CHAPTER 19: The Gulf Stream
THIS DREADFUL SCENE on April 20 none of us will ever be able to forget.
I wrote it up in a state of intense excitement. Later I reviewed
my narrative. I read it to Conseil and the Canadian. They found it
accurate in detail but deficient in impact. To convey such sights,
it would take the pen of our most famous poet, Victor Hugo,
author of The Toilers of the Sea.
As I said, Captain Nemo wept while staring at the waves.
His grief was immense. This was the second companion he had
lost since we had come aboard. And what a way to die!
Smashed, strangled, crushed by the fearsome arms of a devilfish,
ground between its iron mandibles, this friend would never rest
with his companions in the placid waters of their coral cemetery!
As for me, what had harrowed my heart in the thick of this
struggle was the despairing yell given by this unfortunate man.
Forgetting his regulation language, this poor Frenchman had reverted
to speaking his own mother tongue to fling out one supreme plea!
Among the Nautilus's crew, allied body and soul with Captain Nemo and
likewise fleeing from human contact, I had found a fellow countryman!
Was he the only representative of France in this mysterious alliance,
obviously made up of individuals from different nationalities?
This was just one more of those insoluble problems that kept welling
up in my mind!
Captain Nemo reentered his stateroom, and I saw no more of him
for a good while. But how sad, despairing, and irresolute he must
have felt, to judge from this ship whose soul he was, which reflected
his every mood! The Nautilus no longer kept to a fixed heading.
It drifted back and forth, riding with the waves like a corpse.
Its propeller had been disentangled but was barely put to use.
It was navigating at random. It couldn't tear itself away from
the setting of this last struggle, from this sea that had devoured
one of its own!
Ten days went by in this way. It was only on May 1 that the Nautilus
openly resumed its northbound course, after raising the Bahamas at
the mouth of Old Bahama Channel. We then went with the current of the
sea's greatest river, which has its own banks, fish, and temperature.
I mean the Gulf Stream.