CHAPTER 1: The Indian Ocean
But nothing binds us to Captain Nemo. He believes that escaping from
the Nautilus is impossible. We are not even constrained by our word
of honor. No promises fetter us. We're simply captives, prisoners
masquerading under the name "guests" for the sake of everyday courtesy.
Even so, Ned Land hasn't given up all hope of recovering his freedom.
He's sure to take advantage of the first chance that comes his way.
No doubt I will do likewise. And yet I will feel some regret at making
off with the Nautilus's secrets, so generously unveiled for us by
Captain Nemo! Because, ultimately, should we detest or admire this man?
Is he the persecutor or the persecuted? And in all honesty,
before I leave him forever, I want to finish this underwater
tour of the world, whose first stages have been so magnificent.
I want to observe the full series of these wonders gathered under
the seas of our globe. I want to see what no man has seen yet,
even if I must pay for this insatiable curiosity with my life!
What are my discoveries to date? Nothing, relatively speaking--
since so far we've covered only 6,000 leagues across the Pacific!
Nevertheless, I'm well aware that the Nautilus is drawing near
to populated shores, and if some chance for salvation becomes
available to us, it would be sheer cruelty to sacrifice my
companions to my passion for the unknown. I must go with them,
perhaps even guide them. But will this opportunity ever arise?
The human being, robbed of his free will, craves such an opportunity;
but the scientist, forever inquisitive, dreads it.
That day, January 21, 1868, the chief officer went at noon to take
the sun's altitude. I climbed onto the platform, lit a cigar,
and watched him at work. It seemed obvious to me that this man didn't
understand French, because I made several remarks in a loud voice
that were bound to provoke him to some involuntary show of interest
had he understood them; but he remained mute and emotionless.