The polished gentleman disappeared to give place to the bank robber. His photograph, which was hung with those of the rest of the members of the Reform Club, was minutely examined, and it betrayed, feature by feature, the description of the robber which had been provided to the police. The mysterious habits of Phileas Fogg were recalled; his solitary ways, his sudden departure; and it seemed clear that, in undertaking a tour round the world on the pretext of a wager, he had had no other end in view than to elude the detectives, and throw them off his track.
In Which Fix, the Detective,Betrays a Very Natural Impatience
The circumstances under which this telegraphic despatch 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 horsepower, 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 the enterprise of M. Lesseps, a fast-growing town. One was the British consul at Suez, who, despite the prophecies of the English Government, and the unfavorable predictions of Stephenson, was in the habit of seeing, from his office window, English ships daily passing to and fro on the great canal, by which the old roundabout route from England to India by the Cape of Good Hope was cut by at least a half. The other was a small, slight-built person, with a nervous, intelligent face, and bright eyes peering out from under eyebrows which he was incessantly twitching. He was just now manifesting unmistakable signs of impatience, nervously pacing up and down, and unable to stand still for a moment. This was Fix, one of the detectives who had been despatched from England in search of the bank robber. It was his task to narrowly watch every passenger who arrived at Suez, and to follow up all who seemed to be suspicious characters, or bore a resemblance to the description of the criminal, which he had received two days before from the police headquarters at London. The detective was evidently inspired by the hope of obtaining the splendid reward which would be the prize of success, and awaited with a feverish impatience, easy to understand, the arrival of the steamer Mongolia.
"So you say, consul," he asked for the twentieth time, "that this steamer is never behind time?"
"No, Mr. Fix," replied the consul. "She was signaled yesterday at Port Said, and the rest of the way is of no account to such a craft. I repeat that the Mongolia has been in advance of the time required by the company's regulations, 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 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 recognize your man, even if he is on board the Mongolia."
"A man rather feels the presence of these fellows, consul, than recognizes 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.