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Chapter 58


CHAPTER 16

At these words the reclining figure rose, and the electric light fell upon
his countenance; a magnificent head, the forehead high, the glance
commanding, beard white, hair abundant and falling over the shoulders.

His hand rested upon the cushion of the divan from which he had just
risen. He appeared perfectly calm. It was evident that his strength had
been gradually undermined by illness, but his voice seemed yet powerful, as
he said in English, and in a tone which evinced extreme surprise,--

"Sir, I have no name."

"Nevertheless, I know you!" replied Cyrus Harding.

Captain Nemo fixed his penetrating gaze upon the engineer, as though he
were about to annihilate him.

Then, falling back amid the pillows of the divan,--

"After all, what matters now?" he murmured; "I am dying!"

Cyrus Harding drew near the captain, and Gideon Spilett took his hand--it
was of a feverish heat. Ayrton, Pencroft, Herbert, and Neb stood
respectfully apart in an angle of the magnificent saloon, whose atmosphere
was saturated with the electric fluid.

Meanwhile Captain Nemo withdrew his hand, and motioned the engineer and
the reporter to be seated.

All regarded him with profound emotion. Before them they beheld that
being whom they had styled the "genius of the island," the powerful
protector whose intervention, in so many circumstances, had been so
efficacious, the benefactor to whom they owed such a debt of gratitude!
Their eyes beheld a man only, and a man at the point of death, where
Pencroft and Neb had expected to find an almost supernatural being!

But how happened it that Cyrus Harding had recognized Captain Nemo? why
had the latter so suddenly risen on hearing this name uttered, a name which
he had believed known to none?--

The captain had resumed his position on the divan, and leaning on his
arm, he regarded the engineer, seated near him.

"You know the name I formerly bore, sir?" he asked.

"I do," answered Cyrus Harding, "and also that of this wonderful
submarine vessel--"

"The 'Nautilus'?" said the captain, with a faint smile.

"The 'Nautilus.'"

"But do you--do you know who I am?"

"I do."

"It is nevertheless many years since I have held any communication with
the inhabited world; three long years have I passed in the depth of the
sea, the only place where I have found liberty! Who then can have betrayed
my secret?"

"A man who was bound to you by no tie, Captain Nemo, and who,
consequently, cannot be accused of treachery."

"The Frenchman who was cast on board my vessel by chance sixteen years
since?"

"The same."

"He and his two companions did not then perish in the maelstrom, in the
midst of which the 'Nautilus' was struggling?"

"They escaped, and a book has appeared under the title of 'Twenty
Thousand Leagues Under the Sea,' which contains your history."

"The history of a few months only of my life!" interrupted the captain
impetuously.

"It is true," answered Cyrus Harding, "but a few months of that strange
life have sufficed to make you known."

"As a great criminal, doubtless!" said Captain Nemo, a haughty smile
curling his lips. "Yes, a rebel, perhaps an outlaw against humanity!"

The engineer was silent.

"Well, sir?"

"It is not for me to judge you, Captain Nemo," answered Cyrus Harding,
"at any rate as regards your past life. I am, with the rest of the world,
ignorant of the motives which induced you to adopt this strange mode of
existence, and I cannot judge of effects without knowing their causes; but
what I do know is, that a beneficent hand has constantly protected us since
our arrival on Lincoln Island, that we all owe our lives to a good,
generous, and powerful being, and that this being so powerful, good and
generous, Captain Nemo, is yourself!"

"It is I," answered the captain simply.

The engineer and the reporter rose. Their companions had drawn near, and
the gratitude with which their hearts were charged was about to express
itself in their gestures and words.

Captain Nemo stopped them by a sign, and in a voice which betrayed more
emotion than he doubtless intended to show.

"Wait till you have heard all," he said.

And the captain, in a few concise sentences, ran over the events of his
life.

His narrative was short, yet he was obliged to summon up his whole
remaining energy to arrive at the end. He was evidently contending against
extreme weakness. Several times Cyrus Harding entreated him to repose for a
while, but he shook his head as a man to whom the morrow may never come,
and when the reporter offered his assistance,--

"It is useless," he said; "my hours are numbered."

Captain Nemo was an Indian, the Prince Dakkar, son of a rajah of the then
independent territory of Bundelkund. His father sent him, when ten years of
age, to Europe, in order that he might receive an education in all respects
complete, and in the hopes that by his talents and knowledge he might one
day take a leading part in raising his long degraded and heathen country to
a level with the nations of Europe.

From the age of ten years to that of thirty Prince Dakkar, endowed by
Nature with her richest gifts of intellect, accumulated knowledge of every
kind, and in science, literature, and art his researches were extensive and
profound.

He traveled over the whole of Europe. His rank and fortune caused him to
be everywhere sought after; but the pleasures of the world had for him no
attractions. Though young and possessed of every personal advantage, he was
ever grave--somber even--devoured by an unquenchable thirst for knowledge,
and cherishing in the recesses of his heart the hope that he might become a
great and powerful ruler of a free and enlightened people.

Still, for long the love of science triumphed over all other feelings. He
became an artist deeply impressed by the marvels of art, a philosopher to
whom no one of the higher sciences was unknown, a statesman versed in the
policy of European courts. To the eyes of those who observed him
superficially he might have passed for one of those cosmopolitans, curious
of knowledge, but disdaining action; one of those opulent travelers,
haughty and cynical, who move incessantly from place to place, and are of
no country.

The history of Captain Nemo has, in fact, been published under the title
of "Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea." Here, therefore, will apply the
observation already made as to the adventures of Ayrton with regard to the
discrepancy of dates. Readers should therefore refer to the note already
published on this point.

This artist, this philosopher, this man was, however, still cherishing
the hope instilled into him from his earliest days.

Prince Dakkar returned to Bundelkund in the year 1849. He married a noble
Indian lady, who was imbued with an ambition not less ardent than that by
which he was inspired. Two children were born to them, whom they tenderly
loved. But domestic happiness did not prevent him from seeking to carry out
the object at which he aimed. He waited an opportunity. At length, as he
vainly fancied, it presented itself.

Instigated by princes equally ambitious and less sagacious and more
unscrupulous than he was, the people of India were persuaded that they
might successfully rise against their English rulers, who had brought them
out of a state of anarchy and constant warfare and misery, and had
established peace and prosperity in their country. Their ignorance and
gross superstition made them the facile tools of their designing chiefs.

In 1857 the great sepoy revolt broke out. Prince Dakkar, under the belief
that he should thereby have the opportunity of attaining the object of his
long-cherished ambition, was easily drawn into it. He forthwith devoted his
talents and wealth to the service of this cause. He aided it in person; he
fought in the front ranks; he risked his life equally with the humblest of
the wretched and misguided fanatics; he was ten times wounded in twenty
engagements, seeking death but finding it not, but at length the sanguinary
rebels were utterly defeated, and the atrocious mutiny was brought to an
end.

Never before had the British power in India been exposed to such danger,
and if, as they had hoped, the sepoys had received assistance from without,
the influence and supremacy in Asia of the United Kingdom would have been a
thing of the past.

The name of Prince Dakkar was at that time well known. He had fought
openly and without concealment. A price was set upon his head, but he
managed to escape from his pursuers.

Civilization never recedes; the law of necessity ever forces it onwards.
The sepoys were vanquished, and the land of the rajahs of old fell again
under the rule of England.

Prince Dakkar, unable to find that death he courted, returned to the
mountain fastnesses of Bundelkund. There, alone in the world, overcome by
disappointment at the destruction of all his vain hopes, a prey to profound
disgust for all human beings, filled with hatred of the civilized world, he
realized the wreck of his fortune, assembled some score of his most
faithful companions, and one day disappeared, leaving no trace behind.

Where, then, did he seek that liberty denied him upon the inhabited
earth? Under the waves, in the depths of the ocean, where none could
follow.

The warrior became the man of science. Upon a deserted island of the
Pacific he established his dockyard, and there a submarine vessel was
constructed from his designs. By methods which will at some future day be
revealed he had rendered subservient the illimitable forces of electricity,
which, extracted from inexhaustible sources, was employed for all the
requirements of his floating equipage, as a moving, lighting, and heating
agent. The sea, with its countless treasures, its myriads of fish, its
numberless wrecks, its enormous mammalia, and not only all that nature
supplied, but also all that man had lost in its depths, sufficed for every
want of the prince and his crew--and thus was his most ardent desire
accomplished, never again to hold communication with the earth. He named
his submarine vessel the "Nautilus," called himself simply Captain Nemo,
and disappeared beneath the seas.

During many years this strange being visited every ocean, from pole to
pole. Outcast of the inhabited earth in these unknown worlds he gathered
incalculable treasures. The millions lost in the Bay of Vigo, in 1702, by
the galleons of Spain, furnished him with a mine of inexhaustible riches
which he devoted always, anonymously, in favor of those nations who fought
for the independence of their country.

(This refers to the resurrection of the Candiotes, who were, in

fact, largely assisted by Captain Nemo.)

For long, however, he had held no communication with his fellow-
creatures, when, during the night of the 6th of November, 1866, three men
were cast on board his vessel. They were a French professor, his servant,
and a Canadian fisherman. These three men had been hurled overboard by a
collision which had taken place between the "Nautilus" and the United
States frigate "Abraham Lincoln," which had chased her.

Captain Nemo learned from this professor that the "Nautilus," taken now
for a gigantic mammal of the whale species, now for a submarine vessel
carrying a crew of pirates, was sought for in every sea.

He might have returned these three men to the ocean, from whence chance
had brought them in contact with his mysterious existence. Instead of doing
this he kept them prisoners, and during seven months they were enabled to
behold all the wonders of a voyage of twenty thousand leagues under the
sea.

One day, the 22nd of June, 1867, these three men, who knew nothing of the
past history of Captain Nemo, succeeded in escaping in one of the
"Nautilus's" boats. But as at this time the "Nautilus" was drawn into the
vortex of the maelstrom, off the coast of Norway, the captain naturally
believed that the fugitives, engulfed in that frightful whirlpool, found
their death at the bottom of the abyss. He was unaware that the Frenchman
and his two companions had been miraculously cast on shore, that the
fishermen of the Lofoten Islands had rendered them assistance, and that the
professor, on his return to France, had published that work in which seven
months of the strange and eventful navigation of the "Nautilus" were
narrated and exposed to the curiosity of the public.

For a long time alter this, Captain Nemo continued to live thus,
traversing every sea. But one by one his companions died, and found their
last resting-place in their cemetery of coral, in the bed of the Pacific.
At last Captain Nemo remained the solitary survivor of all those who had
taken refuge with him in the depths of the ocean.

He was now sixty years of age. Although alone, he succeeded in navigating
the "Nautilus" towards one of those submarine caverns which had sometimes
served him as a harbor.

One of these ports was hollowed beneath Lincoln Island, and at this
moment furnished an asylum to the "Nautilus."

The captain had now remained there six years, navigating the ocean no
longer, but awaiting death, and that moment when he should rejoin his
former companions, when by chance he observed the descent of the balloon
which carried the prisoners of the Confederates. Clad in his diving dress
he was walking beneath the water at a few cables' length from the shore of
the island, when the engineer had been thrown into the sea. Moved by a
feeling of compassion the captain saved Cyrus Harding.

His first impulse was to fly from the vicinity of the five castaways; but
his harbor refuge was closed, for in consequence of an elevation of the
basalt, produced by the influence of volcanic action, he could no longer
pass through the entrance of the vault. Though there was sufficient depth
of water to allow a light craft to pass the bar, there was not enough for
the "Nautilus," whose draught of water was considerable.

Captain Nemo was compelled, therefore, to remain. He observed these men
thrown without resources upon a desert island, but had no wish to be
himself discovered by them. By degrees he became interested in their
efforts when he saw them honest, energetic, and bound to each other by the
ties of friendship. As if despite his wishes, he penetrated all the secrets
of their existence. By means of the diving dress he could easily reach the
well in the interior of Granite House, and climbing by the projections of
rock to its upper orifice he heard the colonists as they recounted the
past, and studied the present and future. He learned from them the
tremendous conflict of America with America itself, for the abolition of
slavery. Yes, these men were worthy to reconcile Captain Nemo with that
humanity which they represented so nobly in the island.

Captain Nemo had saved Cyrus Harding. It was he also who had brought back
the dog to the Chimneys, who rescued Top from the waters of the lake, who
caused to fall at Flotsam Point the case containing so many things useful
to the colonists, who conveyed the canoe back into the stream of the Mercy,
who cast the cord from the top of Granite House at the time of the attack
by the baboons, who made known the presence of Ayrton upon Tabor Island, by
means of the document enclosed in the bottle, who caused the explosion of
the brig by the shock of a torpedo placed at the bottom of the canal, who
saved Herbert from certain death by bringing the sulphate of quinine; and
finally, it was he who had killed the convicts with the electric bails, of
which he possessed the secret, and which he employed in the chase of
submarine creatures. Thus were explained so many apparently supernatural
occurrences, and which all proved the generosity and power of the captain.

Nevertheless, this noble misanthrope longed to benefit his proteges still
further. There yet remained much useful advice to give them, and, his heart
being softened by the approach of death, he invited, as we are aware, the
colonists of Granite House to visit the "Nautilus," by means of a wire
which connected it with the corral. Possibly he would not have done this
had he been aware that Cyrus Harding was sufficiently acquainted with his
history to address him by the name of Nemo.

The captain concluded the narrative of his life. Cyrus Harding then
spoke; he recalled all the incidents which had exercised so beneficent an
influence upon the colony, and in the names of his companions and himself
thanked the generous being to whom they owed so much.

But Captain Nemo paid little attention; his mind appeared to be absorbed
by one idea, and without taking the proffered hand of the engineer,--

"Now, sir," said he, "now that you know my history, your judgment!"

In saying this, the captain evidently alluded to an important incident
witnessed by the three strangers thrown on board his vessel, and which the
French professor had related in his work, causing a profound and terrible
sensation. Some days previous to the flight of the professor and his two
companions, the "Nautilus," being chased by a frigate in the north of the
Atlantic had hurled herself as a ram upon this frigate, and sunk her
without mercy.

Cyrus Harding understood the captain's allusion, and was silent.

"It was an enemy's frigate," exclaimed Captain Nemo, transformed for an
instant into the Prince Dakkar, "an enemy's frigate! It was she who
attacked me--I was in a narrow and shallow bay--the frigate barred my way--
and I sank her!"

A few moments of silence ensued; then the captain demanded,--

"What think you of my life, gentlemen?"

Cyrus Harding extended his hand to the ci-devant prince and replied
gravely, "Sir, your error was in supposing that the past can be
resuscitated, and in contending against inevitable progress. It is one of
those errors which some admire, others blame; which God alone can judge. He
who is mistaken in an action which he sincerely believes to be right may be
an enemy, but retains our esteem. Your error is one that we may admire, and
your name has nothing to fear from the judgment of history, which does not
condemn heroic folly, but its results."

The old man's breast swelled with emotion, and raising his hand to
heaven,--

"Was I wrong, or in the right?" he murmured.

Cyrus Harding replied, "All great actions return to God, from whom they
are derived. Captain Nemo, we, whom you have succored, shall ever mourn
your loss."

Herbert, who had drawn near the captain, fell on his knees and kissed his
hand.

A tear glistened in the eyes of the dying man. "My child," he said, "may
God bless you!"


Jules Verne