The circumstances under which this telegraphic dispatch about Phileas Fogg was sent were as follows:
The steamer Mongolia, belonging to the Peninsular and Oriental Company, built of 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, at Suez. The Mongolia plied regularly between Brindisi and Bombay via the Suez Canal, and was one of the fastest steamers belonging to the company, always making more than ten knots an hour between Brindisi and Suez, and nine and a half between Suez and Bombay.
Two men were promenading up and down the wharves, among the crowd of natives and strangers who were sojourning at this once straggling village -- now, thanks to
"So you say, consul," asked he for the twentieth time, "that this steamer is never behind time?"
"No, Mr. Fix," replied the consul. "She was bespoken
"Does she come directly from Brindisi?"
"Directly from Brindisi; she takes on the Indian mails there, and she left there Saturday at five p.m. Have patience, Mr. Fix; she will not be late. But really, I don't see how, from the description you have, you will be able to recognise your man, even if he is on board the Mongolia."
"A man rather feels the presence of these fellows, consul, than recognises them. You must have a scent for them, and a scent is like a sixth sense which combines hearing, seeing, and smelling. I've arrested more than one of these gentlemen in my time, and, if my thief is on board, I'll answer for it; he'll not 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 often have such windfalls. Burglars are getting to be so contemptible nowadays! A fellow gets hung for a handful of shillings!"
"Mr. Fix," said the consul, "I like your way of talking, and hope you'll succeed; but I fear you will find it far from easy. Don't you see, the description which you have there has a singular resemblance to an honest man?"
"Consul," remarked the detective, dogmatically, "great
Mr. Fix evidently was not wanting in a tinge of self-conceit.
Little by little the scene on the quay became more animated; sailors of various nations, merchants, ship-brokers, porters, fellahs, bustled to and fro as if the steamer were immediately expected. The weather was clear, and slightly chilly. The minarets of the town loomed above the houses in the pale rays of the sun. A jetty pier, some two thousand yards along, extended into the roadstead. A number of fishing-smacks and coasting boats, some retaining the fantastic fashion of ancient galleys, were discernible on the Red Sea.
As he passed among the busy crowd, Fix, according to habit, scrutinised the passers-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
"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. He ought to know that he would not be safe an hour in India, which is English soil."
"Unless," objected the consul, "he is exceptionally shrewd. An English criminal, you know, is always better concealed in London than anywhere else."
This observation furnished the detective food for thought, and meanwhile the consul 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 had indeed left London intending to reach the New World, he would naturally take the route via India, which was less watched and more difficult to watch than that of the Atlantic. But Fix's reflections were soon interrupted by a succession of sharp whistles, which announced the arrival of the Mongolia. The porters and fellahs rushed down the quay, and a dozen boats pushed off from the shore to go and meet the steamer. Soon her gigantic hull appeared passing along between the banks, and eleven o'clock struck as she
Fix took up a position, and carefully examined each face and figure which made its appearance. Presently one of the passengers, after vigorously pushing his way through the importunate crowd of porters, came up to him and politely asked if he could point out the English consulate, at the same time showing a passport which he wished to have visaed. Fix instinctively took the passport, and with a rapid glance read the description of its bearer. An involuntary motion of surprise nearly escaped him, for the description in the passport was identical with that of the bank robber which he had received from Scotland Yard.
"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?"
"And where is the consulate?"
"There, on the corner of the square," said Fix, pointing to a house two hundred steps off.
"I'll go and fetch my master, who won't be much pleased, however, to be disturbed."
The passenger bowed to Fix, and returned to the steamer.