It passed gradually from the rich, to whom it was at first exclusively reserved, to the lower classes, and then its ravages could not be arrested. Opium is smoked everywhere, at all times, by men and women, in the Celestial Empire. Once accustomed to it, the victims cannot dispense with it, except by suffering horrible bodily contortions and agonies. A great smoker can smoke as many as eight pipes a day, but he dies in five years. It was in one of these dens that Fix and Passepartout, in search of a friendly glass, found themselves. Passepartout had no money, but willingly accepted Fix's invitation in the hope of returning the obligation at some future time.
They ordered two bottles of port, to which the Frenchman did ample justice, while Fix observed him with close attention. They chatted about the journey, and Passepartout was especially merry at the idea that Fix was going to continue it with them. When the bottles were empty, however, he rose to go and tell his master of the change in the time of the sailing of the Carnatic.
Fix caught him by the arm, and said, "Wait a moment."
"What for, Mr. Fix?"
"I want to have a serious talk with you."
"A serious talk!" cried Passepartout, drinking up the little wine that was left in the bottom of his glass. "Well, we'll talk about it tomorrow. I haven't time now."
"Stay! What I have to say concerns your master."
Passepartout, at this, looked attentively at his companion. Fix's face seemed to have a singular expression. He resumed his seat.
"What is it that you have to say?"
Fix placed his hand upon Passepartout's arm, and, lowering his voice, said, "You have guessed who I am?"
"Parbleu!" said Passepartout, smiling.
"Then I'm going to tell you everything -"
"Now that I know everything, my friend! Ah! that's very good. But go on, go on. First, though, let me tell you that those gentlemen have put themselves to a useless expense."
"Useless!" said Fix. "You speak confidently. It's clear that you don't know how large the sum is."
"Of course I do," returned Passepartout. "Twenty thousand pounds."
"Fifty-five thousand!" answered Fix, pressing his companion's hand.
"What!" cried the Frenchman. "Has Monsieur Fogg dared - fifty-five thousand pounds! Well, there's all the more reason for not losing an instant," he continued, getting up hastily.
Fix pushed Passepartout back in his chair, and resumed: "Fifty-five thousand pounds, and if I succeed, I get two thousand pounds. If you'll help me, I'll let you have five hundred of them."
"Help you?" cried Passepartout, whose eyes were standing wide open.
"Yes, help me keep Mr. Fogg here for two or three days."
"Why, what are you saying? Those gentlemen are not satisfied with following my master and suspecting his honor, but they must try to put obstacles in his way! I blush for them!"
"What do you mean?"
"I mean that it is a piece of shameful trickery. They might as well waylay Mr. Fogg and put his money in their pockets!""That's just what we count on doing."
"It's a conspiracy, then," cried Passepartout, who became more and more excited as the liquor mounted in his head, for he drank without perceiving it. "A real conspiracy! And gentlemen, too. Bah!"
Fix began to be puzzled.
"Members of the Reform Club!" continued Passepartout. "You must know, Monsieur Fix, that my master is an honest man, and that, when he makes a wager, he tries to win it fairly!"
"But who do you think I am?" asked Fix, looking at him intently.
"Parbleu! An agent of the members of the Reform Club, sent out here to interrupt my master's journey. But, though I found you out some time ago, I've taken good care to say nothing about it to Mr. Fogg."
"He knows nothing, then?"
"Nothing," replied Passepartout, again emptying his glass. The detective passed his hand across his forehead, hesitating before he spoke again. What should he do? Passepartout's mistake seemed sincere, but it made his design more difficult. It was evident that the servant was not the master's accomplice, as Fix had been inclined to suspect.