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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
Jules Verne gives here a description of the ship’s journey and the people who were aboard. The greater part of the passengers from Brindisi were bound for India, some for Bombay, others for Calcutta by way of Bombay, the nearest route thither, now that a railway crosses the Indian peninsula. Verne’s knowledge of India too is diverse and is on display here. He writes - "Among the passengers were a number of officials and military officers of various grades, the latter being either attached to the regular British forces or commanding the Sepoy troops, and receiving high salaries ever since the central government has assumed the powers of the East India Company: for the sub-lieutenants get 280 pounds, brigadiers, 2,400 pounds, and generals of divisions, 4,000 pounds."
The journey on the Mongolia was quite enjoyable. The best of fare was spread upon the cabin tables at breakfast, lunch, dinner, and the eight o’clock supper, and the ladies scrupulously changed their toilets twice a day; and the hours were whirled away, when the sea was tranquil, with music, dancing, and games.
But the Red Sea is full of caprice, and often boisterous, like most long and narrow gulfs. When the wind came from the African or Asian coasts the Mongolia, with her long hull, rolled fearfully. Then the ladies speedily disappeared below; the pianos were silent; singing and dancing suddenly ceased. Yet the good ship continued straight on, unrestrained by wind or wave, towards the straits of Babel-Mandeb.
Verne adds a casual touch by actually asking the reader what we presume Mr. Fogg was doing all this time? The author adds that it might be thought that, in his anxiety, he would be constantly watching the changes of the wind, the disorderly raging of the billows--every chance, in short, which might force the Mongolia to slacken her speed, and thus interrupt his journey. But, if Fogg did think of these possibilities, he did not betray the fact by any outward sign.
Always the same impassible member of the Reform Club, whom no incident could ruffle, as unvarying as the ship’s chronometers, and seldom having the curiosity even to go upon the deck, he passed through the memorable scenes of the Red Sea with cold indifference. He did not care to recognize the historic towns and villages, which along its borders raised their picturesque outlines against the sky. He betrayed no fear of the dangers of the Arabic Gulf, which the old historians always spoke of with horror, and upon which the ancient navigators never ventured without propitiating the gods by ample sacrifices.
Fogg passed the time by playing whist. He played with a few companions who were as enthusiastic about the game of whist as he was himself - a tax collector, on the way to his post at Goa; the Rev. Decimus Smith, returning to his parish at Bombay; and a brigadier general of the English army, who was about to rejoin his brigade at Benares. They played whist by the hour together in absorbing silence.
Passepartout meets Fix on the Mongolia. He is pleasantly surprised at finding the gentleman who guided him at the Suez on board. Passepartout when he learns that Fix too is bound for Bombay, he questions him about India. Fix answers him with caution so as not to give his game away. Fix hints that perhaps Fogg’s tour may conceal some secret errand or a diplomatic mission. To this Passepartout replies, "Faith, Monsieur Fix, I assure you I know nothing about it, nor would I give half a crown to find out." After this conversation, Passepartout and Fix meet for many more such conversations. Fix humors the simple servant by treating him to drinks often. Passepartout never suspects that Fix is doing all this for a selfish reason and not for the sake of mere companionship.
On the 13 th , Mocha, surrounded by its ruined walls whereon date trees were growing, was sighted, and on the mountains beyond were espied vast coffee fields. Passepartout was ravished to behold this celebrated place, and thought that, with its circular walls and dismantled fort, it looked like an immense coffee cup and saucer. The following night they passed through the Strait of Babel Mandeb, which means in Arabic ‘ The Bridge of Tears’, and the next day they put in at Steamer Point, northwest of Aden harbor, to take in coal. This matter of fuelling steamers is a serious one at such distances from the coalmines; it costs the Peninsular Company some eight hundred thousand pounds a year. In these distant seas, coal is worth three or four pounds sterling a ton. Thus, Verne is able to provide realistic pictures of the journey that the ship transcribes.
Unlike Fogg, Passepartout takes keen interest in the scenes around him. He is a Frenchman with a taste for adventure. He gazed with wonder upon the fortifications of Aden, which make this place the Gibraltar of the Indian Ocean, and the vast cisterns where the English engineers were still at work, two thousand years after the engineers of Solomon.
"Very curious, very curious," said Passepartout to himself, on returning to the steamer. "I see that it is by no means useless to travel, if a man wants to see something new."
After the ship leaves Aden, the sea was favorable, the wind being in the northwest, and all sails aided the engine. The steamer manages to make it earlier to Bombay than expected. So far, Fogg seems to be on a winning spree. Not only does the ship reach two days earlier, Fogg also does well in the game of whist and wins a great deal of money. He seems to prove right the maxim that calmness and stability of mind lead to success. Fogg is undoubtedly the hero of the novel, but the question is that how long will his luck last.