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|Around the World in 80 Days||Jules Verne|
IN WHICH THE RED SEA AND THE INDIAN OCEAN PROVE PROPITIOUS TO THE DESIGNS OF PHILEAS FOGG
|Page 2 of 3||
As for Passepartout, he, too, had escaped sea-sickness, and took his meals conscientiously in the forward cabin. He rather enjoyed the voyage, for he was well fed and well lodged, took a great interest in the scenes through which they were passing, and consoled himself with the delusion that his master's whim would end at Bombay. He was pleased, on the day after leaving Suez, to find on deck the obliging person with whom he had walked and chatted on the quays.
"If I am not mistaken," said he, approaching this person, with his most amiable smile, "you are the gentleman who so kindly volunteered to guide me at Suez?"
"Ah! I quite recognise you. You are the servant of the strange Englishman--"
"Just so, monsieur--"
"Monsieur Fix," resumed Passepartout, "I'm charmed to find you on board. Where are you bound?"
"Like you, to Bombay."
"That's capital! Have you made this trip before?"
"Several times. I am one of the agents of the Peninsular Company."
"Then you know India?"
"Why yes," replied Fix, who spoke cautiously.
"A curious place, this India?"
"Oh, very curious. Mosques, minarets, temples, fakirs, pagodas, tigers, snakes, elephants! I hope you will have ample time to see the sights."
"I hope so, Monsieur Fix. You see, a man of sound sense ought not to spend his life jumping from a steamer upon a railway train, and from a railway train upon a steamer again, pretending to make the tour of the world in eighty days! No; all these gymnastics, you may be sure, will cease at Bombay."
"And Mr. Fogg is getting on well?" asked Fix, in the most natural tone in the world.
"Quite well, and I too. I eat like a famished ogre; it's the sea air.
"But I never see your master on deck."
"Never; he hasn't the least curiosity."
"Do you know, Mr. Passepartout, that this pretended tour in eighty days may conceal some secret errand--perhaps a diplomatic mission?"
"Faith, Monsieur Fix, I assure you I know nothing about it, nor would I give half a crown to find out."
After this meeting, Passepartout and Fix got into the habit of chatting together, the latter making it a point to gain the worthy man's confidence. He frequently offered him a glass of whiskey or pale ale in the steamer bar-room, which Passepartout never failed to accept with graceful alacrity, mentally pronouncing Fix the best of good fellows.
Meanwhile the Mongolia was pushing forward rapidly; on the 13th, Mocha, surrounded by its ruined walls whereon date-trees were growing, was sighted, and on the mountains beyond were espied vast coffee-fields. Passepartout was ravished to behold this celebrated place, and thought that, with its circular walls and dismantled fort, it looked like an immense coffee-cup and saucer. The following night they passed through the Strait of Bab-el-Mandeb, which means in Arabic The Bridge of Tears, and the next day they put in at Steamer Point, north-west of Aden harbour, to take in coal. This matter of fuelling steamers is a serious one at such distances from the coal-mines; it costs the Peninsular Company some eight hundred thousand pounds a year. In these distant seas, coal is worth three or four pounds sterling a ton.
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