"That is nearer than I supposed," said Robur to Tom Turner.
"How far off are we?"
"Forty-six degrees south of X Island, or two thousand eight hundred miles."
"All the more reason to get our propellers into order," said the mate. "We may have the wind against us this passage, and with the little stores we have left we ought to get to X as soon as possible."
"Yes, Tom, and I hope to get under way tonight, even if I go with one screw, and put the other to-rights on the voyage."
"Mr. Robur," said Tom "What is to be done with those two gentlemen and their servant?"
"Do you think they would complain if they became colonists of X Island?"
But where was this X? It was an island lost in the immensity of the Pacific Ocean between the Equator and the Tropic of Cancer--an island most appropriately named by Robur in this algebraic fashion. It was in the north of the South Pacific, a long way out of the route of inter-oceanic communication. There it was that Robur had founded his little colony, and there the "Albatross" rested when tired with her flight. There she was provisioned for all her voyages. In X Island, Robur, a man of immense wealth, had established a shipyard in which he built his aeronef. There he could repair it, and even rebuild it. In his warehouses were materials and provisions of all sorts stored for the fifty inhabitants who lived on the island.
When Robur had doubled Cape Horn a few days before his intention had been to regain X Island by crossing the Pacific obliquely. But the cyclone had seized the "Albatross," and the hurricane had carried her away to the south. In fact, he had been brought back to much the same latitude as before, and if his propellers had not been damaged the delay would have been of no importance.
His object was therefore to get back to X Island, but as the mate had said, the voyage would be a long one, and the winds would probably be against them. The mechanical power of the "Albatross" was, however, quite equal to taking her to her destination, and under ordinary circumstances she would be there in three or four days.
Hence Robur's resolve to anchor on the Chatham Islands. There was every opportunity for repairing at least the fore-screw. He had no fear that if the wind were to rise he would be driven to the south instead of to the north. When night came the repairs would be finished, and he would have to maneuver so as to weigh anchor. If it were too firmly fixed in the rocks he could cut the cable and resume his flight towards the equator.
The crew of the "Albatross," knowing there was no time to lose, set to work vigorously.
While they were busy in the bow of the aeronef, Uncle Prudent and Phil Evans held a little conversation together which had exceptionally important consequences.
"Phil Evans," said Uncle Prudent, "you have resolved, as I have, to sacrifice your life?"
"Yes, like you."
"It is evident that we can expect nothing from Robur."
"Well, Phil Evans, I have made up my mind. If the "Albatross" leaves this place tonight, the night will not pass without our having accomplished our task. We will smash the wings of this bird of Robur's! This night I will blow it into the air!"
"The sooner the better," said Phil Evans.
It will be seen that the two colleagues were agreed on all points even in accepting with indifference the frightful death in store for them. "Have you all you want?" asked Evans.
"Yes. Last night, while Robur and his people had enough to do to look after the safety of the ship, I slipped into the magazine and got hold of a dynamite cartridge."
"Let us set to work, Uncle Prudent."
"No. Wait till tonight. When the night comes we will go into our cabin, and you shall see something that will surprise you."
At six o'clock the colleagues dined together as usual. Two hours afterwards they retired to their cabin like men who wished to make up for a sleepless night.
Neither Robur nor any of his companions had a suspicion Of the catastrophe that threatened the "Albatross."
This was Uncle Prudent's plan.