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Chapter 6

  • **IN WHICH FIX, THE DETECTIVE, BETRAYS A VERY NATURAL IMPATIENCE**
  • The circumstances under which this telegraphic dispatch about Phileas Fogg wa_ent were as follows:
  • The steamer Mongolia, belonging to the Peninsular and Oriental Company, buil_f iron, of two thousand eight hundred tons burden, and five hundred horse-
  • power, was due at eleven o'clock a.m. on Wednesday, the 9th of October, a_uez. The Mongolia plied regularly between Brindisi and Bombay via the Sue_anal, and was one of the fastest steamers belonging to the company, alway_aking more than ten knots an hour between Brindisi and Suez, and nine and _alf between Suez and Bombay.
  • Two men were promenading up and down the wharves, among the crowd of native_nd strangers who were sojourning at this once straggling village— now, thank_o the enterprise of M. Lesseps, a fast-growing town. One was the Britis_onsul at Suez, who, despite the prophecies of the English Government, and th_nfavourable predictions of Stephenson, was in the habit of seeing, from hi_ffice window, English ships daily passing to and fro on the great canal, b_hich the old roundabout route from England to India by the Cape of Good Hop_as abridged by at least a half. The other was a small, slight-buil_ersonage, with a nervous, intelligent face, and bright eyes peering out fro_nder eyebrows which he was incessantly twitching. He was just now manifestin_nmistakable signs of impatience, nervously pacing up and down, and unable t_tand still for a moment. This was Fix, one of the detectives who had bee_ispatched from England in search of the bank robber; it was his task t_arrowly watch every passenger who arrived at Suez, and to follow up all wh_eemed to be suspicious characters, or bore a resemblance to the descriptio_f the criminal, which he had received two days before from the polic_eadquarters at London. The detective was evidently inspired by the hope o_btaining the splendid reward which would be the prize of success, and awaite_ith a feverish impatience, easy to understand, the arrival of the steame_ongolia.
  • "So you say, consul," asked he for the twentieth time, "that this steamer i_ever behind time?"
  • "No, Mr. Fix," replied the consul. "She was bespoken yesterday at Port Said,
  • and the rest of the way is of no account to such a craft. I repeat that th_ongolia has been in advance of the time required by the company'_egulations, and gained the prize awarded for excess of speed."
  • "Does she come directly from Brindisi?"
  • "Directly from Brindisi; she takes on the Indian mails there, and she lef_here Saturday at five p.m. Have patience, Mr. Fix; she will not be late. Bu_eally, I don't see how, from the description you have, you will be able t_ecognise your man, even if he is on board the Mongolia."
  • "A man rather feels the presence of these fellows, consul, than recognise_hem. You must have a scent for them, and a scent is like a sixth sense whic_ombines hearing, seeing, and smelling. I've arrested more than one of thes_entlemen in my time, and, if my thief is on board, I'll answer for it; he'l_ot slip through my fingers."
  • "I hope so, Mr. Fix, for it was a heavy robbery."
  • "A magnificent robbery, consul; fifty-five thousand pounds! We don't ofte_ave such windfalls. Burglars are getting to be so contemptible nowadays! _ellow gets hung for a handful of shillings!"
  • "Mr. Fix," said the consul, "I like your way of talking, and hope you'l_ucceed; but I fear you will find it far from easy. Don't you see, th_escription which you have there has a singular resemblance to an honest man?"
  • "Consul," remarked the detective, dogmatically, "great robbers always resembl_onest folks. Fellows who have rascally faces have only one course to take,
  • and that is to remain honest; otherwise they would be arrested off-hand. Th_rtistic thing is, to unmask honest countenances; it's no light task, I admit,
  • but a real art."
  • Mr. Fix evidently was not wanting in a tinge of self-conceit.
  • Little by little the scene on the quay became more animated; sailors o_arious nations, merchants, ship-brokers, porters, fellahs, bustled to and fr_s if the steamer were immediately expected. The weather was clear, an_lightly chilly. The minarets of the town loomed above the houses in the pal_ays of the sun. A jetty pier, some two thousand yards along, extended int_he roadstead. A number of fishing-smacks and coasting boats, some retainin_he fantastic fashion of ancient galleys, were discernible on the Red Sea.
  • As he passed among the busy crowd, Fix, according to habit, scrutinised th_assers-by with a keen, rapid glance.
  • It was now half-past ten.
  • "The steamer doesn't come!" he exclaimed, as the port clock struck.
  • "She can't be far off now," returned his companion.
  • "How long will she stop at Suez?"
  • "Four hours; long enough to get in her coal. It is thirteen hundred and te_iles from Suez to Aden, at the other end of the Red Sea, and she has to tak_n a fresh coal supply."
  • "And does she go from Suez directly to Bombay?"
  • "Without putting in anywhere."
  • "Good!" said Fix. "If the robber is on board he will no doubt get off at Suez,
  • so as to reach the Dutch or French colonies in Asia by some other route. H_ught to know that he would not be safe an hour in India, which is Englis_oil."
  • "Unless," objected the consul, "he is exceptionally shrewd. An Englis_riminal, you know, is always better concealed in London than anywhere else."
  • This observation furnished the detective food for thought, and meanwhile th_onsul went away to his office. Fix, left alone, was more impatient than ever,
  • having a presentiment that the robber was on board the Mongolia. If he ha_ndeed left London intending to reach the New World, he would naturally tak_he route via India, which was less watched and more difficult to watch tha_hat of the Atlantic. But Fix's reflections were soon interrupted by _uccession of sharp whistles, which announced the arrival of the Mongolia. Th_orters and fellahs rushed down the quay, and a dozen boats pushed off fro_he shore to go and meet the steamer. Soon her gigantic hull appeared passin_long between the banks, and eleven o'clock struck as she anchored in th_oad. She brought an unusual number of passengers, some of whom remained o_eck to scan the picturesque panorama of the town, while the greater par_isembarked in the boats, and landed on the quay.
  • Fix took up a position, and carefully examined each face and figure which mad_ts appearance. Presently one of the passengers, after vigorously pushing hi_ay through the importunate crowd of porters, came up to him and politel_sked if he could point out the English consulate, at the same time showing _assport which he wished to have visaed. Fix instinctively took the passport,
  • and with a rapid glance read the description of its bearer. An involuntar_otion of surprise nearly escaped him, for the description in the passport wa_dentical with that of the bank robber which he had received from Scotlan_ard.
  • "Is this your passport?" asked he.
  • "No, it's my master's."
  • "And your master is—"
  • "He stayed on board."
  • "But he must go to the consul's in person, so as to establish his identity."
  • "Oh, is that necessary?"
  • "Quite indispensable."
  • "And where is the consulate?"
  • "There, on the corner of the square," said Fix, pointing to a house tw_undred steps off.
  • "I'll go and fetch my master, who won't be much pleased, however, to b_isturbed."
  • The passenger bowed to Fix, and returned to the steamer.