At the end of the library a large door, also shut, was opened by the engineer.
An immense saloon—a sort of museum, in which were heaped up, with all the treasures of the mineral world, works of art, marvels of industry— appeared before the eyes of the colonists, who almost thought themselves suddenly transported into a land of enchantment.
Stretched on a rich sofa they saw a man, who did not appear to notice their presence.
Then Harding raised his voice, and to the extreme surprise of his companions, he uttered these words,—
“Captain Nemo, you asked for us! We are here.—”
At these words the reclining figure rose, and the electric light fell upon his countenance; a magnificent head, the forehead high, the glance commanding, beard white, hair abundant and falling over the shoulders.
His hand rested upon the cushion of the divan from which he had just risen. He appeared perfectly calm. It was evident that his strength had been gradually undermined by illness, but his voice seemed yet powerful, as he said in English, and in a tone which evinced extreme surprise,—
“Sir, I have no name.”
“Nevertheless, I know you!” replied Cyrus Harding.
Captain Nemo fixed his penetrating gaze upon the engineer, as though he were about to annihilate him.
Then, falling back amid the pillows of the divan,—
“After all, what matters now?” he murmured; “I am dying!”
Cyrus Harding drew near the captain, and Gideon Spilett took his hand—it was of a feverish heat. Ayrton, Pencroft, Herbert, and Neb stood respectfully apart in an angle of the magnificent saloon, whose atmosphere was saturated with the electric fluid.
Meanwhile Captain Nemo withdrew his hand, and motioned the engineer and the reporter to be seated.
All regarded him with profound emotion. Before them they beheld that being whom they had styled the “genius of the island,” the powerful protector whose intervention, in so many circumstances, had been so efficacious, the benefactor to whom they owed such a debt of gratitude! Their eyes beheld a man only, and a man at the point of death, where Pencroft and Neb had expected to find an almost supernatural being!
But how happened it that Cyrus Harding had recognized Captain Nemo? why had the latter so suddenly risen on hearing this name uttered, a name which he had believed known to none?—
The captain had resumed his position on the divan, and leaning on his arm, he regarded the engineer, seated near him.
“You know the name I formerly bore, sir?” he asked.
“I do,” answered Cyrus Harding, “and also that of this wonderful submarine vessel—”
“The ’Nautilus’?” said the captain, with a faint smile.
“But do you—do you know who I am?”