As with every morning since he moved into Savile Row, Willy Fog awakens at 8:00 am and rings for his servant, only to remember that he fired him the previous day for his inability to follow Fog’s precise schedule. He has already arranged an interview for a replacement – former circus performer Rigodon, who is even now rushing towards Fog’s house to make his 11:00 am appointment. Rigodon is accompanied by his old circus colleague Tico, who hides within his travelling bag, and prompts him through the interview, which gets off to a bad start when Rigodon arrives four minutes late. Nonetheless, Rigodon is hired by Fog as his butler and soon departs for the Reform Club.
At the club, the main topic of conversation is the recent theft of £55,000 from the Bank of England which was discussed till the bank’s governor Mr. Sullivan arrives and requests a change of topic. Sullivan’s off-hand remark that the thief is still in London causes the elderly Lord Guinness to bring up an article in the Morning Chronicle, detailing how it is now possible to travel around the world in eighty days. The article states that one departs London by train for Dover, where one crosses to Calais, and on to Paris. From there, it is a train journey to Brindisi, and the Suez Canal, all within a week. Having rounded the Arabian peninsula, one would arrive in Bombay on day 20 and then a three-day railway journey to Calcutta. Hong Kong is reached on day 33, Yokohama on day 39, and then a mammoth three-week crossing of the Pacific to arrive in San Francisco on day 61, a week-long train crossing to New York City and then finally a nine-day crossing of the Atlantic back to London making it possible to circumnavigate the globe in eighty days. The other members of the club laugh at Lord Guinness’s suggestion that he would take on the challenge if he were younger, prompting Fog to defend his honor by taking up the task himself. Sullivan bets Fog £5,000 that it is impossible, and additional wagers by three other club members increase this amount to £20,000. He then stuns the club by announcing that he will leave that very evening and promises to return to the club by 8:45 pm on 21 December 1872.
Rigodon is less than thrilled to hear the news of their impending trip, having spent his life travelling with the circus. However, he dutifully accompanies his master as they set out, with Tico still in hiding. Little do they know, however, that they are pursued by three individuals determined to halt their progress. Inspector Dix and Constable Bully of Scotland Yard are convinced that Fog is the thief who robbed the Bank of England, and the wicked and conniving Transfer, a saboteur, was hired by Mr. Sullivan to impede Fog’s journey in any way.