In the afternoon, just as I issue from my cell with the firm intention of “obtaining an audience” of the Count d’Artigas, I catch sight of him coming along the shore of the lagoon towards the hive. Either he does not see me, or wishes to avoid me, for he quickens his steps and I am unable to catch him.
“Well, he will have to receive me, anyhow!” I mutter to myself.
I hurry up to the door through which he has just disappeared and which has closed behind him.
It is guarded by a gigantic, dark-skinned Malay, who orders me away in no amiable tone of voice.
I decline to comply with his injunction, and repeat to him twice the following request in my very best English:
“Tell the Count d’Artigas that I desire to be received immediately.”
I might just as well have addressed myself to the surrounding rock. This savage, no doubt, does not understand a word of English, for he scowls at me and orders me away again with a menacing cry.
I have a good mind to attempt to force the door and shout so that the Count d’Artigas cannot fail to hear me, but in all probability I shall only succeed in rousing the wrath of the Malay, who appears to be endowed with herculean strength. I therefore judge discretion to be the better part of valor, and put off the explanation that is owing to me—and which, sooner or later, I will have—to a more propitious occasion.
I meander off in front of the Beehive towards the east, and my thoughts revert to Thomas Roch. I am surprised that I have not seen him yet. Can he be in the throes of a fresh paroxysm?
This hypothesis is hardly admissible, for if the Count d’Artigas is to be believed, he would in this event have summoned me to attend to the inventor.
A little farther on I encounter Engineer Serko.
With his inviting manner and usual good-humor this ironical individual smiles when he perceives me, and does not seek to avoid me. If he knew I was a colleague, an engineer—providing he himself really is one—perhaps he might receive me with more cordiality than I have yet encountered, but I am not going to be such a fool as to tell him who and what I am.
He stops, with laughing eyes and mocking mouth, and accompanies a “Good day, how do you do?” with a gracious gesture of salutation.
I respond coldly to his politeness—a fact which he affects not to notice.
“May Saint Jonathan protect you, Mr. Gaydon!” he continues in his clear, ringing voice. “You are not, I presume, disposed to regret the fortunate circumstance by which you were permitted to visit this surpassingly marvellous cavern—and it really is one of the finest, although the least known on this spheroid.”
This word of a scientific language used in conversation with a simple hospital attendant surprises me, I admit, and I merely reply:
“I should have no reason to complain, Mr. Serko, if, after having had the pleasure of visiting this cavern, I were at liberty to quit it.”