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CHAPTER SUMMARY AND NOTES
After Fogg had made the decision to try and save the young woman, there was a lot left to consider. There remained the guide: what course would he adopt? Would he take part with the Indians? In default of his assistance, it was necessary to be assured of his neutrality. Sir Francis frankly put the question to him. "Officers," replied the guide, "I am a Parsee, and this woman is a Parsee. Command me, as you will." "Excellent!" said Mr. Fogg. "However," resumed the guide, "it is certain, not only that we shall risk our lives, but horrible tortures, if we are taken." "That is foreseen," replied Mr. Fogg. "I think we must wait till night before acting." "I think so," said the guide. Thus, the guide too appears to be a brave man with a heart enough for others in trouble.
The guide tells them about the woman being taken for suttee - she had received a thoroughly English education in that city, and, from her manners and intelligence, would be thought a European. Her name was Aouda. Hearing that she was being forced to commit suttee, Fogg and Cromarty are determined to save her. It was decided that the guide should direct the elephant towards the pagoda of Pillaji, which he accordingly approached as quickly as possible. They halted, half an hour afterwards, in a copse, some five hundred feet from the pagoda, where they were well concealed; but they could hear the groans and cries of the fakirs distinctly. They then discussed the means of getting at the victim.
They wondered if they could enter any of its doors while the whole party of Indians was plunged in a drunken sleep, or was it safer to attempt to make a hole in the walls? This could only be determined at the moment and the place themselves; so they decide to wait and then move towards the pagoda later in the night. Later, the Parsee, leading the others, noiselessly crept through the wood, and in ten minutes they found themselves on the banks of a small stream, whence, by the light of the rosin torches, they perceived a pyre of wood, on the top of which lay the embalmed body of the rajah, which was to be burned with his wife. The pagoda, whose minarets loomed above the trees in the deepening dusk, stood a hundred steps away.
The guide slipped more cautiously than ever through the brush, followed by his companions; the silence around was only broken by the low murmuring of the wind among the branches. Soon the Parsee stopped on the borders of the glade, which was lit up by the torches. The ground was covered by groups of the Indians, motionless in their drunken sleep; it seemed a battlefield strewn with the dead. Men, women, and children lay together. Verne is able to write in a way that excites the interest of the readers in the goings on. The guide comes across as a smart Indian. They see guards pacing up and down in front of Aouda’s room. According to the brigadier, the guards might drop off to sleep soon. But the guide says that, this was not possible. They lay down at the foot of a tree, and waited. The guards watched steadily by the glare of the torches, and a dim light crept through the windows of the pagoda. It remained to ascertain whether the priests were watching by the side of their victim as assiduously as were the soldiers at the door.
Since the guards do not move away, the group decides to make a hole at the back of the pagoda. Verne describes the night quite poetically - "The moon, on the wane, scarcely left the horizon, and was covered with heavy clouds; the height of the trees deepened the darkness." They are getting quite successful in boring a hole in the wall, when they hear a cry, which is followed by loud chaos. Had they been heard? Was the alarm being given? Common prudence urged them to retire, and they did so, followed by Phileas Fogg and Sir Francis. They again hid themselves in the wood, and waited till the disturbance, whatever it might be, ceased, holding themselves ready to resume their attempt without delay. But, awkwardly enough, the guards now appeared at the rear of the temple, and there installed themselves, in readiness to prevent a surprise.
They could not, now reach the victim; how, then, could they save her? Two people display typical human reactions and are disappointed whereas Fogg is as cool as ever. Sir Francis shook his fists, Passepartout was beside himself, and the guide gnashed his teeth with rage. The tranquil Fogg waited, without betraying any emotion. "We have nothing to do but to go away," whispered Sir Francis. ‘Nothing but to go away," echoed the guide. "Stop," said Fogg. "I am only due at Allahabad tomorrow before noon." "But what can you hope to do?" asked Sir Francis. "In a few hours it will be daylight, and--" "The chance which now seems lost may present itself at the last moment." Sir Francis would have liked to read Phileas Fogg’s eyes. What was this cool Englishman thinking of? Was he planning to make a rush for the young woman at the very moment of the sacrifice, and boldly snatch her from her executioners? Fogg surprises the reader by his uncharacteristically involved response. He insists that since he has time to spare, that they should wait till the last moment to see whether they can save Aouda. His concern and his spirit displays that despite his logical ways, he is also a human with an understanding and courageous heart. He is indeed the hero of the novel, not just because he undertakes a heroic exercise, such as going around the world, but because of the characteristics that make his noble personality.
In the meanwhile, Passepartout who had perched himself on the lower branches of a tree, was resolving an idea which had at first struck him like a flash, and which was now firmly lodged in his brain. He had commenced by saying to himself, "What folly!" and then he repeated, "Why not, after all? It’s a chance perhaps the only one; and with such sots!" Thinking thus, he slipped, with the suppleness of a serpent, to the lowest branches, the ends of which bent almost to the ground. Verne does not tell us what this comic man’s idea is but we shall soon see it for ourselves. Morning approaches soon and when Sir Francis and Fogg see Aouda struggling to get free from her executioners, both are very angry. Sir Francis’s heart throbbed; and, convulsively seizing Mr. Fogg’s hand found in it an open knife.
They join the last ranks of the priests in the procession towards the pyre. Aouda is laid down, by her husband and the pyre is lit. Fogg is about to make a dash for Aouda, when the guide and Sir Francis stop him. This is one of the few occasions, when Fogg acts impulsively, defying logic and practicality. But, we soon see that Fogg does not need to carry out his sacrifice, as the gathering is shocked suddenly by the ghost like figure of the rajah who seems to have gotten up and having picked up his wife, starts walking down. Fakirs and soldiers and priests, seized with instant terror, lay there, with their faces on the ground, not daring to lift their eyes and behold such a prodigy. The inanimate victim was borne along by the vigorous arms which supported her, and which she did not seem in the least to burden. Aouda of course is still quite unconscious and does not have any clue as to what is happening around her. It is the orthodox and superstitious nature of the Indians that proves to be their downfall eventually. They are scared by what seems to them to be the ghost of the rajah and let the figure walk away. They would have realized their folly there and then, had they looked up.
This figure soon addresses Fogg and the others in English and it is then that we realize that the specter is actually none other than Passepartout who, playing his part with a happy audacity, had passed through the crowd amid the general terror. Passepartout is the unquestioned hero of this chapter and it is because of his ingenuity that Fogg’s mission is completed and Aouda is saved. Fogg might have come up with the idea of rescuing the woman, but it is Passepartout who finally carries forth the rescue. It is a very interesting way to end the chapter and Verne definitely does not seem to lack any exciting ideas. By the time, the priests realize that an abduction has taken place, the English group is fleeing away on the elephant. The soldiers do fire at the fliers, but they manage to escape unharmed.