"Why, we are prisoners!" exclaimed Passepartout, falling into a chair.
Aouda, with an emotion she tried to conceal, said to Mr. Fogg: "Sir, you must leave me to my fate! It is on my account that you receive this treatment. It is for having saved me!"
Phileas Fogg contented himself with saying that it was impossible. It was quite unlikely that he should be arrested for preventing a suttee. The complainants would not dare present themselves with such a charge. There was some mistake. Moreover, he would not, in any event, abandon Aouda, but would escort her to Hong Kong.
"But the steamer leaves at noon!" observed Passepartout, nervously.
"We shall be on board by noon," replied his master, placidly. It was said so positively that Passepartout could not help muttering to himself, "Parbleu that's certain! Before noon we shall be on board." But he was by no means reassured.
At half-past eight the door opened, the policeman appeared, and, requesting them to follow him, led the way to an adjoining hall. It was evidently a courtroom, and a crowd of Europeans and natives already occupied the rear of the apartment.
Mr. Fogg and his two companions took their places on a bench opposite the desks of the magistrate and his clerk. Immediately after, Judge Obadiah, a fat, round man, followed by the clerk, entered. He proceeded to take down a wig which was hanging on a nail, and put it hurriedly on his head.
"The first case," he said. Then, putting his hand to his head, he exclaimed, "Heh! This is not my wig!"
"No, your worship," returned the clerk, "it is mine."
"My dear Mr. Oysterpuff, how can a judge give a wise sentence in a clerk's wig?"
The wigs were exchanged.
Passepartout was getting nervous, for the hands on the face of the big clock over the judge seemed to go around with terrible rapidity.
"The first case," repeated Judge Obadiah.
"Phileas Fogg?" demanded Oysterpuff.
"I am here," replied Mr. Fogg.
"Present," responded Passepartout.
"Good," said the judge. "You have been looked for, prisoners, for two days on the trains from Bombay."
"But of what are we accused?" asked Passepartout, impatiently.
"You are about to be informed."
"I am an English subject, sir," said Mr. Fogg, "and I have the right -"
"Have you been ill-treated?"
"Not at all."
"Very well. Let the complainants come in."
A door was swung open by order of the judge, and three Indian priests entered.
"That's it," muttered Passepartout. "These are the rogues who were going to burn our young lady."
The priests took their places in front of the judge, and the clerk proceeded to read in a loud voice a complaint of sacrilege against Phileas Fogg and his servant, who were accused of having violated a place held consecrated by the Brahmin religion.
"You hear the charge?" asked the judge.
"Yes, sir," replied Mr. Fogg, consulting his watch, "and I admit it."
"You admit it?"
"I admit it, and I wish to hear these priests admit, in their turn, what they were going to do at the pagoda of Pillaji."
The priests looked at each other. They did not seem to understand what was said.
"Yes," cried Passepartout, warmly; "at the pagoda of Pillaji, where they were on the point of burning their victim."
The judge stared with astonishment, and the priests were stupefied.
"What victim?" said Judge Obadiah. "Burn whom? In Bombay itself?"
"Bombay?" cried Passepartout.
"Certainly. we are not talking of the pagoda of Pillaji, but of the pagoda of Malabar Hill, at Bombay."
"And as a proof," added the clerk, "here are the desecrator's very shoes, which he left behind him."
Whereupon he placed a pair of shoes on his desk.
"My shoes!" cried Passepartout, in his surprise permitting this imprudent exclamation to escape him.
The confusion of master and man, who had quite forgotten the affair at Bombay, for which they were now detained at Calcutta, may be imagined.
Fix, the detective, had foreseen the advantage which Passepartout's escapade gave him, and, delaying his departure for twelve hours, had consulted the priests of Malabar Hill.