CHAPTER 21: A Mass Execution
THE WAY HE SAID THIS, the unexpectedness of this scene, first the
biography of this patriotic ship, then the excitement with which this
eccentric individual pronounced these last words--the name Avenger
whose significance could not escape me--all this, taken together,
had a profound impact on my mind. My eyes never left the captain.
Hands outstretched toward the sea, he contemplated the proud
wreck with blazing eyes. Perhaps I would never learn who he was,
where he came from or where he was heading, but more and more I
could see a distinction between the man and the scientist.
It was no ordinary misanthropy that kept Captain Nemo and his companions
sequestered inside the Nautilus's plating, but a hate so monstrous
or so sublime that the passing years could never weaken it.
Did this hate also hunger for vengeance? Time would soon tell.
Meanwhile the Nautilus rose slowly to the surface of the sea, and I
watched the Avenger's murky shape disappearing little by little.
Soon a gentle rolling told me that we were afloat in the open air.
Just then a hollow explosion was audible. I looked at the captain.
The captain did not stir.
"Captain?" I said.
He didn't reply.
I left him and climbed onto the platform. Conseil and the Canadian
were already there.
"What caused that explosion?" I asked.
"A cannon going off," Ned Land replied.
I stared in the direction of the ship I had spotted. It was heading
toward the Nautilus, and you could tell it had put on steam.
Six miles separated it from us.
"What sort of craft is it, Ned?"
"From its rigging and its low masts," the Canadian replied,
"I bet it's a warship. Here's hoping it pulls up and sinks this