With hi_atural buoyancy of spirits, he began to hope again. They would reach New Yor_n the evening, if not on the morning, of the 11th, and there was still som_hances that it would be before the steamer sailed for Liverpool.
  • Passepartout even felt a strong desire to grasp his ally, Fix, by the hand. H_emembered that it was the detective who procured the sledge, the only mean_f reaching Omaha in time; but, checked by some presentiment, he kept hi_sual reserve. One thing, however, Passepartout would never forget, and tha_as the sacrifice which Mr. Fogg had made, without hesitation, to rescue hi_rom the Sioux. Mr. Fogg had risked his fortune and his life. No! His servan_ould never forget that!
  • While each of the party was absorbed in reflections so different, the sledg_lew past over the vast carpet of snow. The creeks it passed over were no_erceived. Fields and streams disappeared under the uniform whiteness. Th_lain was absolutely deserted. Between the Union Pacific road and the branc_hich unites Kearney with Saint Joseph it formed a great uninhabited island.
  • Neither village, station, nor fort appeared. From time to time they sped b_ome phantom-like tree, whose white skeleton twisted and rattled in the wind.
  • Sometimes flocks of wild birds rose, or bands of gaunt, famished, ferociou_rairie-wolves ran howling after the sledge. Passepartout, revolver in hand,
  • held himself ready to fire on those which came too near. Had an accident the_appened to the sledge, the travellers, attacked by these beasts, would hav_een in the most terrible danger; but it held on its even course, soon gaine_n the wolves, and ere long left the howling band at a safe distance behind.
  • About noon Mudge perceived by certain landmarks that he was crossing th_latte River. He said nothing, but he felt certain that he was now withi_wenty miles of Omaha. In less than an hour he left the rudder and furled hi_ails, whilst the sledge, carried forward by the great impetus the wind ha_iven it, went on half a mile further with its sails unspread.
  • It stopped at last, and Mudge, pointing to a mass of roofs white with snow,
  • said: "We have got there!"
  • Arrived! Arrived at the station which is in daily communication, by numerou_rains, with the Atlantic seaboard!
  • Passepartout and Fix jumped off, stretched their stiffened limbs, and aide_r. Fogg and the young woman to descend from the sledge. Phileas Fog_enerously rewarded Mudge, whose hand Passepartout warmly grasped, and th_arty directed their steps to the Omaha railway station.
  • The Pacific Railroad proper finds its terminus at this important Nebrask_own. Omaha is connected with Chicago by the Chicago and Rock Island Railroad,
  • which runs directly east, and passes fifty stations.
  • A train was ready to start when Mr. Fogg and his party reached the station,
  • and they only had time to get into the cars. They had seen nothing of Omaha;
  • but Passepartout confessed to himself that this was not to be regretted, a_hey were not travelling to see the sights.
  • The train passed rapidly across the State of Iowa, by Council Bluffs, De_oines, and Iowa City. During the night it crossed the Mississippi a_avenport, and by Rock Island entered Illinois. The next day, which was th_0th, at four o'clock in the evening, it reached Chicago, already risen fro_ts ruins, and more proudly seated than ever on the borders of its beautifu_ake Michigan.
  • Nine hundred miles separated Chicago from New York; but trains are not wantin_t Chicago. Mr. Fogg passed at once from one to the other, and the locomotiv_f the Pittsburgh, Fort Wayne, and Chicago Railway left at full speed, as i_t fully comprehended that that gentleman had no time to lose. It traverse_ndiana, Ohio, Pennsylvania, and New Jersey like a flash, rushing throug_owns with antique names, some of which had streets and car-tracks, but as ye_o houses. At last the Hudson came into view; and, at a quarter-past eleven i_he evening of the 11th, the train stopped in the station on the right bank o_he river, before the very pier of the Cunard line.
  • The China, for Liverpool, had started three-quarters of an hour before!