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.
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.
Staff, TheBestNotes. "TheBestNotes on Around the World in Eighty Days".
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