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 honour, 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.
"Well," said the detective to himself, "as he is not an accomplice, he will help me."
He had no time to lose: Fogg must be detained at Hong Kong, so he resolved to make a clean breast of it.
"Listen to me," said Fix abruptly. "I am not, as you think, an agent of the members of the Reform Club--"
"Bah!" retorted Passepartout, with an air of raillery.
"I am a police detective, sent out here by the London office."
"You, a detective?"
"I will prove it. Here is my commission."
Passepartout was speechless with astonishment when Fix displayed this document, the genuineness of which could not be doubted.
"Mr. Fogg's wager," resumed Fix, "is only a pretext, of which you and the gentlemen of the Reform are dupes. He had a motive for securing your innocent complicity."
"Listen. On the 28th of last September a robbery of fifty-five thousand pounds was committed at the Bank of England by a person whose description was fortunately secured. Here is his description; it answers exactly to that of Mr. Phileas Fogg."
"What nonsense!" cried Passepartout, striking the table with his fist. "My master is the most honourable of men!"
"How can you tell? You know scarcely anything about him. You went into his service the day he came away; and he came away on a foolish pretext, without trunks, and carrying a large amount in banknotes. And yet you are bold enough to assert that he is an honest man!"
"Yes, yes," repeated the poor fellow, mechanically.