«AROUND THE WORLD IN EIGHTY DAYS BY JULES VERNE TRANSLATED BY GEORGE MAKEPEACE TOWLE 7^WYS`f7Taa]e f7 COPYRIGHT INFORMATION Book: Around the World ...»
Passepartout, joining the group, heard the signal-man say, “No! you can’t pass. The bridge at Medicine Bow is shaky, and would not bear the weight of the train.” This was a suspension-bridge thrown over some rapids, about a mile from the place where they now were. According to the signal-man, it was in a ruinous condition, several of the iron wires being broken; and it was impossible to risk the passage. He did not in any way exaggerate the condition of the bridge. It may be taken for granted that, rash as the Americans usually are, when they are prudent there is good reason for it.
Passepartout, not daring to apprise his master of what he heard, listened with set teeth, immovable as a statue.
“Hum!” cried Colonel Proctor; “but we are not going to stay here, I imagine, and take root in the snow?” “Colonel,” replied the conductor, “we have telegraphed to Omaha for a train, but it is not likely that it will reach Medicine Bow in less than six hours.” “Six hours!” cried Passepartout.
“Certainly,” returned the conductor. “Besides, it will take us as long as that to reach Medicine Bow on foot.” “But it is only a mile from here,” said one of the passengers.
“Yes, but it’s on the other side of the river.” “And can’t we cross that in a boat?” asked the colonel.
“That’s impossible. The creek is swelled by the rains. It is a rapid, and we shall have to make a circuit of ten miles to the north to find a ford.” The colonel launched a volley of oaths, denouncing the railway company and the conductor; and Passepartout, who was furious, was not disinclined to make common cause with him. Here was an obstacle, indeed, which all his master’s bank-notes could not remove.
There was a general disappointment among the passengers, who, without reckoning the delay, saw themselves compelled to trudge fifteen miles over a plain covered with snow. They grumbled and protested, and would certainly have thus attracted Phileas Fogg’s attention, if he had not been completely absorbed in his game.
Passepartout found that he could not avoid telling his master what had occurred, and, with hanging head he was turning towards the car, when the engineer—a true Yankee, named Forster—called out, “Gentlemen, perhaps there is a way, after all, to get over.” “On the bridge?” asked a passenger.
“On the bridge.” “With our train?” “With our train.” Passepartout stopped short, and eagerly listened to the engineer.
“But the bridge is unsafe,” urged the conductor.
“No matter,” replied Forster; “I think that by putting on the very highest speed we might have a chance of getting over.” “The devil!” muttered Passepartout.
But a number of the passengers were at once attracted by the engineer’s proposal, and Colonel Proctor was especially delighted, and found the plan a very feasible one.
He told stories about engineers leaping their trains over rivers without bridges, by putting on full steam; and many of those present avowed themselves of the engineer’s mind.
“We have fifty chances out of a hundred of getting over,” said one.
“Eighty! ninety!” Passepartout was astounded, and, though ready to attempt anything to get over Medicine Creek, thought the experiment proposed a little too American. “Besides,” thought he, “there’s a still more simple way, and it does not even occur to any of these people! Sir,” said he aloud to one of the passengers, “the engineer’s plan seems to me a little dangerous, but—” “Eighty chances!” replied the passenger, turning his back on him.
“I know it,” said Passepartout, turning to another passenger, “but a simple idea—” “Ideas are no use,” returned the American, shrugging his shoulders, “as the engineer assures us that we can pass.” “Doubtless,” urged Passepartout, “we can pass, but perhaps it would be more prudent—” “What! Prudent!” cried Colonel Proctor, whom this word seemed to excite prodigiously. “At full speed, don’t you see, at full speed!” “I know—I see,” repeated Passepartout; “but it would be, if not more prudent, since that word displeases you, at least more natural—” “Who! What! What’s the matter with this fellow?” cried several.
The poor fellow did not know to whom to address himself.
“Are you afraid?” asked Colonel Proctor.
“I afraid? Very well; I will show these people that a Frenchman can be as American as they!” “All aboard!” cried the conductor.
“Yes, all aboard!” repeated Passepartout, and immediately. “But they can’t prevent me from thinking that it would be more natural for us to cross the bridge on foot, and let the train come after!” But no one heard this sage reflection, nor would any one have acknowledged its justice. The passengers resumed their places in the cars. Passepartout took his seat without telling what had passed. The whist-players were quite absorbed in their game.
The locomotive whistled vigorously; the engineer, reversing the steam, backed the train for nearly a mile— retiring, like a jumper, in order to take a longer leap. Then, with another whistle, he began to move forward; the train increased its speed, and soon its rapidity became frightful; a prolonged screech issued from the locomotive; the piston worked up and down twenty strokes to the second. They perceived that the whole train, rushing on at the rate of a hundred miles an hour, hardly bore upon the rails at all.
And they passed over! It was like a flash. No one saw the bridge. The train leaped, so to speak, from one bank to the other, and the engineer could not stop it until it had gone five miles beyond the station. But scarcely had the train passed the river, when the bridge, completely ruined, fell with a crash into the rapids of Medicine Bow.
CHAPTER XXIXIn which certain incidents are narrated which are only to be met with on American railroads T HE train pursued its course, that evening, without interruption, passing Fort Saunders, crossing Cheyenne Pass, and reaching Evans Pass. The road here attained the highest elevation of the journey, eight thousand and ninety-one feet above the level of the sea. The travellers had now only to descend to the Atlantic by limitless plains, levelled by nature. A branch of the “grand trunk” led off southward to Denver, the capital of Colorado. The country round about is rich in gold and silver, and more than fifty thousand inhabitants are already settled there.
Thirteen hundred and eighty-two miles had been passed over from San Francisco, in three days and three nights; four days and nights more would probably bring them to New York. Phileas Fogg was not as yet behindhand.
During the night Camp Walbach was passed on the left;
Lodge Pole Creek ran parallel with the road, marking the boundary between the territories of Wyoming and Colorado.
They entered Nebraska at eleven, passed near Sedgwick, and touched at Julesburg, on the southern branch of the Platte River.
It was here that the Union Pacific Railroad was inaugurated on the 23rd of October, 1867, by the chief engineer, General Dodge. Two powerful locomotives, carrying nine cars of invited guests, amongst whom was Thomas C.
Durant, vice-president of the road, stopped at this point;
cheers were given, the Sioux and Pawnees performed an imitation Indian battle, fireworks were let off, and the first number of the Railway Pioneer was printed by a press brought on the train. Thus was celebrated the inauguration of this great railroad, a mighty instrument of progress and civilization, thrown across the desert, and destined to link together cities and towns which do not yet exist. The whistle of the locomotive, more powerful than Amphion’s lyre, was about to bid them rise from American soil.
Fort McPherson was left behind at eight in the morning, and three hundred and fifty-seven miles had yet to be traversed before reaching Omaha. The road followed the capricious windings of the southern branch of the Platte River, on its left bank. At nine the train stopped at the important town of North Platte, built between the two arms of the river, which rejoin each other around it and form a single artery,—a large tributary whose waters empty into the Missouri a little above Omaha.
The one hundred and first meridian was passed.
Mr. Fogg and his partners had resumed their game; no one—not even the dummy—complained of the length of the trip. Fix had begun by winning several guineas, which he seemed likely to lose; but he showed himself a not less eager whist-player than Mr. Fogg. During the morning, chance distinctly favoured that gentleman. Trumps and honours were showered upon his hands.
Once, having resolved on a bold stroke, he was on the point of playing a spade, when a voice behind him said, “I should play a diamond.” Mr. Fogg, Aouda, and Fix raised their heads, and beheld Colonel Proctor.
Stamp Proctor and Phileas Fogg recognized each other at once.
“Ah! it’s you, is it, Englishman?” cried the colonel; “it’s you who are going to play a spade!” “And who plays it,” replied Phileas Fogg coolly, throwing down the ten of spades.
“Well, it pleases me to have it diamonds,” replied Colonel Proctor, in an insolent tone.
He made a movement as if to seize the card which had just been played, adding, “You don’t understand anything about whist.” “Perhaps I do, as well as another,” said Phileas Fogg, rising.
“You have only to try, son of John Bull,” replied the colonel.
Aouda turned pale, and her blood ran cold. She seized Mr. Fogg’s arm and gently pulled him back. Passepartout was ready to pounce upon the American, who was staring insolently at his opponent. But Fix got up, and, going to Colonel Proctor said, “You forget that it is I with whom you have to deal, sir; for it was I whom you not only insulted, but struck!” “Mr. Fix,” said Mr. Fogg, “pardon me, but this affair is mine, and mine only. The colonel has again insulted me, by insisting that I should not play a spade, and he shall give me satisfaction for it.” “When and where you will,” replied the American, “and with whatever weapon you choose.” Aouda in vain attempted to retain Mr. Fogg; as vainly did the detective endeavour to make the quarrel his.
Passepartout wished to throw the colonel out of the window, but a sign from his master checked him. Phileas Fogg left the car, and the American followed him upon the platform.
“Sir,” said Mr. Fogg to his adversary, “I am in a great hurry to get back to Europe, and any delay whatever will be greatly to my disadvantage.” “Well, what’s that to me?” replied Colonel Proctor.
“Sir,” said Mr. Fogg, very politely, “after our meeting at San Francisco, I determined to return to America and find you as soon as I had completed the business which called me to England.” “Really!” “Will you appoint a meeting for six months hence?” “Why not ten years hence?” “I say six months,” returned Phileas Fogg, “and I shall be at the place of meeting promptly.” “All this is an evasion,” cried Stamp Proctor. “Now or never!” “Very good. You are going to New York?” “No.” “To Chicago?” “No.” “To Omaha?” “What difference is it to you? Do you know Plum Creek?” “No,” replied Mr. Fogg.
“It’s the next station. The train will be there in an hour, and will stop there ten minutes. In ten minutes several revolver-shots could be exchanged.” “Very well,” said Mr. Fogg. “I will stop at Plum Creek.” “And I guess you’ll stay there too,” added the American insolently.
“Who knows?” replied Mr. Fogg, returning to the car as coolly as usual. He began to reassure Aouda, telling her that blusterers were never to be feared, and begged Fix to be his second at the approaching duel, a request which the detective could not refuse. Mr. Fogg resumed the interrupted game with perfect calmness.
At eleven o’clock the locomotive’s whistle announced that they were approaching Plum Creek station. Mr. Fogg rose, and, followed by Fix, went out upon the platform.
Passepartout accompanied him, carrying a pair of revolvers.
Aouda remained in the car, as pale as death.
The door of the next car opened, and Colonel Proctor appeared on the platform, attended by a Yankee of his own stamp as his second. But just as the combatants were about to step from the train, the conductor hurried up, and shouted, “You can’t get off, gentlemen!” “Why not?” asked the colonel.
“We are twenty minutes late, and we shall not stop.” “But I am going to fight a duel with this gentleman.” “I am sorry,” said the conductor, “but we shall be off at once. There’s the bell ringing now.” The train started.
“I’m really very sorry, gentlemen,” said the conductor.
“Under any other circumstances I should have been happy to oblige you. But, after all, as you have not had time to fight here, why not fight as we go along?” “That wouldn’t be convenient, perhaps, for this gentleman,” said the colonel, in a jeering tone.
“It would be perfectly so,” replied Phileas Fogg.
“Well, we are really in America,” thought Passepartout, “and the conductor is a gentleman of the first order!” So muttering, he followed his master.
The two combatants, their seconds, and the conductor passed through the cars to the rear of the train. The last car was only occupied by a dozen passengers, whom the conductor politely asked if they would not be so kind as to leave it vacant for a few moments, as two gentlemen had an affair of honour to settle. The passengers granted the request with alacrity, and straightway disappeared on the platform.
The car, which was some fifty feet long, was very convenient for their purpose. The adversaries might march on each other in the aisle, and fire at their ease. Never was duel more easily arranged. Mr. Fogg and Colonel Proctor, each provided with two six-barrelled revolvers, entered the car. The seconds, remaining outside, shut them in. They were to begin firing at the first whistle of the locomotive. After an interval of two minutes, what remained of the two gentlemen would be taken from the car.