Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas – Day 143 of 165

Chapter 17: From Cape Horn to the Amazon

How I got onto the platform I’m unable to say. Perhaps the Canadian transferred me there. But I could breathe, I could inhale the life–giving sea air. Next to me my two companions were getting tipsy on the fresh oxygen particles. Poor souls who have suffered from long starvation mustn’t pounce heedlessly on the first food given them. We, on the other hand, didn’t have to practice such moderation: we could suck the atoms from the air by the lungful, and it was the breeze, the breeze itself, that poured into us this luxurious intoxication!

“Ahhh!” Conseil was putting in. “What fine oxygen! Let Master have no fears about breathing. There’s enough for everyone.”

As for Ned Land, he didn’t say a word, but his wide–open jaws would have scared off a shark. And what powerful inhalations! The Canadian “drew” like a furnace going full blast.

Our strength returned promptly, and when I looked around, I saw that we were alone on the platform. No crewmen. Not even Captain Nemo. Those strange seamen on the Nautilus were content with the oxygen circulating inside. Not one of them had come up to enjoy the open air.

The first words I pronounced were words of appreciation and gratitude to my two companions. Ned and Conseil had kept me alive during the final hours of our long death throes. But no expression of thanks could repay them fully for such devotion.

“Good lord, Professor,” Ned Land answered me, “don’t mention it! What did we do that’s so praiseworthy? Not a thing. It was a question of simple arithmetic. Your life is worth more than ours. So we had to save it.”

“No, Ned,” I replied, “it isn’t worth more. Nobody could be better than a kind and generous man like yourself!”

“All right, all right!” the Canadian repeated in embarrassment.

“And you, my gallant Conseil, you suffered a great deal.”

“Not too much, to be candid with Master. I was lacking a few throatfuls of air, but I would have gotten by. Besides, when I saw Master fainting, it left me without the slightest desire to breathe. It took my breath away, in a manner of . . .”

Confounded by this lapse into banality, Conseil left his sentence hanging.

“My friends,” I replied, very moved, “we’re bound to each other forever, and I’m deeply indebted to you—”

“Which I’ll take advantage of,” the Canadian shot back.

“Eh?” Conseil put in.

“Yes,” Ned Land went on. “You can repay your debt by coming with me when I leave this infernal Nautilus.”

“By the way,” Conseil said, “are we going in a favorable direction?”

“Yes,” I replied, “because we’re going in the direction of the sun, and here the sun is due north.”

“Sure,” Ned Land went on, “but it remains to be seen whether we’ll make for the Atlantic or the Pacific, in other words, whether we’ll end up in well–traveled or deserted seas.”

I had no reply to this, and I feared that Captain Nemo wouldn’t take us homeward but rather into that huge ocean washing the shores of both Asia and America. In this way he would complete his underwater tour of the world, going back to those seas where the Nautilus enjoyed the greatest freedom. But if we returned to the Pacific, far from every populated shore, what would happen to Ned Land’s plans?

We would soon settle this important point. The Nautilus traveled swiftly. Soon we had cleared the Antarctic Circle plus the promontory of Cape Horn. We were abreast of the tip of South America by March 31 at seven o’clock in the evening.

By then all our past sufferings were forgotten. The memory of that imprisonment under the ice faded from our minds. We had thoughts only of the future. Captain Nemo no longer appeared, neither in the lounge nor on the platform. The positions reported each day on the world map were put there by the chief officer, and they enabled me to determine the Nautilus’s exact heading. Now then, that evening it became obvious, much to my satisfaction, that we were returning north by the Atlantic route.

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