Table of Contents | Message Board | Downloadable/Printable Version
CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
The project of rescuing the girl was a bold one, full of difficulty. Mr. Fogg was going to risk liberty and the success of his tour. But he did not hesitate, and he found in Sir Francis Cromarty an enthusiastic ally. As for Passepartout, he was ready for anything that might be proposed. He began to perceive a heart, a soul, under his master’s icy exterior. He began to love Phileas Fogg.
The Indian guide too agreed to take part in the rescue willingly. He gave an account of the victim, who, he said, was a celebrated beauty of the Parsee race, and the daughter of a wealthy Bombay merchant. Left an orphan, she was married against her will to the old rajah of Bundelcund; and after he died, knowing the fate that awaited her, she tried to escape but was retaken. Now, she was being forced to commit a sacrifice that she did not want to.
The Parsee’s narrative confirmed Mr. Fogg and his companions in their generous design and they form a plan of action. The guide was familiar with the pagoda of Pillaji, in which, as he declared, the young woman was imprisoned. It was certain that the abduction must be made that night, and not when, at break of day, the victim was led to her funeral pyre. Then no human intervention could save her. As soon as night fell, they decided to make a reconnaissance around the pagoda. The cries of the fakirs were just ceasing; the Indians were in the act of plunging themselves into the drunkenness caused by liquid opium mingled with hemp, and it might be possible to slip between them to the temple itself. The Parsee leads the little group stealthily toward the pagoda. Much to the guide’s disappointment, the guards of the rajah, lighted by torches, were watching at the doors and marching around with swords; probably the priests, too, were watching within. The Parsee now convinced that it was impossible to force an entrance to the temple, advanced no farther, but led his companions back again. They stopped, and engaged in a whispered colloquy. They decide to wait and see whether the guards will sleep off.
They waited till midnight; but no change took place among the guards. The other plan must be carried out; an opening in the walls of the pagoda must be made. After a last consultation, the guide announced that he was ready for the attempt, and advanced, followed by the others. They took a roundabout way, so as to get at the pagoda on the rear. The night was very dark. It was not enough to reach the walls; an opening in them must be accomplished, and to attain this purpose the party only had their pocketknives. Luckily the temple walls were built of brick and wood, which could be penetrated with little difficulty; after one brick had been taken out, the rest would yield easily.
They set noiselessly to work. They were getting on rapidly, when suddenly a cry was heard in the interior of the temple, followed almost instantly by other cries replying from the outside. Passepartout and the guide stopped. The group hid in the woods and saw that guards came and stood at the rear of the temple too. The party was disappointed, having been interrupted in their work. The guide and Sir Francis feel that nothing can be done now but Fogg requests them to hold on till the morning to see whether they get a chance then. Sir Francis consented, however, to remain to the end of this terrible drama. The guide led them to the rear of the glade, where they were able to observe the sleeping groups. Meanwhile Passepartout is struck by an idea and he slips out.
The hours passed and day approached. The slumbering multitude became animated, the tambourines sounded, songs and cries arose; the hour of the sacrifice had come. The doors of the pagoda swung open and Mr. Fogg and Sir Francis espied the victim. She seemed to be striving to escape from her executioner. The crowd began to move and the fakirs escorted the young woman with their wild, religious cries. Phileas Fogg and his companions, mingling in the rear ranks of the crowd, followed; and reached the banks of the stream. The rajah’s corpse lay upon a pyre. In the semi-obscurity they saw the victim, quite senseless, stretched out beside her husband’s body. Then a torch was brought, and the wood, heavily soaked with oil, instantly took fire.
At this moment Sir Francis and the guide seized Phileas Fogg, who, in an instant of mad generosity, was about to rush upon the pyre. But he had quickly pushed them aside, when the whole scene suddenly changed. A cry of terror arose. The whole multitude prostrated themselves, terror-stricken, on the ground. The old rajah rose all of a sudden, like a ghost, took up his wife in his arms, and descended from the pyre in the midst of the clouds of smoke, which only heightened his ghostly appearance. Mr. Fogg and Sir Francis stood erect, the Parsee bowed his head, and Passepartout was, no doubt, scarcely less stupefied. The resuscitated rajah approached Sir Francis and Mr. Fogg, and, in an abrupt tone, said, "Let us be off!" It was Passepartout himself, who had slipped upon the pyre in the midst of the smoke and, profiting by the still overhanging darkness, had delivered the young woman from death!
Soon, all four of the party had run into the woods, and the elephant was bearing them away at a rapid pace. The cries and noise, and a ball, which whizzed through Phileas Fogg’s hat, apprised them that the trick had been discovered. The old rajah’s body, now appeared upon the burning pyre; and the priests, recovered from their terror, perceived that an abduction had taken place. The soldiers fired a volley after the fugitives; but the latter rapidly increased the distance between them and before long found themselves beyond the reach of the bullets and arrows.