CHAPTER 14: The Black Current
"Professor Aronnax, we're in longitude 137 degrees 15' west--"
"West of which meridian?" I asked quickly, hoping the captain's
reply might give me a clue to his nationality.
"Sir," he answered me, "I have chronometers variously set to the
meridians of Paris, Greenwich, and Washington, D.C. But in your honor,
I'll use the one for Paris."
This reply told me nothing. I bowed, and the commander went on:
"We're in longitude 137 degrees 15' west of the meridian of Paris,
and latitude 30 degrees 7' north, in other words, about 300 miles
from the shores of Japan. At noon on this day of November 8,
we hereby begin our voyage of exploration under the waters."
"May God be with us!" I replied.
"And now, professor," the captain added, "I'll leave you to your
intellectual pursuits. I've set our course east-northeast at a depth
of fifty meters. Here are some large-scale charts on which you'll
be able to follow that course. The lounge is at your disposal,
and with your permission, I'll take my leave."
Captain Nemo bowed. I was left to myself, lost in my thoughts.
They all centered on the Nautilus's commander. Would I ever learn
the nationality of this eccentric man who had boasted of having none?
His sworn hate for humanity, a hate that perhaps was bent
on some dreadful revenge--what had provoked it? Was he one of
those unappreciated scholars, one of those geniuses "embittered
by the world," as Conseil expressed it, a latter-day Galileo,
or maybe one of those men of science, like America's Commander Maury,
whose careers were ruined by political revolutions? I couldn't say yet.
As for me, whom fate had just brought aboard his vessel,
whose life he had held in the balance: he had received me coolly
but hospitably. Only, he never took the hand I extended to him.
He never extended his own.