That's a reason that would never have entered my head!"
"And then, my dear Paganel, you can gain the gold medal anyway. There is as much to be done, and sought, and investigated, and discovered in the Cordilleras as in the mountains of Thibet."
"But the course of the Yarou-Dzangbo-Tchou--what about that?"
"Go up the Rio Colorado instead. It is a river but little known, and its course on the map is marked out too much according to the fancy of geographers."
"I know it is, my dear Lord; they have made grave mistakes. Oh, I make no question that the Geographical Society would have sent me to Patagonia as soon as to India, if I had sent in a request to that effect. But I never thought of it."
"Just like you."
"Come, Monsieur Paganel, will you go with us?" asked Lady Helena, in her most winning tone.
"Madam, my mission?"
"We shall pass through the Straits of Magellan, I must tell you," said Lord Glenarvan.
"My Lord, you are a tempter."
"Let me add, that we shall visit Port Famine."
"Port Famine!" exclaimed the Frenchman, besieged on all sides. "That famous port in French annals!"
"Think, too, Monsieur Paganel, that by taking part in our enterprise, you will be linking France with Scotland."
"A geographer would be of much use to our expedition, and what can be nobler than to bring science to the service of humanity?"
"That's well said, madam."
"Take my advice, then, and yield to chance, or rather providence. Follow our example. It was providence that sent us the document, and we set out in consequence. The same providence brought you on board the DUNCAN. Don't leave her."
"Shall I say yes, my good friends? Come, now, tell me, you want me very much to stay, don't you?" said Paganel.
"And you're dying to stay, now, aren't you, Paganel?" returned Glenarvan.
"That's about it," confessed the learned geographer; "but I was afraid it would be inconsiderate."
CHAPTER IX THROUGH THE STRAITS OF MAGELLAN
THE joy on board was universal when Paganel's resolution was made known.
Little Robert flung himself on his neck in such tumultuous delight that he nearly threw the worthy secretary down, and made him say, "Rude _petit bonhomme_. I'll teach him geography."
Robert bade fair to be an accomplished gentleman some day, for John Mangles was to make a sailor of him, and the Major was to teach him _sang-froid_, and Glenarvan and Lady Helena were to instil into him courage and goodness and generosity, while Mary was to inspire him with gratitude toward such instructors.
The DUNCAN soon finished taking in coal, and turned her back on the dismal region. She fell in before long with the current from the coast of Brazil, and on the 7th of September entered the Southern hemisphere.
So far, then, the voyage had been made without difficulty. Everybody was full of hope, for in this search for Captain Grant, each day seemed to increase the probability of finding him. The captain was among the most confident on board, but his confidence mainly arose from the longing desire he had to see Miss Mary happy. He was smitten with quite a peculiar interest for this young girl, and managed to conceal his sentiments so well that everyone on board saw it except himself and Mary Grant.
As for the learned geographer, he was probably the happiest man in all the southern hemisphere. He spent the whole day in studying maps, which were spread out on the saloon table, to the great annoyance of M. Olbinett, who could never get the cloth laid for meals, without disputes on the subject. But all the passengers took his part except the Major, who was perfectly indifferent about geographical questions, especially at dinner-time. Paganel also came across a regular cargo of old books in the chief officer's chest. They were in a very damaged condition, but among them he raked out a few Spanish volumes, and determined forthwith to set to work to master the language of Cer-vantes, as no one on board understood it, and it would be helpful in their search along the Chilian coast.