The Tremendous Event by Maurice Leblanc

The Tremendous Event

subjects: Adventure Fiction, Science Fiction

Description

A classic novel blending romance, adventure, and science fiction, The Tremendous Event is sure to appeal to fans of LeBlanc’s detective fiction. The tremendous event of the 4th, of June, whose consequences affected the relations of the two great Western nations even more profoundly than did the war, has called forth, during the last fifty years, a constant efflorescence of books, memoirs and scientific studies of truthful reports and fabulous narratives.

Excerpt

“Oh, but this is terrible!” cried Simon Dubosc. “Edward, just listen!”

And the young Frenchman, drawing his friend away from the tables arranged in little groups on the terraces of the club-house, showed him, in the late edition of the Argus, which a motorcyclist had just brought to the New Golf Club, this telegram, printed in heavy type:

  "BOULOGNE, _20 May_.--The master and crew of a
  fishing-vessel which has returned to harbour declare
  that this morning, at a spot mid-way between the
  French and English coasts, they saw a large steamer
  lifted up by a gigantic waterspout. After standing on
  end with her whole length out of the water, she
  pitched forward and disappeared in the space of a few
  seconds.

  "Such violent eddies followed and the sea, until then
  quite calm, was affected by such abnormal convulsions
  that the fishermen had to row their hardest to avoid
  being dragged into the whirlpool. The naval
  authorities are sending a couple of tugs to the site
  of the disaster."

“Well, Rolleston, what do you think of it?”

“Terrible indeed!” replied the Englishman. “Two days ago, the Ville de Dunkerque. To-day another ship, and in the same place. There’s a coincidence about it. . . .”

“That’s precisely what a second telegram says,” exclaimed Simon, continuing to read:

  "3. O. P. M.--The steamer sunk between Folkestone and
  Boulogne is the transatlantic liner _Brabant_, of the
  Rotterdam-Amerika Co., carrying twelve hundred
  passengers and a crew of eight hundred. No survivors
  have been picked up. The bodies of the drowned are
  beginning to rise to the surface.

  "There is no doubt that this terrifying calamity, like
  the loss of the _Ville de Dunkerque_ two days ago, was
  caused by one of those mysterious phenomena which have
  been disturbing the Straits of Dover during the past
  week and in which a number of vessels were nearly
  lost, before the sinking of the _Brabant_ and the
  _Ville de Dunkerque_."

The two young men were silent. Leaning on the balustrade which runs along the terrace of the club-house, they gazed beyond the cliffs at the vast circle of the sea. It was peaceful and kindly innocent of anger or treachery; its near surface was crossed by fine streaks of green or yellow, while, farther out, it was flawless and blue as the sky and, farther still, beneath the motionless cloud, grey as a great sheet of slate.

But, above Brighton, the sun, already dipping towards the downs, shone through the clouds; and a luminous trail of gold-dust appeared upon the sea.

La perfide!” murmured Simon Dubosc. He understood English perfectly, but always spoke French with his friend. “The perfidious brute: how beautiful she is, how attractive! Would you ever have thought her capable of these malevolent whims, which are so destructive and murderous? Are you crossing to-night, Rolleston?”

“Yes, Newhaven to Dieppe.”

“You’ll be quite safe,” said Simon. “The sea has had her two wrecks; she’s sated. But why are you in such a hurry to go?”

“I have to interview a crew at Dieppe to-morrow morning; I am putting my yacht in commission. Then, in the afternoon, to Paris, I expect; and, in a week’s time, a cruise to Norway. And you, Simon?”

Simon Dubosc did not reply. He had turned toward the club-house, whose windows, in their borders of Virginia creeper and honeysuckle, were blazing with the sun. The players had left the links and were taking tea beneath great many-coloured sunshades planted on the lawn. The Argus was passing from hand to hand and arousing excited comments. Some of the tables were occupied by young men and women, others by their elders and others by old gentlemen who were recuperating their strength by devouring platefuls of cake and toast.

To the left, beyond the geranium-beds, the gentle undulations of the links began, covered with turf that was like green velvet; and right at the end, a long way off, rose the tall figure of a last player, escorted by his two caddies.

“Lord Bakefield’s daughter and her three friends can’t take their eyes off you,” said Rolleston.

Simon smiled:

“Miss Bakefield is looking at me because she knows I love her; and her three friends because they know I love Miss Bakefield. A man in love is always something to look at; a pleasant sight for the one who is loved and an irritating sight for those who are not.”

This was spoken without a trace of vanity. For that matter, no man could have possessed more natural charm or displayed a more alluring simplicity. The expression of his face, his blue eyes, his smile and something personal, an emanation compounded of strength and suppleness and healthy gaiety, of confidence in himself and in life, all contributed to give this peculiarly favoured young man a power of attraction to whose spell the onlooker readily surrendered.