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Title: From the Earth to the Moon, Direct in Ninety-Seven Hours and Twenty Minutes: and a Trip Round It
Author: Verne, Jules, 1828-1905
Language: English
As this book started as an ASCII text book there are no pictures available.
Copyright Status: Not copyrighted in the United States. If you live elsewhere check the laws of your country before downloading this ebook. See comments about copyright issues at end of book.

*** Start of this Doctrine Publishing Corporation Digital Book "From the Earth to the Moon, Direct in Ninety-Seven Hours and Twenty Minutes: and a Trip Round It" ***

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IN NINETY-SEVEN HOURS AND TWENTY MINUTES: AND A TRIP ROUND IT***


made available by Internet Archive (https://archive.org)



      Images of the original pages are available through
      Internet Archive. See
      https://archive.org/details/fromearthtomoond00vern



Illustration: Frontispiece. PROJECTILE TRAINS FOR THE MOON.


FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON, DIRECT IN NINETY-SEVEN HOURS
AND TWENTY MINUTES: AND A TRIP ROUND IT:

by

JULES VERNE,

Author of "A Journey to the Centre of the Earth."

Translated from the French by
Louis Mercier, M.A., (Oxon,) and Eleanor E. King.

With Eighty Full Page Illustrations.



New York:
Scribner, Armstrong & Company.
1874.


      *      *      *      *      *      *

_BY THE SAME AUTHOR._

------------------

A Journey to the Centre of the Earth.

With 53 Illustrations. One Vol. 12mo, $2.00.

      *      *      *      *      *      *



CONTENTS


FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON.

ROUND THE MOON.



CHAPTER I.

THE GUN CLUB


CHAPTER II.

PRESIDENT BARBICANE'S COMMUNICATION


CHAPTER III.

EFFECT OF THE PRESIDENT'S COMMUNICATION


CHAPTER IV.

REPLY FROM THE OBSERVATORY OF CAMBRIDGE


CHAPTER V.

THE ROMANCE OF THE MOON


CHAPTER VI.

THE PERMISSIVE LIMITS OF IGNORANCE AND BELIEF IN THE UNITED STATES


CHAPTER VII.

THE HYMN OF THE CANNON-BALL


CHAPTER VIII.

HISTORY OF THE CANNON


CHAPTER IX.

THE QUESTION OF THE POWDERS


CHAPTER X.

ONE ENEMY _v._ TWENTY-FIVE MILLIONS OF FRIENDS


CHAPTER XI.

FLORIDA AND TEXAS


CHAPTER XII.

URBI ET ORBI


CHAPTER XIII.

STONES HILL


CHAPTER XIV.

PICKAXE AND TROWEL


CHAPTER XV.

THE FÊTE OF THE CASTING


CHAPTER XVI.

THE COLUMBIAD


CHAPTER XVII.

A TELEGRAPHIC DESPATCH


CHAPTER XVIII.

THE PASSENGER OF THE "ATLANTA"


CHAPTER XIX.

A MONSTER MEETING


CHAPTER XX.

ATTACK AND RIPOSTE


CHAPTER XXI.

HOW A FRENCHMAN MANAGES AN AFFAIR


CHAPTER XXII.

THE NEW CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES


CHAPTER XXIII.

THE PROJECTILE-VEHICLE


CHAPTER XXIV.

THE TELESCOPE OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS


CHAPTER XXV.

FINAL DETAILS


CHAPTER XXVI.

FIRE!


CHAPTER XXVII.

FOUL WEATHER


CHAPTER XXVIII.

A NEW STAR



ROUND THE MOON


PRELIMINARY CHAPTER

RECAPITULATORY


CHAPTER I.

FROM TWENTY MINUTES PAST TEN TO FORTY-SEVEN MINUTES PAST TEN P.M.


CHAPTER II.

THE FIRST HALF-HOUR


CHAPTER III.

THEIR PLACE OF SHELTER


CHAPTER IV.

A LITTLE ALGEBRA


CHAPTER V.

THE COLD OF SPACE


CHAPTER VI.

QUESTION AND ANSWER


CHAPTER VII.

A MOMENT OF INTOXICATION


CHAPTER VIII.

AT SEVENTY-EIGHT THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED AND FOURTEEN LEAGUES


CHAPTER IX.

THE CONSEQUENCES OF A DEVIATION


CHAPTER X.

THE OBSERVERS OF THE MOON


CHAPTER XI.

FANCY AND REALITY


CHAPTER XII.

OROGRAPHIC DETAILS


CHAPTER XIII.

LUNAR LANDSCAPES


CHAPTER XIV.

THE NIGHT OF THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FOUR HOURS AND A HALF


CHAPTER XV.

HYPERBOLA OR PARABOLA


CHAPTER XVI.

THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE


CHAPTER XVII.

TYCHO


CHAPTER XVIII.

GRAVE QUESTIONS


CHAPTER XIX.

A STRUGGLE AGAINST THE IMPOSSIBLE


CHAPTER XX.

THE SOUNDINGS OF THE "SUSQUEHANNA"


CHAPTER XXI.

J. T. MASTON RECALLED


CHAPTER XXII.

RECOVERED FROM THE SEA


CHAPTER XXIII.

THE END


      ———

   FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON.

      ———

   ROUND THE MOON.



   LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.


 The Artillery-men of the Gun Club

 President Barbicane

 Meeting of the Gun Club

 The Torchlight Procession

 Cambridge Observatory

 The Moon's Disc

 Barbicane holds forth

 The Rodman Columbiad

 Cannon at Malta in the time of the Knights

 Ideal Sketch of J. T. Maston's Gun

 The invention of Gunpowder by the Monk Schwartz

 Captain Nicholl

 Nicholl published a number of Letters in the Newspapers

 It became necessary to keep an eye upon the Deputies

 The Subscription was opened

 The Manufactory at Coldspring, near New York

 Tampa Town, previous to the undertaking

 They were compelled to ford several Rivers

 The Work progressed regularly

 The Casting

 Tampa Town, after the undertaking

 The Banquet in the Columbiad

 President Barbicane at his Window

 Michel Ardan

 The Meeting

 Projectile Trains for the Moon

 Attack and Riposte

 The Platform was suddenly carried away

 Maston burst into the Room

 In the midst of this Snare was a poor little Bird

 "Go with me, and see whether we are stopped on our journey"

 The Cat taken out of the Shell

 The Arrival of the Projectile at Stones Hill

 J. T. Maston had grown fat

 The Telescope of the Rocky Mountains

 The Interior of the Projectile

 An innumerable Multitude covered the Prairie round Stones Hill

 Fire!!

 Effect of the Explosion

 The Director at his Post

 The Gas caught fire

 Diana and Satellite

 The courageous Frenchman

 They raised Barbicane

 It was an enormous Disc

 They gave her a pie

 The Sun chose to be of the party

 Ardan plunged his hand rapidly into certain mysterious boxes

 "Do I understand it?" cried Ardan; "my head is splitting with it".

 Satellite was thrown out

 It was the Body of Satellite

 "I could have ventured out on the top of the Projectile"

 They struck up a frantic dance

 "The Oxygen!" he exclaimed

 "Ah! if Raphael had seen us thus"

 The Telescope at Parsonstown

 How many people have heard speak of the Moon!

 "This plain would then be nothing but an immense Cemetery"

 "What Giant Oxen!"

 He could distinguish nothing but Desert Beds

 "It is the fault of the Moon"

 Nothing could equal the splendour of this starry world

 "The vapour of our breath will fall in snow around us"

 A Discussion arose

 A Prey to frightful Terror

 What a sight!

 "The Sun!"

 "Light and Heat; all Life is contained in them"

 He distinguished all this

 Can you picture to yourselves

 A violent Contraction of the Lunar Crust

 Around the Projectile were the Objects which had been thrown out

 "These practical people have sometimes most inopportune ideas"

 Ardan applied the lighted Match

 "I fancy I see them"

 A few feet nearer

 The unfortunate man had disappeared

 The Descent began

 "White all, Barbicane"

 The Apotheosis was worthy of the three Heroes



   FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON.


       ———



   CHAPTER I.

   THE GUN CLUB.


During the War of the Rebellion, a new and influential club was
established in the city of Baltimore in the State of Maryland. It is well
known with what energy the taste for military matters became developed
amongst that nation of ship-owners, shopkeepers, and mechanics. Simple
tradesmen jumped their counters to become extemporized captains, colonels,
and generals, without having ever passed the School of Instruction at
West Point: nevertheless, they quickly rivalled their compeers of the
old continent, and, like them, carried off victories by dint of lavish
expenditure in ammunition, money, and men.

But the point in which the Americans singularly distanced the Europeans
was in the science of _gunnery._ Not, indeed, that their weapons retained
a higher degree of perfection than theirs, but that they exhibited
unheard-of dimensions, and consequently attained hitherto unheard-of
ranges. In point of grazing, plunging, oblique, or enfilading, or
point-blank firing, the English, French, and Prussians have nothing to
learn; but their cannon, howitzers, and mortars are mere pocket-pistols
compared with the formidable engines of the American artillery.

This fact need surprise no one. The Yankees, the first mechanicians in
the world, are engineers—just as the Italians are musicians and the
Germans metaphysicians—by right of birth. Nothing is more natural,
therefore, than to perceive them applying their audacious ingenuity to
the science of gunnery. Witness the marvels of Parrott, Dahlgren, and
Rodman. The Armstrong, Palliser, and Beaulieu guns were compelled to bow
before their transatlantic rivals.

Now when an American has an idea, he directly seeks a second American to
share it. If there be three, they elect a president and two secretaries.
Given _four,_ they name a keeper of records, and the office is ready
for work; _five,_ they convene a general meeting, and the club is fully
constituted. So things were managed in Baltimore. The inventor of a new
cannon associated himself with the caster and the borer. Thus was formed
the nucleus of the "Gun Club." In a single month after its formation it
numbered 1833 effective members and 30,565 corresponding members.

One condition was imposed as a _sine qua non_ upon every candidate for
admission into the association, and that was the condition of having
designed, or (more or less) perfected a cannon; or, in default of a
cannon, at least a firearm of some description. It may, however, be
mentioned that mere inventions of revolvers, five-shooting carbines,
and similar small arms, met with but little consideration. Artillerists
always commanded the chief place of favour.

The estimation in which these gentlemen were held, according to one
of the most scientific exponents of the Gun Club, was "proportional to
the masses of their guns, and in the direct ratio of the square of the
distances attained by their projectiles."

The Gun Club once founded, it is easy to conceive the result of the
inventive genius of the Americans. Their military weapons attained colossal
proportions, and their projectiles, exceeding the prescribed limits,
unfortunately occasionally cut in two some unoffending pedestrians.
These inventions, in fact, left far in the rear the timid instruments of
European artillery.

It is but fair to add that these Yankees, brave as they have ever proved
themselves to be, did not confine themselves to theories and formulæ,
but that they paid heavily, in _propriâ personâ,_ for their inventions.
Amongst them were to be counted officers of all ranks, from lieutenants
to generals; military men of every age, from those who were just making
their _début_ in the profession of arms up to those who had grown old on
the gun-carriage. Many had found their rest on the field of battle whose
names figured in the "Book of Honour" of the Gun Club; and of those who
made good their return the greater proportion bore the marks of their
indisputable valour. Crutches, wooden legs, artificial arms, steel hooks,
caoutchouc jaws, silver craniums, platinum noses, were all to be found in
the collection; and it was calculated by the great statistician Pitcairn
that throughout the Gun Club there was not quite one arm between four
persons and exactly two legs between six.

Nevertheless, these valiant artillerists took no particular account of
these little facts, and felt justly proud when the despatches of a battle
returned the number of victims at tenfold the quantity of the projectiles
expended.

One day, however—sad and melancholy day!—peace was signed between
the survivors of the war; the thunder of the guns gradually ceased,
the mortars were silent, the howitzers were muzzled for an indefinite
period, the cannon, with muzzles depressed, were returned into the
arsenal, the shot were repiled, all bloody reminiscences were effaced;
the cotton-plants grew luxuriantly in the well-manured fields, all
mourning garments were laid aside, together with grief; and the Gun Club
was relegated to profound inactivity.

Some few of the more advanced and inveterate theorists set themselves
again to work upon calculations regarding the laws of projectiles. They
reverted invariably to gigantic shells and howitzers of unparalleled
calibre. Still, in default of practical experience what was the value
of mere theories? Consequently, the club-rooms became deserted, the
servants dozed in the antechambers, the newspapers grew mouldy on the
tables, sounds of snoring came from dark corners, and the members of the
Gun Club, erstwhile so noisy in their seances, were reduced to silence
by this disastrous peace and gave themselves up wholly to dreams of a
Platonic kind of artillery.

"This is horrible!" said Tom Hunter one evening, while rapidly carbonizing
his wooden legs in the fireplace of the smoking-room; "nothing to do!
nothing to look forward to! what a loathsome existence! When again shall
the guns arouse us in the morning with their delightful reports?"

"Those days are gone by," said jolly Bilsby, trying to extend his missing
arms. "It was delightful once upon a time! One invented a gun, and hardly
was it cast, when one hastened to try it in the face of the enemy! Then
one returned to camp with a word of encouragement from Sherman or a
friendly shake of the hand from M'Clellan. But now the generals are gone
back to their counters; and in place of projectiles, they despatch bales
of cotton. By Jove, the future of gunnery in America is lost!"

"Ay! and no war in prospect!" continued the famous James T. Maston,
scratching with his steel hook his gutta-percha cranium. "Not a cloud in
the horizon! and that too at such a critical period in the progress of
the science of artillery! Yes, gentlemen! I who address you have myself
this very morning perfected a model (plan, section, elevation, &c.) of
a mortar destined to change all the conditions of warfare!"

"No! is it possible?" replied Tom Hunter, his thoughts reverting
involuntarily to a former invention of the Hon. J. T. Maston, by which,
at its first trial, he had succeeded in killing three hundred and
thirty-seven people.


Illustration: THE ARTILLERY MEN OF THE GUN CLUB.


"Fact!" replied he. "Still, what is the use of so many studies worked
out, so many difficulties vanquished? It's mere waste of time! The New
World seems to have made up its mind to live in peace; and our bellicose
_Tribune_ predicts some approaching catastrophes arising out of this
scandalous increase of population."

"Nevertheless," replied Colonel Blomsberry, "they are always struggling
in Europe to maintain the principle of nationalities."

"Well?"

"Well, there might be some field for enterprise down there; and if they
would accept our services—"

"What are you dreaming of?" screamed Bilsby; "work at gunnery for the
benefit of foreigners?"

"That would be better than doing nothing here," returned the colonel.

"Quite so," said J. T. Maston; "but still we need not dream of that
expedient."

"And why not?" demanded the colonel.

"Because their ideas of progress in the Old World are contrary to our
American habits of thought. Those fellows believe that one can't become
a general without having served first as an ensign; which is as much as
to say that one can't point a gun without having first cast it oneself!"

"Ridiculous!" replied Tom Hunter, whittling with his bowie-knife the arms
of his easy-chair; "but if that be the case there, all that is left for
us is to plant tobacco and distil whale-oil."

"What!" roared J. T. Maston, "shall we not employ these remaining
years of our life in perfecting fire-arms? Shall there never be a fresh
opportunity of trying the ranges of projectiles? Shall the air never again
be lighted with the glare of our guns? No international difficulty ever
arise to enable us to declare war against some transatlantic power? Shall
not the French sink one of our steamers, or the English, in defiance of
the rights of nations, hang a few of our countrymen?"

"No such luck," replied Colonel Blomsberry; "nothing of the kind is likely
to happen; and even if it did, we should not profit by it. American
susceptibility is fast declining, and we are all going to the dogs."

"It is too true," replied J. T. Maston, with fresh violence; "there are
a thousand grounds for fighting, and yet we don't fight. We save up our
arms and legs for the benefit of nations who don't know what to do with
them! But stop—without going out of one's way to find a cause for
war—did not North America once belong to the English?"

"Undoubtedly," replied Tom Hunter, stamping his crutch with fury.

"Well then," replied J. T. Maston, "why should not England in her turn
belong to the Americans?"

"It would be but just and fair," returned Colonel Blomsberry.

"Go and propose it to the President of the United States," cried J. T.
Maston, "and see how he will receive you."

"Bah!" growled Bilsby between the four teeth which the war had left him;
"that will never do!"

"By Jove!" cried J. T. Maston, "he mustn't count on my vote at the next
election!"

"Nor on ours," replied unanimously all the bellicose invalids.

"Meanwhile," replied J. T. M., "allow me to say that, if I cannot get an
opportunity to try my new mortars on a real field of battle, I shall say
good-bye to the members of the Gun Club, and go and bury myself in the
prairies of Arkansas!"

"In that case we will accompany you," cried the others.

Matters were in this unfortunate condition, and the club was threatened
with approaching dissolution, when an unexpected circumstance occurred
to prevent so deplorable a catastrophe.

On the morrow after this conversation every member of the association
received a sealed circular couched in the following terms:—

   "BALTIMORE, _Oct._ 3.

   "The President of the Gun Club has the honour to inform his colleagues
   that, at the meeting of the 5th instant, he will bring before them
   a communication of an extremely interesting nature. He requests,
   therefore, that they will make it convenient to attend in accordance
   with the present invitation.—Very cordially,

   Impey Barbicane, P.G.C."



   CHAPTER II.

   PRESIDENT BARBICANE'S COMMUNICATION.


On the 5th of October, at 8 p.m., a dense crowd pressed towards the
saloons of the Gun Club at No. 21, Union Square. All the members of
the association resident in Baltimore attended the invitation of their
president. As regards the corresponding members, notices were delivered
by hundreds throughout the streets of the city, and, large as was the
great hall, it was quite inadequate to accommodate the crowd of _savants_.
They overflowed into the adjoining rooms, down the narrow passages, into
the outer courtyards. There they ran against the vulgar herd who pressed
up to the doors, each struggling to reach the front ranks, all eager to
learn the nature of the important communication of President Barbicane;
all pushing, squeezing, crushing with that perfect freedom of action which
is peculiar to the masses when educated in ideas of "self-government."

On that evening a stranger who might have chanced to be in Baltimore
could not have gained admission for love or money into the great hall.
That was reserved exclusively for resident or corresponding members; no
one else could possibly have obtained a place; and the city magnates,
municipal councillors, and "select men" were compelled to mingle with the
mere townspeople in order to catch stray bits of news from the interior.

Nevertheless the vast hall presented a curious spectacle. Its immense
area was singularly adapted to the purpose. Lofty pillars formed of
cannon, superposed upon huge mortars as a base, supported the fine
ironwork of the arches, a perfect piece of cast-iron lacework. Trophies
of blunderbuses, matchlocks, arquebuses, carbines, all kinds of fire-arms,
ancient and modern, were picturesquely interlaced against the walls.
The gas lit up in full glare myriads of revolvers grouped in the form
of lustres, whilst groups of pistols, and candelabra formed of muskets
bound together, completed this magnificent display of brilliance. Models
of cannon, bronze castings, sights covered with dents, plates battered by
the shots of the Gun Club, assortments of rammers and sponges, chaplets
of shells, wreaths of projectiles, garlands of howitzers—in short, all
the apparatus of the artillerist, enchanted the eye by this wonderful
arrangement and induced a kind of belief that their real purpose was
ornamental rather than deadly.

At the further end of the saloon the president, assisted by four
secretaries, occupied a large platform. His chair, supported by a carved
gun-carriage, was modelled upon the ponderous proportions of a 32-inch
mortar. It was pointed at an angle of ninety degrees, and suspended upon
trunnions, so that the president could balance himself upon it as upon
a rocking-chair, a very agreeable fact in the very hot weather. Upon the
table (a huge iron plate supported upon six carronnades) stood an inkstand
of exquisite elegance, made of a beautifully chased Spanish piece, and a
sonnette, which, when required, could give forth a report equal to that
of a revolver. During violent debates this novel kind of bell scarcely
sufficed to drown the clamour of these excitable artillerists.

In front of the table benches arranged in zigzag form, like the
circumvallations of a retrenchment, formed a succession of bastions and
curtains set apart for the use of the members of the club; and on this
especial evening one might say, "All the world was on the ramparts." The
president was sufficiently well known, however, for all to be assured
that he would not put his colleagues to discomfort without some very
strong motive.

Impey Barbicane was a man of forty years of age, calm, cold, austere;
of a singularly serious and self-contained demeanour, punctual as a
chronometer, of imperturbable temper and immovable character; by no means
chivalrous, yet adventurous withal, and always bringing practical ideas
to bear upon the very rashest enterprises; an essentially New-Englander,
a Northern colonist, a descendant of the old anti-Stuart Roundheads,
and the implacable enemy of the gentlemen of the South, those ancient
Cavaliers of the mother-country. In a word, he was a Yankee to the
backbone.

Barbicane had made a large fortune as a timber-merchant. Being nominated
Director of Artillery during the war, he proved himself fertile in
invention. Bold in his conceptions, he contributed powerfully to
the progress of that arm and gave an immense impetus to experimental
researches.

He was a personage of the middle height, having, by a rare exception
in the Gun Club, all his limbs complete. His strongly-marked features
seemed drawn by square and rule; and if it be true that, in order to
judge of a man's character one must look at his profile, Barbicane, so
examined, exhibited the most certain indications of energy, audacity,
and _sang-froid._

At this moment he was sitting in his armchair, silent, absorbed, lost in
reflection, sheltered under his high-crowned hat—a kind of black silk
cylinder which always seems firmly screwed upon the head of an American.

Just when the deep-toned clock in the great hall struck eight, Barbicane,
as if he had been set in motion by a spring, raised himself up. A profound
silence ensued, and the speaker, in a somewhat emphatic tone of voice,
commenced as follows:—

"My brave colleagues, too long already a paralyzing peace has plunged
the members of the Gun Club in deplorable inactivity. After a period of
years full of incidents we have been compelled to abandon our labours,
and to stop short on the road of progress. I do not hesitate to state,
boldly, that any war which should recall us to arms would be welcome!"
(_Tremendous applause!_)


Illustration: PRESIDENT BARBICANE.


"But war, gentlemen, is impossible under existing circumstances; and,
however we may desire it, many years may elapse before our cannon shall
again thunder in the field of battle. We must make up our minds, then,
to seek in another train of ideas some field for the activity which we
all pine for."

The meeting felt that the president was now approaching the critical
point, and redoubled their attention accordingly.

"For some months past, my brave colleagues," continued Barbicane, "I
have been asking myself whether, while confining ourselves to our own
particular objects, we could not enter upon some grand experiment worthy
of the nineteenth century; and whether the progress of artillery science
would not enable us to carry it out to a successful issue. I have been
considering, working, calculating; and the result of my studies is the
conviction that we are safe to succeed in an enterprise which to any
other country would appear wholly impracticable. This project, the result
of long elaboration, is the object of my present communication. It is
worthy of yourselves, worthy of the antecedents of the Gun Club; and it
cannot fail to make some noise in the world."

A thrill of excitement ran through the meeting.

Barbicane, having by a rapid movement firmly fixed his hat upon his head,
calmly continued his harangue:—

"There is no one among you, my brave colleagues, who has not seen _the
Moon,_ or, at least, heard speak of it. Don't be surprised if I am about
to discourse to you regarding this Queen of the Night. It is perhaps
reserved for us to become the Columbuses of this unknown world. Only enter
into my plans, and second me with all your power, and I will lead you
to its conquest, and its name shall be added to those of the thirty-six
States which compose this Great Union."

"Three cheers for the Moon!" roared the Gun Club, with one voice.

"The moon, gentlemen, has been carefully studied," continued Barbicane;
"her mass, density, and weight; her constitution, motions, distance, as
well as her place in the solar system, have all been exactly determined.
Selenographic charts have been constructed with a perfection which equals,
if it does not even surpass, that of our terrestrial maps. Photography
has given us proofs of the incomparable beauty of our satellite; in short,
all is known regarding the moon which mathematical science, astronomy,
geology, and optics can learn about her. But up to the present moment no
direct communication has been established with her."

A violent movement of interest and surprise here greeted this remark of
the speaker.

"Permit me," he continued, "to recount to you briefly how certain ardent
spirits, starting on imaginary journeys, have penetrated the secrets
of our satellite. In the seventeenth century a certain David Fabricius
boasted of having seen with his own eyes the inhabitants of the moon. In
1649 a Frenchman, one Jean Baudoin, published a 'Journey performed from
the Earth to the Moon by Domingo Gonzalez,' a Spanish Adventurer. At
the same period Cyrano de Bergerac published that celebrated 'Journeys
in the Moon' which met with such success in France. Somewhat later
another Frenchman, named Fontenelle, wrote 'The Plurality of Worlds,'
a _chef-d'œuvre_ of its time. About 1835 a small treatise, translated
from the _New York American_, related how Sir John Herschell, having
been despatched to the Cape of Good Hope for the purpose of making there
some astronomical calculations, had, by means of a telescope brought to
perfection by means of internal lighting, reduced the apparent distance of
the moon to eighty yards! He then distinctly perceived caverns frequented
by hippopotami, green mountains bordered by golden lace-work, sheep with
horns of ivory, a white species of deer and inhabitants with membranous
wings, like bats. This _brochure,_ the work of an American named Locke,
had a great sale. But, to bring this rapid sketch to a close, I will
only add that a certain Hans Pfaal, of Rotterdam, launching himself in
a balloon filled with a gas extracted from nitrogen, thirty-seven times
lighter than hydrogen, reached the moon after a passage of nineteen
hours. This journey, like all the previous ones, was purely imaginary;
still, it was the work of a popular American author—I mean Edgar Poe!"


Illustration: MEETING OF THE GUN CLUB.


"Cheers for Edgar Poe!" roared the assemblage, electrified by their
president's words.

"I have now enumerated," said Barbicane, "the experiments which I
call purely paper ones, and wholly insufficient to establish serious
relations with the Queen of Night. Nevertheless, I am bound to add that
some practical geniuses have attempted to establish actual communication
with her. Thus, a few years ago, a German geometrician proposed to
send a scientific expedition to the steppes of Siberia. There, on those
vast plains, they were to describe enormous geometric figures, drawn
in characters of reflecting luminosity, amongst which was the prop.
regarding the 'square of the hypothenuse,' commonly called the '_Ass's
bridge_' by the French. 'Every intelligent being,' said the geometrician,
'must understand the scientific meaning of that figure. The Selenites, do
they exist, will respond by a similar figure; and, a communication being
thus once established, it will be easy to form an alphabet which shall
enable us to converse with the inhabitants of the moon.' So spoke the
German geometrician; but his project was never put into practice, and up
to the present day there is no bond in existence between the earth and
her satellite. It is reserved for the practical genius of Americans to
establish a communication with the sidereal world. The means of arriving
thither are simple, easy, certain, infallible—and that is the purpose
of my present proposal."

A storm of acclamations greeted these words. There was not a single
person in the whole audience who was not overcome, carried away, lifted
out of himself by the speaker's words!

Long continued applause resounded from all sides.

As soon as the excitement had partially subsided, Barbicane resumed his
speech in a somewhat graver voice.

"You know," said he, "what progress artillery science has made during
the last few years, and what a degree of perfection firearms of every
kind have reached. Moreover, you are well aware that, in general terms,
the resisting power of cannon and the expansive force of gunpowder are
practically unlimited. Well! starting from this principle, I ask myself
whether, supposing sufficient apparatus could be obtained constructed
upon the conditions of ascertained resistance, it might not be possible
to project a shot up to the moon?"

At these words a murmur of amazement escaped from a thousand panting
chests; then succeeded a moment of perfect silence, resembling that
profound stillness which precedes the bursting of a thunderstorm. In
point of fact, a thunderstorm did peal forth, but it was the thunder of
applause, of cries, and of uproar which made the very hall tremble. The
president attempted to speak, but could not. It was fully ten minutes
before he could make himself heard.

"Suffer me to finish," he calmly continued. "I have looked at the
question in all its bearings, I have resolutely attacked it, and by
incontrovertible calculations I find that a projectile endowed with an
initial velocity of 12,000 yards per second, and aimed at the moon, must
necessarily reach it. I have the honour, my brave colleagues, to propose
a trial of this little experiment."



   CHAPTER III.

   EFFECT OF THE PRESIDENT'S COMMUNICATION.


It is impossible to describe the effect produced by the last words of
the honorable president—the cries, the shouts, the succession of roars,
hurrahs, and all the varied vociferations which the American language
is capable of supplying. It was a scene of indescribable confusion and
uproar. They shouted, they clapped, they stamped on the floor of the
hall. All the weapons in the museum discharged at once could not have more
violently set in motion the waves of sound. One need not be surprised at
this. There are some cannoneers nearly as noisy as their
own guns.

Barbicane remained calm in the midst of this enthusiastic clamour; perhaps
he was desirous of addressing a few more words to his colleagues, for by
his gestures he demanded silence, and his powerful alarum was worn out
by its violent reports. No attention, however, was paid to his request.
He was presently torn from his seat and passed from the hands of his
faithful colleagues into the arms of a no less excited crowd.

Nothing can astound an American. It has often been asserted that the word
"impossible" is not a French one. People have evidently been deceived
by the dictionary. In America, all is easy, all is simple; and as for
mechanical difficulties, they are overcome before they arise. Between
Barbicane's proposition and its realization no true Yankee would have
allowed even the semblance of a difficulty to be possible. A thing with
them is no sooner said than done.

The triumphal progress of the president continued throughout the evening.
It was a regular torchlight procession. Irish, Germans, French, Scotch,
all the heterogeneous units which make up the population of Maryland
shouted in their respective vernaculars; and the "vivas," "hurrahs," and
"bravos" were intermingled in inexpressible enthusiasm.

Just at this crisis, as though she comprehended all this agitation
regarding herself, the Moon shone forth with serene splendour, eclipsing
by her intense illumination all the surrounding lights. The Yankees
all turned their gaze towards her resplendent orb, kissed their hands,
called her by all kinds of endearing names. Between eight o'clock and
midnight one optician in Jones'-Fall Street made his fortune by the sale
of opera-glasses.

Midnight arrived, and the enthusiasm showed no signs of diminution.
It spread equally among all classes of citizens—men of science,
shopkeepers, merchants, porters, chair-men, as well as "greenhorns,"
were stirred in their innermost fibres. A national enterprise was at
stake. The whole city, high and low, the quays bordering the Patapsco,
the ships lying in the basins, disgorged a crowd drunk with joy, gin,
and whisky. Every one chattered, argued, discussed, disputed, applauded,
from the gentleman lounging upon the barroom settee with his tumbler of
sherry-cobbler before him down to the waterman who got drunk upon his
"knock-me-down" in the dingy taverns of Fell Point.

About 2 a.m., however, the excitement began to subside. President
Barbicane reached his house, bruised, crushed, and squeezed almost
to a mummy. A Hercules could not have resisted a similar outbreak of
enthusiasm. The crowd gradually deserted the squares and streets. The
four railways from Philadelphia and Washington, Harrisburg and Wheeling,
which converge at Baltimore, whirled away the heterogeneous population
to the four corners of the United States, and the city subsided into
comparative tranquillity.


Illustration: THE TORCHLIGHT PROCESSION.


On the following day, thanks to the telegraphic wires, five hundred
newspapers and journals, daily, weekly, monthly, or bi-monthly, all
took up the question. They examined it under all its different aspects,
physical, meteorological, economical, or moral, up to its bearings on
politics or civilization. They debated whether the moon was a finished
world, or whether it was destined to undergo any further transformation.
Did it resemble the earth at the period when the latter was destitute as
yet of an atmosphere? What kind of spectacle would its hidden hemisphere
present to our terrestrial spheroid? Granting that the question at
present was simply that of sending a projectile up to the moon, every one
must see that that involved the commencement of a series of experiments.
All must hope that some day America would penetrate the deepest secrets
of that mysterious orb; and some even seemed to fear lest its conquest
should not sensibly derange the equilibrium of Europe.

The project once under discussion, not a single paragraph suggested a doubt
of its realization. All the papers, pamphlets, reports—all the journals
published by the scientific, literary, and religious societies enlarged
upon its advantages; and the Society of Natural History of Boston, the
Society of Science and Art of Albany, the Geographical and Statistical
Society of New York, the Philosophical Society of Philadelphia, and the
Smithsonian of Washington sent innumerable letters of congratulation to
the Gun Club, together with offers of immediate assistance and money.

From that day forward Impey Barbicane became one of the greatest citizens
of the United States, a kind of Washington of Science. A single trait of
feeling, taken from many others, will serve to show the point which this
homage of a whole people to a single individual attained.

Some few days after this memorable meeting of the Gun Club, the manager
of an English company announced, at the Baltimore theatre, the production
of "Much ado about Nothing." But the populace, seeing in that title an
allusion damaging to Barbicane's project, broke into the auditorium,
smashed the benches, and compelled the unlucky director to alter his
playbill. Being a sensible man, he bowed to the public will and replaced
the offending comedy by "As you like it;" and for many weeks he realized
fabulous profits.


Illustration: CAMBRIDGE OBSERVATORY.



   CHAPTER IV.

   REPLY FROM THE OBSERVATORY OF CAMBRIDGE.


Barbicane, however, lost not one moment amidst all the enthusiasm of which
he had become the object. His first care was to reassemble his colleagues
in the board-room of the Gun Club. There, after some discussion, it was
agreed to consult the astronomers regarding the astronomical part of the
enterprize. Their reply once ascertained, they could then discuss the
mechanical means, and nothing should be wanting to ensure the success of
this great experiment.

A note couched in precise terms, containing special interrogatories,
was then drawn up and addressed to the Observatory of Cambridge in
Massachusetts. This city, where the first University of the United States
was founded, is justly celebrated for its astronomical staff. There are
to be found assembled all the most eminent men of science. Here is to
be seen at work that powerful telescope which enabled Bond to resolve
the nebula of Andromeda, and Clarke to discover the satellite of Sirius.
This celebrated institution fully justified on all points the confidence
reposed in it by the Gun Club.

So, after two days, the reply so impatiently awaited was placed in the
hands of President Barbicane.

It was couched in the following terms:—

"_The Director of the Cambridge Observatory to the President of the Gun
Club at Baltimore._

"CAMBRIDGE, _Oct._ 7.

"On the receipt of your favour of the 6th inst., addressed to the
Observatory of Cambridge in the name of the Members of the Baltimore
Gun Club, our staff was immediately called together, and it was judged
expedient to reply as follows:—

"The questions which have been proposed to it are these,—

"'1. Is it possible to transmit a projectile up to the moon?

"'2. What is the exact distance which separates the earth from its
satellite?

"'3. What will be the period of transit of the projectile when endowed
with sufficient initial velocity? and, consequently, at what moment ought
it to be discharged in order that it may touch the moon at a particular
point?

"'4. At what precise moment will the moon present herself in the most
favourable position to be reached by the projectile?

"'5. What point in the heavens ought the cannon to be aimed at which is
intended to discharge the projectile?

"'6. What place will the moon occupy in the heavens at the moment of the
projectile's departure?'

"Regarding the _first_ question, 'Is it possible to transmit a projectile
up to the moon?'

"_Answer_.—Yes; provided it possess an initial velocity of 1200 yards
per second; calculations prove that to be sufficient. In proportion as
we recede from the earth the action of gravitation diminishes in the
inverse ratio of the square of the distance; that is to say, _at three
times a given distance the action is nine times less._ Consequently, the
weight of a shot will decrease, and will become reduced to zero at the
instant that the attraction of the moon exactly counterpoises that of
the earth; that is to say, at 47/52 of its passage. At that instant the
projectile will have no weight whatever; and, if it passes that point,
it will fall into the moon by the sole effect of the lunar attraction.
The _theoretical possibility_ of the experiment is therefore absolutely
demonstrated; its success must depend upon the power of the engine
employed.

"As to the _second question_, 'What is the exact distance which separates
the earth from its satellite?'

"_Answer._—The moon does not describe a circle round the earth, but
rather an _ellipse_, of which our earth occupies one of the _foci;_ the
consequence, therefore, is, that at certain times it approaches nearer
to, and at others it recedes farther from, the earth; in astronomical
language, it is at one time in _apogee_, at another in _perigee._ Now the
difference between its greatest and its least distance is too considerable
to be left out of consideration. In point of fact, in its apogee the moon
is 247,552 miles, and in its perigee, 218,657 miles only distant; a fact
which makes a difference of 28,895 miles, or more than one ninth of the
entire distance. The perigee distance, therefore, is that which ought to
serve as the basis of all calculations.

"To the _third_ question:—

"_Answer._—If the shot should preserve continuously its initial velocity
of 12,000 yards per second, it would require little more than nine
hours to reach its destination; but, inasmuch as that initial velocity
will be continually decreasing, it results that, taking everything into
consideration, it will occupy 300,000 seconds, that is 83hrs. 20m. in
reaching the point where the attraction of the earth and moon will be
_in equilibrio._ From this point it will fall into the moon in 50,000
seconds, or 13hrs. 53m. 20sec. It will be desirable, therefore, to
discharge it 97hrs. 13m. 20sec. before the arrival of the moon at the
point aimed at.

"Regarding question _four_, 'At what precise moment will the moon present
herself in the most favourable position, &c.?'

"_Answer_.—After what has been said above, it will be necessary, first
of all, to choose the period when the moon will be in perigee, and also
the moment when she will be crossing the zenith, which latter event will
further diminish the entire distance by a length equal to the radius of
the earth, i.e. 3919 miles; the result of which will be that the final
passage remaining to be accomplished will be 214,976 miles. But although
the moon passes her perigee every month, she does not reach the zenith
always at _exactly the same moment._ She does not appear under these two
conditions simultaneously, except at long intervals of time. It will be
necessary, therefore, to wait for the moment when her passage in perigee
shall coincide with that in the zenith. Now, by a fortunate circumstance,
on the 4th December in the ensuing year the moon _will_ present these two
conditions. At midnight she will be in perigee, that is, at her shortest
distance from the earth, and at the same moment she will be crossing the
zenith.

"On the _fifth_ question, 'At what point in the heavens ought the cannon
to be aimed?'

"_Answer_.—The preceding remarks being admitted, the cannon ought to
be pointed to the zenith of the place. Its fire, therefore, will be
perpendicular to the plane of the horizon; and the projectile will soonest
pass beyond the range of the terrestrial attraction. But, in order that
the moon should reach the zenith of a given place, it is necessary that
the place should not exceed in latitude the declination of the luminary;
in other words, it must be comprised within the degrees 0° and 28° of
lat. N. or S. In every other spot the fire must necessarily be oblique,
which would seriously militate against the success of the experiment.

"As to the _sixth_ question, 'What place will the moon occupy in the
heavens at the moment of the projectile's departure?'

"_Answer_.—At the moment when the projectile shall be discharged
into space, the moon, which travels daily forward 13° 10' 35", will be
distant from the zenith point by four times that quantity, i.e. by 52°
42' 20", a space which corresponds to the path which she will describe
during the entire journey of the projectile. But, inasmuch as it is
equally necessary to take into account the deviation which the rotary
motion of the earth will impart to the shot, and as the shot cannot reach
the moon until after a deviation equal to 16 radii of the earth, which,
calculated upon the moon's orbit, are equal to about eleven degrees, it
becomes necessary to add these eleven degrees to those which express the
retardation of the moon just mentioned: that is to say, in round numbers,
about 64 degrees. Consequently, at the moment of firing the visual radius
applied to the moon will describe, with the vertical line of the place,
an angle of sixty-four degrees.

"These are our answers to the questions proposed to the Observatory of
Cambridge by the members of the Gun Club:—

"To sum up,—

"1st. The cannon ought to be planted in a country situated between
between 0° and 28° of N. or S. lat.

"2ndly. It ought to be pointed directly towards the zenith of the place.

"3rdly. The projectile ought to be propelled with an initial velocity of
12,000 yards per second.

"4thly. It ought to be discharged at 10hrs. 46m. 40sec. of the 1st
December of the ensuing year.

"5thly. It will meet the moon four days after its discharge, precisely
at midnight on the 4th December, at the moment of its transit across the
zenith.

"The members of the Gun Club ought, therefore, without delay, to commence
the works necessary for such an experiment, and to be prepared to set
to work at the moment determined upon; for, if they should suffer this
4th December to go by, they will not find the moon again under the same
conditions of perigee and of zenith until eighteen years and eleven days
afterwards.

"The Staff of the Cambridge Observatory place themselves entirely at
their disposal in respect of all questions of theoretical astronomy; and
herewith add their congratulations to those of all the rest of America.


   "For the Astronomical Staff,

   "J. M. BELFAST,

   "_Director of the Observatory of Cambridge._"



   CHAPTER V.

   THE ROMANCE OF THE MOON.


An observer endued with an infinite range of vision, and placed in
that unknown centre around which the entire world revolves, might have
beheld myriads of atoms filling all space during the chaotic epoch of
the universe. Little by little, as ages went on, a change took place;
a general law of attraction manifested itself, to which the hitherto
errant atoms became obedient: these atoms combined together chemically
according to their affinities, formed themselves into molecules, and
composed those nebulous masses with which the depths of the heavens are
strewed.

These masses became immediately endued with a rotary motion around
their own central point. This centre, formed of indefinite molecules,
began to revolve round its own axis during its gradual condensation;
then, following the immutable laws of mechanics, in proportion as its
bulk diminished by condensation, its rotary motion became accelerated,
and these two effects continuing, the result was the formation of one
principal star, the centre of the nebulous mass.

By attentively watching, the observer would then have perceived the
other molecules of the mass, following the example of this central
star, become likewise condensed by gradually accelerated rotation, and
gravitating round it in the shape of innumerable stars. Thus was formed
the _Nebulæ,_ of which astronomers have reckoned up nearly 5000.

Amongst these 5000 nebulæ there is one which has received the name of
the Milky Way, and which contains eighteen millions of stars, each of
which has become the centre of a solar world.

If the observer had then specially directed his attention to one of the
more humble and less brilliant of these stellar bodies, a star of the
fourth class, that which is arrogantly called the Sun, all the phenomena
to which the formation of the Universe is to be ascribed would have
been successively fulfilled before his eyes. In fact, he would have
perceived this sun, as yet in the gaseous state, and composed of moving
molecules, revolving round its axis in order to accomplish its work of
concentration. This motion, faithful to the laws of mechanics, would
have been accelerated with the diminution of its volume; and a moment
would have arrived when the centrifugal force would have overpowered the
centripetal, which causes the molecules all to tend towards the centre.

Another phenomenon would now have passed before the observer's eye, and
the molecules situated on the plane of the equator escaping, like a stone
from a sling of which the cord had suddenly snapped, would have formed
around the sun sundry concentric rings resembling that of Saturn. In
their turn, again, these rings of cosmical matter, excited by a rotary
motion round the central mass, would have been broken up and decomposed
into secondary nebulosities, that is to say, into planets. Similarly he
would have observed these planets throw off one or more rings each, which
became the origin of the secondary bodies which we call satellites.

Thus, then, advancing from atom to molecule, from molecule to nebulous
mass, from that to a principal star, from star to sun, from sun to planet,
and hence to satellite, we have the whole series of transformations
undergone by the heavenly bodies during the first days of the world.

Now, of those attendant bodies which the sun maintains in their elliptical
orbits by the great law of gravitation, some few in their turn possess
satellites. Uranus has eight, Saturn eight, Jupiter four, Neptune possibly
three, and the Earth _one._ This last, one of the least important of the
entire solar system, we call _the Moon_; and it is she whom the daring
genius of the Americans professed their intention of conquering.


Illustration: THE MOON'S DISC.


The moon, by her comparative proximity, and the constantly varying
appearances produced by her several phases, has always occupied a
considerable share of the attention of the inhabitants of the earth.

From the time of Thales of Miletus, in the fifth century b.c., down to
that of Copernicus in the fifteenth and Tycho Brahé in the sixteenth
century a.d., observations have been from time to time carried on with
more or less correctness, until in the present day the altitudes of the
lunar mountains have been determined with exactitude. Galileo explained
the phenomena of the lunar light produced during certain of her phases
by the existence of mountains, to which he assigned a mean altitude of
27,000 feet. After him Hévelius, an astronomer of Dantzic, reduced the
highest elevations to 15,000 feet; but the calculations of Riccioli
brought them up again to 21,000 feet.

At the close of the eighteenth century Herschell, armed with a powerful
telescope, considerably reduced the preceding measurements. He assigned
a height of 11,400 feet to the maximum elevations, and reduced the mean
of the different altitudes to little more than 2400 feet. But Herschell's
calculations were in their turn corrected by the observations of Halley,
Nasmyth, Bianchini, Gruithuysen, and others; but it was reserved for
the labours of Bœer and Mædler finally to solve the question. They
succeeded in measuring 1905 different elevations, of which six exceed
15,000 feet, and twenty-two exceed 14,400 feet. The highest summit of all
towers to a height of 22,606 feet above the surface of the lunar disc. At
the same period the examination of the moon was completed. She appeared
completely riddled with craters, and her essentially volcanic character
was apparent at each observation. By the absence of refraction in the
rays of the planets occulted by her we conclude that she is absolutely
devoid of an atmosphere. The absence of air entails the absence of water.
It became, therefore, manifest that the Selenites, to support life under
such conditions, must possess a special organization of their own, must
differ remarkably from the inhabitants of the earth.

At length, thanks to modern art, instruments of still higher perfection
searched the moon without intermission, not leaving a single point of
her surface unexplored; and notwithstanding that her diameter measures
2150 miles, her surface equals the 1-15th part of that of our globe, and
her bulk the 1-49th part of that of the terrestrial spheroid—not one
of her secrets was able to escape the eyes of the astronomers; and these
skilful men of science carried to even greater degree their prodigious
observations.

Thus they remarked that, during full moon, the disc appeared scored in
certain parts with _white_ lines; and, during the phases, with _black._
On prosecuting the study of these with still greater precision, they
succeeded in obtaining an exact account of the nature of these lines.
They were long and narrow furrows sunk between parallel ridges, bordering
generally upon the edges of the craters. Their length varied between
ten and 100 miles, and their width was about 1600 yards. Astronomers
called them chasms, but they could not get any farther. Whether these
chasms were the dried-up beds of ancient rivers or not they were unable
thoroughly to ascertain.

The Americans, amongst others, hoped one day or other to determine this
geological question. They also undertook to examine the true nature
of that system of parallel ramparts discovered on the moon's surface
by Gruithuysen, a learned professor of Munich, who considered them to
be "a system of fortifications thrown up by the Selenitic engineers."
These two points, yet obscure, as well as others, no doubt, could not be
definitively settled except by direct communication with the moon.

Regarding the degree of intensity of its light, there was nothing more
to learn on this point. It was known that it is 300,000 times weaker
than that of the sun, and that its heat has no appreciable effect upon
the thermometer. As to the phenomenon known as the "ashy light," it is
explained naturally by the effect of the transmission of the solar rays
from the earth to the moon, which give the appearance of completeness to
the lunar disc, while it presents itself under the crescent form during
its first and last phases.

Such was the state of knowledge acquired regarding the earth's satellite,
which the Gun Club undertook to perfect in all its aspects, cosmographic,
geological, political, and moral.



   CHAPTER VI.

   THE PERMISSIVE LIMITS OF IGNORANCE AND BELIEF IN THE
      UNITED STATES.


The immediate result of Barbicane's proposition was to place upon the
orders of the day all the astronomical facts relative to the Queen of
Night. Everybody set to work to study assiduously. One would have thought
that the moon had just appeared for the first time, and that no one had
ever before caught a glimpse of her in the heavens. The papers revived
all the old anecdotes in which the "sun of the wolves" played a part;
they recalled the influences which the ignorance of past ages ascribed
to her; in short, all America was seized with seleno-mania, or had become
moon-mad.

The scientific journals, for their part, dealt more especially with the
questions which touched upon the enterprise of the Gun Club. The letter
of the Observatory of Cambridge was published by them, and commented upon
with unreserved approval.

Until that time most people had been ignorant of the mode in which the
distance which separates the moon from the earth is calculated. They took
advantage of this fact to explain to them that this distance was obtained
by measuring the parallax of the moon. The term parallax proving "caviare
to the general," they further explained that it meant the angle formed
by the inclination of two straight lines drawn from either extremity
of the earth's radius to the moon. On doubts being expressed as to the
correctness of this method, they immediately proved that not only was
the mean distance 234,347 miles, but that astronomers could not possibly
be in error in their estimate by more than 70 miles either way.

To those who were not familiar with the motions of the moon, they
demonstrated that she possesses two distinct motions, the first being
that of rotation upon her axis, the second that of revolution round the
earth, accomplishing both together in an equal period of time, that is
to say, in 27⅓ days.

The motion of rotation is that which produces day and night on the
surface of the moon; save that there is only one day and one night in
the lunar month, each lasting 354⅓ hours. But, happily for her, the
face turned towards the terrestrial globe is illuminated by it with an
intensity equal to the light of fourteen moons. As to the other face,
always invisible to us, it has of necessity 354 hours of absolute night,
tempered only by that "pale glimmer which falls upon it from the stars."

Some well-intentioned but rather obstinate persons, could not at first
comprehend how, if the moon displays invariably the same face to the earth
during her revolution, she can describe one turn round herself. To such
they answered, "Go into your dining-room, and walk round the table in
such a way as always to keep your face turned towards the centre; by the
time you will have achieved one complete round you will have completed
one turn round yourself, since your eye will have traversed successively
every point of the room. Well, then, the room is the heavens, the table
is the earth, and the moon is yourself." And they would go away delighted.

So, then, the moon displays invariably the same face to the earth;
nevertheless, to be quite exact, it is necessary to add that, in
consequence of certain fluctuations of north and south, and of west and
east, termed her libration, she permits rather more than the half, that
is to say, five-sevenths, to be seen.

As soon as the ignoramuses came to understand as much as the Director of
the Observatory himself knew, they began to worry themselves regarding
her revolution round the earth, whereupon twenty scientific reviews
immediately came to the rescue. They pointed out to them then that the
firmament, with its infinitude of stars, may be considered as one vast
dial-plate, upon which the moon travels, indicating the true time to all
the inhabitants of the earth; that it is during this movement that the
Queen of Night exhibits her different phases; that the moon is _full_
when she is in _opposition_ with the sun, that is when the three bodies
are on the same straight line, the earth occupying the centre; that she
is _new_ when she is in _conjunction_ with the sun, that is, when she
is between it and the earth; and lastly, that she is in her _first_ or
_last_ quarter, when she makes with the sun and the earth an angle of
which she herself occupies the apex.

Regarding the altitude which the moon attains above the horizon, the
letter of the Cambridge Observatory had said all that was to be said
in that respect. Every one knew that this altitude varies according to
the latitude of the observer. But the only zones of the globe in which
the moon passes the zenith, that is, the point directly over the head
of the spectator, are of necessity comprised between the twenty-eighth
parallels and the equator. Hence the importance of the advice to try
the experiment upon some point of that part of the globe, in order that
the projectile might be discharged perpendicularly, and so the soonest
escape the action of gravitation. This was an essential condition to the
success of the enterprise, and continued actively to engage the public
attention.

Regarding the path described by the moon in her revolution round the
earth, the Cambridge Observatory had demonstrated that this path is a
re-entering curve, not a perfect circle, but an ellipse, of which the
earth occupies one of the _foci_. It was also well understood that it is
farthest removed from the earth during its _apogee,_ and approaches most
nearly to it at its _perigee._

Such then was the extent of knowledge possessed by every American on the
subject, and of which no one could decently profess ignorance. Still,
while these true principles were being rapidly disseminated many errors
and illusory fears proved less easy to eradicate.

For instance, some worthy persons maintained that the moon was an ancient
comet which, in describing its elongated orbit round the sun, happened to
pass near the earth, and became confined within her circle of attraction.
These drawing-room astronomers professed so to explain the charred aspect
of the moon—a disaster which they attributed to the intensity of the
solar heat; only, on being reminded that comets have an atmosphere, and
that the moon has little or none, they were fairly at a loss for a reply.

Others again, belonging to the doubting class expressed certain fears as
to the position of the moon. They had heard it said that, according to
observations made in the time of the Caliphs, her revolution had become
accelerated in a certain degree. Hence they concluded, logically enough,
that an acceleration of motion ought to be accompanied by a corresponding
diminution in the distance separating the two bodies; and that, supposing
the double effect to be continued to infinity, the moon would end by
one day falling into the earth. However, they became reassured as to
the fate of future generations on being apprised that, according to the
calculations of Laplace, this acceleration of motion is confined within
very restricted limits, and that a proportional diminution of speed will
be certain to succeed it. So, then, the stability of the solar system
would not be deranged in ages to come.

There remains but the third class, the superstitious. These worthies were
not content merely to rest in ignorance; they must know all about things
which had no existence whatever, and as to the moon, they had long known
all about her. One set regarded her disc as a polished mirror, by means
of which people could see each other from different points of the earth
and interchange their thoughts. Another set pretended that out of one
thousand new moons that had been observed, nine hundred and fifty had been
attended with remarkable disturbances, such as cataclysms, revolutions,
earthquakes, the deluge, &c. Then they believed in some mysterious
influence exercised by her over human destinies—that every Selenite
was attached to some inhabitant of the earth by a tie of sympathy; they
maintained that the entire vital system is subject to her control, &c.,
&c. But in time the majority renounced these vulgar errors, and espoused
the true side of the question. As for the Yankees, they had no other
ambition than to take possession of this new continent of the sky, and to
plant upon the summit of its highest elevation the star-spangled banner
of the United States of America.


Illustration: BARBICANE HOLDS FORTH.



   CHAPTER VII.

   THE HYMN OF THE CANNON-BALL.


The Observatory of Cambridge in its memorable letter had treated the
question from a purely astronomical point of view. The mechanical part
still remained.

President Barbicane had, without loss of time, nominated a Working
Committee of the Gun Club. The duty of this Committee was to resolve the
three grand questions of the cannon, the projectile, and the powder. It
was composed of four members of great technical knowledge, Barbicane (with
a casting vote in case of equality), General Morgan, Major Elphinstone,
and J. T. Maston, to whom were confided the functions of secretary. On
the 8th of October the Committee met at the house of President Barbicane,
3, Republican Street. The meeting was opened by the president himself.

"Gentlemen," said he, "we have to resolve one of the most important
problems in the whole of the noble science of gunnery. It might appear,
perhaps, the most logical course to devote our first meeting to the
discussion of the engine to be employed. Nevertheless, after mature
consideration, it has appeared to me that the question of the projectile
must take precedence of that of the cannon, and that the dimensions of
the latter must necessarily depend upon those of the former."

"Suffer me to say a word," here broke in J. T. Maston. Permission
having been granted, "Gentlemen," said he, with an inspired accent, "our
president is right in placing the question of the projectile above all
others. The ball we are about to discharge at the moon is our ambassador
to her, and I wish to consider it from a moral point of view. The
cannon-ball, gentlemen, to my mind, is the most magnificent manifestation
of human power. If Providence has created the stars and the planets,
man has called the cannon-ball into existence. Let Providence claim
the swiftness of electricity and of light, of the stars, the comets,
and the planets, of wind and sound—we claim to have invented the
swiftness of the cannon-ball, a hundred times superior to that of the
swiftest horses or railway train. How glorious will be the moment when,
infinitely exceeding all hitherto attained velocities, we shall launch
our new projectile with the rapidity of seven miles a second! Shall it
not, gentlemen—shall it not be received up there with the honours due
to a terrestrial ambassador?"

Overcome with emotion the orator sat down and applied himself to a huge
plate of sandwiches before him.

"And now," said Barbicane, "let us quit the domain of poetry and come
direct to the question."

"By all means," replied the members, each with his mouth full of sandwich.

"The problem before us," continued the president, "is how to communicate
to a projectile a velocity of 12,000 yards per second. Let us at present
examine the velocities hitherto attained. General Morgan will be able to
enlighten us on this point."

"And the more easily," replied the general, "that during the war I was
a member of the Committee of experiments. I may say, then, that the
100-pounder Dahlgrens, which carried a distance of 5000 yards, impressed
upon their projectile an initial velocity of 500 yards a second. The
Rodman Columbiad threw a shot weighing half a ton a distance of six
miles, with a velocity of 800 yards per second—a result which Armstrong
and Palisser have never obtained in England."

"This," replied Barbicane, "is, I believe, the maximum velocity ever
attained?"

"It is so," replied the general.


Illustration: THE RODMAN COLUMBIAD.


"Ah!" groaned J. T. Maston, "if my mortar had not burst—"

"Yes," quietly replied Barbicane, "but it did burst. We must take, then,
for our starting-point this velocity of 800 yards. We must increase it
twenty-fold. Now, reserving for another discussion the means of producing
this velocity, I will call your attention to the dimensions which it will
be proper to assign to the shot. You understand that we have nothing to
do here with projectiles weighing at most but half a ton."

"Why not?" demanded the major.

"Because the shot," quickly replied J. T. Maston, "must be big enough to
attract the attention of the inhabitants of the moon, if there are any?"

"Yes," replied Barbicane, "and for another reason more important still."

"What mean you?" asked the major.

"I mean that it is not enough to discharge a projectile, and then take
no further notice of it; we must follow it throughout its course, up to
the moment when it shall reach its goal."

"What?" shouted the general and the major in great surprise.

"Undoubtedly," replied Barbicane composedly, "or our experiment would
produce no result."

"But then," replied the major, "you will have to give this projectile
enormous dimensions."

"No! Be so good as to listen. You know that optical instruments have
acquired great perfection; with certain telescopes we have succeeded in
obtaining enlargements of 6000 times and reducing the moon to within forty
miles' distance. Now, at this distance, any objects sixty feet square
would be perfectly visible. If, then, the penetrative power of telescopes
has not been further increased, it is because that power detracts from
their light; and the moon, which is but a reflecting mirror, does not
give back sufficient light to enable us to perceive objects of lesser
magnitude."

"Well, then, what do you propose to do?" asked the general. "Would you
give your projectile a diameter of sixty feet?"

"Not so."

"Do you intend, then, to increase the luminous power of the moon?"

"Exactly so. If I can succeed in diminishing the density of the atmosphere
through which the moon's light has to travel I shall have rendered her
light more intense. To effect that object it will be enough to establish
a telescope on some elevated mountain. That is what we will do."

"I give it up," answered the major. "You have such a way of simplifying
things. And what enlargement do you expect to obtain in this way?"

"One of 48,000 times, which should bring the moon within an apparent
distance of five miles; and, in order to be visible, objects need not
have a diameter of more than nine feet."

"So, then," cried J. T. Maston, "our projectile need not be more than
nine feet in diameter."

"Let me observe, however," interrupted Major Elphinstone, "this will
involve a weight such as—"

"My dear major," replied Barbicane, "before discussing its weight, permit
me to enumerate some of the marvels which our ancestors have achieved in
this respect. I don't mean to pretend that the science of gunnery has
not advanced, but it is as well to bear in mind that during the middle
ages they obtained results more surprising, I will venture to say, than
ours. For instance, during the siege of Constantinople by Mahomet II.,
in 1453, stone shot of 1900 lbs. weight were employed. At Malta, in the
time of the knights, there was a gun of the fortress of St. Elmo which
threw a projectile weighing 2500 lbs. And, now, what is the extent of
what we have seen ourselves? Armstrong guns discharging shot of 500 lbs.,
and the Rodman guns projectiles of half a ton! It seems, then, that if
projectiles have gained in range, they have lost far more in weight. Now,
if we turn our efforts in that direction, we ought to arrive, with the
progress of science, at ten times the weight of the shot of Mahomet II.
and the Knights of Malta."


Illustration: CANNON AT MALTA IN THE TIME OF THE KNIGHTS.


"Clearly," replied the major; "but what metal do you calculate upon
employing?"

"Simply cast iron," said General Morgan.

"But," interrupted the major, "since the weight of a shot is proportionate
to its volume, an iron ball of nine feet in diameter would be of
tremendous weight."

"Yes, if it were solid, not if it were hollow."

"Hollow? then it would be a shell?"

"Yes, a shell," replied Barbicane; "decidedly it must be. A solid shot of
108 inches would weigh more than 200,000 lbs., a weight evidently far too
great. Still, as we must reserve a certain stability for our projectile,
I propose to give it a weight of 20,000 lbs."

"What, then, will be the thickness of the sides?" asked the major.

"If we follow the usual proportion," replied Morgan, "a diameter of 108
inches would require sides of two feet thickness, or less."

"That would be too much," replied Barbicane; "for you will observe that
the question is not that of a shot intended to pierce an iron plate: it
will suffice, therefore, to give it sides strong enough to resist the
pressure of the gas. The problem, therefore, is this—What thickness
ought a cast-iron shell to have in order not to weigh more than 20,000
lbs.? Our clever secretary will soon enlighten us upon this point."

"Nothing easier," replied the worthy secretary of the Committee; and,
rapidly tracing a few algebraical formulæ upon paper, among which _n_²
and _x_² frequently appeared, he presently said,—

"The sides will require a thickness of less than two inches."

"Will that be enough?" asked the major doubtfully.

"Clearly not!" replied the president.

"What is to be done, then?" said Elphinstone, with a puzzled air.

"Employ another metal instead of iron."

"Copper?" said Morgan.

"No; that would be too heavy. I have better than that to offer."

"What then?" asked the major.

"Aluminium!" replied Barbicane.

"Aluminium?" cried his three colleagues in chorus.

"Unquestionably, my friends. This valuable metal possesses the whiteness
of silver, the indestructibility of gold, the tenacity of iron, the
fusibility of copper, the lightness of glass. It is easily wrought, is
very widely distributed, forming the base of most of the rocks, is three
times lighter than iron, and seems to have been created for the express
purpose of furnishing us with the material for our projectile."

"But, my dear president," said the major, "is not the cost price of
aluminium extremely high?"

"It was so at its first discovery, but it has fallen now to nine dollars
the pound."

"But still, nine dollars the pound!" replied the major, who was not
willing readily to give in; "even that is an enormous price."

"Undoubtedly, my dear major; but not beyond our reach."

"What will the projectile weigh then?" asked Morgan.

"Here is the result of my calculations," replied Barbicane. "A shot of
108 inches in diameter, and 12 inches in thickness, would weigh, in
cast-iron, 67,440 lbs.; cast in aluminium, its weight will be reduced to
19,250 lbs."

"Capital!" cried the major; "but do you know that, at nine dollars the
pound, this projectile will cost—"

"One hundred and seventy-three thousand and fifty dollars ($173,050).
I know it quite well. But fear not, my friends; the money will not be
wanting for our enterprise, I will answer for it. Now what say you to
aluminium, gentlemen?"

"Adopted!" replied the three members of the Committee. So ended the first
meeting. The question of the projectile was definitively settled.



   CHAPTER VIII.

   HISTORY OF THE CANNON.


The resolutions passed at the last meeting produced a great effect
out of doors. Timid people took fright at the idea of a shot weighing
20,000 lbs. being launched into space; they asked what cannon could ever
transmit a sufficient velocity to such a mighty mass. The minutes of the
second meeting were destined triumphantly to answer such questions. The
following evening the discussion was renewed.

"My dear colleagues," said Barbicane, without further preamble, "the
subject now before us is the construction of the engine, its length, its
composition, and its weight. It is probable that we shall end by giving
it gigantic dimensions; but however great may be the difficulties in the
way, our mechanical genius will readily surmount them. Be good enough,
then, to give me your attention, and do not hesitate to make objections
at the close. I have no fear of them. The problem before us is how to
communicate an initial force of 12,000 yards per second to a shell of 108
inches in diameter, weighing 20,000 lbs. Now when a projectile is launched
into space, what happens to it? It is acted upon by three independent
forces, the resistance of the air, the attraction of the earth, and the
force of impulsion with which it is endowed. Let us examine these three
forces. The resistance of the air is of little importance. The atmosphere
of the earth does not exceed forty miles. Now, with the given rapidity,
the projectile will have traversed this in five seconds, and the period
is too brief for the resistance of the medium to be regarded otherwise
than as insignificant. Proceeding, then, to the attraction of the earth,
that is, the weight of the shell, we know that this weight will diminish
in the inverse ratio of the square of the distance. When a body left to
itself falls to the surface of the earth, it falls five feet in the first
second; and if the same body were removed 257,542 miles farther off, in
other words, to the distance of the moon, its fall would be reduced to
about half a line in the first second. That is almost equivalent to a
state of perfect rest. Our business, then, is to overcome progressively
this action of gravitation. The mode of accomplishing that is by the
force of impulsion."

"There's the difficulty," broke in the major.

"True," replied the president; "but we will overcome that, for this force
of impulsion will depend upon the length of the engine and the powder
employed, the latter being limited only by the resisting power of the
former. Our business, then, to-day is with the dimensions of the cannon."

"Now, up to the present time," said Barbicane, "our longest guns have
not exceeded twenty-five feet in length. We shall therefore astonish the
world by the dimensions we shall be obliged to adopt. It must evidently
be, then, a gun of great range, since the length of the piece will
increase the detention of the gas accumulated behind the projectile; but
there is no advantage in passing certain limits."

"Quite so," said the major. "What is the rule in such a case?"

"Ordinarily the length of a gun is 20 to 25 times the diameter of the
shot, and its weight 235 to 240 times that of the shot."

"That is not enough," cried J. T. Maston impetuously.

"I agree with you, my good friend; and, in fact, following this proportion
for a projectile nine feet in diameter, weighing 30,000 lbs., the gun
would only have a length of 225 feet, and a weight of 7,200,000 lbs."

"Ridiculous!" rejoined Maston. "As well take a pistol."

"I think so too," replied Barbicane; "that is why I propose to quadruple
that length, and to construct a gun of 900 feet."

The general and the major offered some objections; nevertheless, the
proposition, actively supported by the secretary, was definitively
adopted.

"But," said Elphinstone, "what thickness must we give it?"

"A thickness of six feet," replied Barbicane.

"You surely don't think of mounting a mass like that upon a carriage?"
asked the major.

"It would be a superb idea, though," said Maston.

"But impracticable," replied Barbicane. "No; I think of sinking this
engine in the earth alone, binding it with hoops of wrought iron, and
finally surrounding it with a thick mass of masonry of stone and cement.
The piece once cast, it must be bored with great precision, so as to
preclude any possible windage. So there will be no loss whatever of
gas, and all the expansive force of the powder will be employed in the
propulsion."

"One simple question," said Elphinstone: "is our gun to be rifled?"

"No, certainly not," replied Barbicane; "we require an enormous initial
velocity; and you are well aware that a shot quits a rifled gun less
rapidly than it does a smooth-bore."

"True," rejoined the major.

The Committee here adjourned for a few minutes to tea and sandwiches.

On the discussion being renewed, "Gentlemen," said Barbicane, "we must
now take into consideration the metal to be employed. Our cannon must
be possessed of great tenacity, great hardness, be infusible by heat,
indissoluble, and inoxydable by the corrosive action of acids."

"There is no doubt about that," replied the major; "and as we shall have
to employ an immense quantity of metal, we shall not be at a loss for
choice."


Illustration: IDEAL SKETCH OF J. T. MASTON'S GUN.


"Well, then," said Morgan, "I propose the best alloy hitherto known,
which consists of 100 parts of copper, 12 of tin, and 6 of brass."

"I admit," replied the president, "that this composition has yielded
excellent results, but in the present case it would be too expensive, and
very difficult to work. I think, then, that we ought to adopt a material
excellent in its way and of low price, such as cast iron. What is your
advice, major?"

"I quite agree with you," replied Elphinstone.

"In fact," continued Barbicane, "cast iron cost ten times less than
bronze; it is easy to cast, it runs readily from the moulds of sand,
it is easy of manipulation, it is at once economical of money and of
time. In addition, it is excellent as a material, and I well remember
that during the war, at the siege of Atlanta, some iron guns fired one
thousand rounds at intervals of twenty minutes without injury."

"Cast iron is very brittle, though," replied Morgan.

"Yes, but it possesses great resistance. I will now ask our worthy
secretary to calculate the weight of a cast-iron gun with a bore of nine
feet and a thickness of six feet of metal."

"In a moment," replied Maston. Then, dashing off some algebraical formulæ
with marvellous facility, in a minute or two he declared the following
result:—

"The cannon will weigh 68,040 tons. And, at two cents a pound, it will
cost—?"

"2,510,701 dollars."

Maston, the major, and the general regarded Barbicane with uneasy looks.

"Well, gentlemen," replied the president, "I repeat what I said yesterday.
Make yourselves easy; the millions will not be wanting."

With this assurance of their president the Committee separated, after
having fixed their third meeting for the following evening.



   CHAPTER IX.

   THE QUESTION OF THE POWDERS.


There remained for consideration merely the question of powders.
The public awaited with interest its final decision. The size of the
projectile, the length of the cannon being settled, what would be the
quantity of powder necessary to produce impulsion?

It is generally asserted that gunpowder was invented in the fourteenth
century by the monk Schwartz, who paid for his grand discovery with his
life. It is, however, pretty well proved that this story ought to be
ranked amongst the legends of the middle ages. Gunpowder was not invented
by any one; it was the lineal successor of the Greek fire, which, like
itself, was composed of sulphur and saltpetre. Few persons are acquainted
with the mechanical power of gunpowder. Now this is precisely what is
necessary to be understood in order to comprehend the importance of the
question submitted to the committee.

A litre of gunpowder weighs about 2 lbs.; during combustion it produces
400 litres of gas. This gas, on being liberated and acted upon by a
temperature raised to 2400 degrees, occupies a space of 4000 litres:
consequently the volume of powder is to the volume of gas produced by
its combustion as 1 to 4000. One may judge, therefore, of the tremendous
pressure of this gas when compressed within a space 4000 times too
confined. All this was, of course, well known to the members of the
committee when they met on the following evening.

The first speaker on this occasion was Major Elphinstone, who had been
the director of the gunpowder factories during the war.


Illustration: THE INVENTION OF GUNPOWDER BY THE MONK SCHWARTZ.


"Gentlemen," said this distinguished chemist, "I begin with some figures
which will serve as the basis of our calculation. The old 24-pounder shot
required for its discharge 16 lbs. of powder."

"You are certain of the amount?" broke in Barbicane.

"Quite certain," replied the major. "The Armstrong cannon employs only
75 lbs. of powder for a projectile of 800 lbs., and the Rodman Columbiad
uses only 160 lbs. of powder to send its half-ton shot a distance of six
miles. These facts cannot be called in question, for I myself raised the
point during the depositions taken before the Committee of Artillery."

"Quite true," said the general.

"Well," replied the major, "these figures go to prove that the quantity
of powder is not increased with the weight of the shot; that is to say,
if a 24-pounder shot requires 16 lbs. of powder;—in other words, if in
ordinary guns we employ a quantity of powder equal to two-thirds of the
weight of the projectile, this proportion is not constant. Calculate,
and you will see that in place of 333 lbs. of powder, the quantity is
reduced to no more than 160 lbs."

"What are you aiming at?" asked the president.

"If you push your theory to extremes, my dear major," said J. T. Maston,
"you will get to this, that as soon as your shot becomes sufficiently
heavy you will not require any powder at all."

"Our friend Maston is always at his jokes, even in serious matters,"
cried the major; "but let him make his mind easy, I am going presently
to propose gunpowder enough to satisfy his artillerist's propensities.
I only keep to statistical facts when I say that during the war, and for
the very largest guns, the weight of powder was reduced, as the result
of experience, to a tenth part of the weight of the shot."

"Perfectly correct," said Morgan; "but before deciding the quantity of
powder necessary to give the impulse, I think it would be as well—"

"We shall have to employ a large-grained powder," continued the major,
"its combustion is more rapid than that of the small."

"No doubt about that," replied Morgan, "but it is very destructive, and
ends by enlarging the bore of the pieces."

"Granted; but that which is injurious to a gun destined to perform long
service is not so to our Columbiad. We shall run no danger of an explosion;
and it is necessary that our powder should take fire instantaneously in
order that its mechanical effect may be complete."

"We must have," said Maston, "several touch-holes, so as to fire it at
different points at the same time."

"Certainly," replied Elphinstone; "but that will render the working of
the piece more difficult. I return then to my large-grained powder, which
removes those difficulties. In his Columbiad charges Rodman employed a
powder as large as chestnuts, made of willow charcoal, simply dried in
cast-iron pans. This powder was hard and glittering, left no trace upon
the hand, contained hydrogen and oxygen in large proportion, took fire
instantaneously, and, though very destructive, did not sensibly injure
the mouth-piece."

Up to this point Barbicane had kept aloof from the discussion; he left
the others to speak while he himself listened; he had evidently got an
idea. He now simply said, "Well, my friends, what quantity of powder do
you propose?"

The three members look at one another.

"Two hundred thousand pounds," at last said Morgan.

"Five hundred thousand," added the major.

"Eight hundred thousand," screamed Maston.

A moment of silence followed this triple proposal; it was at last broken
by the president.

"Gentlemen," he quietly said, "I start from this principle, that the
resistance of a gun, constructed under the given conditions, is unlimited.
I shall surprise our friend Maston, then, by stigmatizing his calculations
as timid; and I propose to double his 800,000 lbs. of powder."

"Sixteen hundred thousand pounds?" shouted Maston, leaping from his seat.

"Just so."

"We shall have to come then to my ideal of a cannon half a mile long; for
you see 1,600,000 lbs. will occupy a space of about 20,000 cubic feet;
and since the contents of your cannon do not exceed 54,000 cubic feet,
it would be half full; and the bore will not be more than long enough
for the gas to communicate to the projectile sufficient impulse."

"Nevertheless," said the president, "I hold to that quantity of powder.
Now, 1,600,000 lbs. of powder will create 6,000,000,000 of litres of gas.
Six thousand millions! You quite understand?"

"What is to be done then?" said the general.

"The thing is very simple; we must reduce this enormous quantity of
powder, while preserving to it its mechanical power."

"Good; but by what means?"

"I am going to tell you," replied Barbicane quietly. "Nothing is more
easy than to reduce this mass to one quarter of its bulk. You know that
curious cellular matter which constitutes the elementary tissues of
vegetables? This substance is found quite pure in many bodies, especially
in cotton, which is nothing more than the down of the seeds of the cotton
plant. Now cotton, combined with cold nitric acid, becomes transformed
into a substance eminently insoluble, combustible, and explosive. It was
first discovered in 1832, by Braconnot, a French chemist, who called it
xyloidine. In 1838 another Frenchman, Pelouze, investigated its different
properties, and finally, in 1846, Schonbein, Professor of Chemistry at
Bâle, proposed its employment for purposes of war. This powder, now
called pyroxyle, or fulminating cotton, is prepared with great facility
by simply plunging cotton for fifteen minutes in nitric acid, then
washing it in water, then drying it, and it is ready for use."

"Nothing could be more simple," said Morgan.

"Moreover, pyroxyle is unaltered by moisture—a valuable property to us,
inasmuch as it would take several days to charge the cannon. It ignites
at 170 degrees in place of 240, and its combustion is so rapid that one
may set light to it on the top of ordinary powder, without the latter
having time to ignite."

"Perfect!" exclaimed the major.

"Only it is more expensive."

"What matter?" cried J. T. Maston.

"Finally, it imparts to projectiles a velocity four times superior to
that of gunpowder. I will even add, that if we mix with it one-eighth
of its own weight of nitrate of potass, its expansive force is again
considerably augmented."

"Will that be necessary?" asked the major.

"I think not," replied Barbicane. "So, then, in place of 1,600,000 lbs.
of powder, we shall have but 400,000 lbs. of fulminating cotton; and
since we can, without danger, compress 500 lbs. of cotton into 27 cubic
feet, the whole quantity will not occupy a height of more than 180 feet
within the bore of the Columbiad. In this way the shot will have more
than 700 feet of bore to traverse under a force of 6,000,000,000 litres
of gas before taking its flight towards the moon."

At this junction J. T. Maston could not repress his emotion; he flung
himself into the arms of his friend with the violence of a projectile,
and Barbicane would have been stove in if he had not been bomb-proof.

This incident terminated the third meeting of the Committee.

Barbicane and his bold colleagues, to whom nothing seemed impossible,
had succeeded in solving the complex problems of projectile, cannon,
and powder. Their plan was drawn up, and it only remained to put it in
execution.

"A mere matter of detail, a bagatelle," said J. T. Maston.


Illustration: CAPTAIN NICHOLL



   CHAPTER X.

   ONE ENEMY _v._ TWENTY-FIVE MILLIONS OF FRIENDS.


The American public took a lively interest in the smallest details of
the enterprise of the Gun Club. It followed day by day the discussions of
the committee. The most simple preparation for the great experiment, the
questions of figures which it involved, the mechanical difficulties to
be resolved—in one word, the entire plan of work—roused the popular
excitement to the highest pitch.

The purely scientific attraction was suddenly intensified by the following
incident:—

We have seen what legions of admirers and friends Barbicane's project
had rallied round its author. There was, however, one single individual
alone in all the States of the Union who protested against the attempt
of the Gun Club. He attacked it furiously on every opportunity, and human
nature is such that Barbicane felt more keenly the opposition of that one
man than he did the applause of all the others. He was well aware of the
motive of this antipathy, the origin of this solitary enmity, the cause
of its personality and old standing, and in what rivalry of self-love it
had its rise.

This persevering enemy the President of the Gun Club had never seen.
Fortunate that it was so, for a meeting between the two men would
certainly have been attended with serious consequences. This rival was a
man of science, like Barbicane himself, of a fiery, daring, and violent
disposition; a pure Yankee. His name was Captain Nicholl; he lived at
Philadelphia.

Most people are aware of the curious struggle which arose during the
Federal war between the guns and the armour of iron-plated ships. The
result was the entire reconstruction of the navy of both the continents;
as the one grew heavier, the other became thicker in proportion. The
"Merrimac," the "Monitor," the "Tennessee," the "Weehawken" discharged
enormous projectiles themselves, after having been armour-clad against
the projectiles of others. In fact they did to others that which they
would not they should do to them—that grand principle of immorality
upon which rests the whole art of war.

Now if Barbicane was a great founder of shot, Nicholl was a great forger
of plates; the one cast night and day at Baltimore, the other forged day
and night at Philadelphia. As soon as ever Barbicane invented a new shot,
Nicholl invented a new plate, each followed a current of ideas essentially
opposed to the other. Happily for these citizens, so useful to their
country, a distance of from fifty to sixty miles separated them from one
another, and they had never yet met. Which of these two inventors had
the advantage over the other it was difficult to decide from the results
obtained. By last accounts, however, it would seem that the armour-plate
would in the end have to give way to the shot; nevertheless, there were
competent judges who had their doubts on the point.

At the last experiment the cylindro-conical projectiles of Barbicane stuck
like so many pins in the Nicholl plates. On that day the Philadelphia
iron-forger then believed himself victorious, and could not evince
contempt enough for his rival; but when the other afterwards substituted
for conical shot simple 600 lb. shells, at very moderate velocity, the
captain was obliged to give in. In fact, these projectiles knocked his
best metal plate to shivers.

Matters were at this stage, and victory seemed to rest with the shot,
when the war came to an end on the very day when Nicholl had completed
a new armour-plate of wrought steel. It was a masterpiece of its kind,
and bid defiance to all the projectiles in the world. The captain had it
conveyed to the Polygon at Washington, challenging the President of the
Gun Club to break it. Barbicane, peace having been declared, declined to
try the experiment.


Illustration: NICHOLL PUBLISHED A NUMBER OF LETTERS IN THE
   NEWSPAPERS.


Nicholl, now furious, offered to expose his plate to the shock of any
shot, solid, hollow, round, or conical. Refused by the president, who
did not choose to compromise his last success.

Nicholl, disgusted by this obstinacy, tried to tempt Barbicane by offering
him every chance. He proposed to fix the plate within two hundred yards
of the gun. Barbicane still obstinate in refusal. A hundred yards? Not
even _seventy-five!_

"At fifty then!" roared the captain through the newspapers. "At twenty-five
yards!! and I'll stand behind!!!"

Barbicane returned for answer that, even if Captain Nicholl would be so
good as to stand in front, he would not fire any more.

Nicholl could not contain himself at this reply; threw out hints of
cowardice; that a man who refused to fire a cannon-shot was pretty near
being afraid of it; that artillerists who fight at six miles' distance
are substituting mathematical formulas for individual courage.

To these insinuations Barbicane returned no answer; perhaps he never
heard of them, so absorbed was he in the calculations for his great
enterprise.

When his famous communication was made to the Gun Club, the captain's
wrath passed all bounds; with his intense jealousy was mingled a feeling
of absolute impotence. How was he to invent anything to beat this 900-feet
Columbiad? What armour-plate could ever resist a projectile of 30,000
lbs. weight? Overwhelmed at first under this violent shock, he by and by
recovered himself, and resolved to crush the proposal by the weight of
his arguments.

He then violently attacked the labours of the Gun Club, published a
number of letters in the newspapers, endeavoured to prove Barbicane
ignorant of the first principles of gunnery. He maintained that it was
absolutely impossible to impress upon any body whatever a velocity of
12,000 yards per second; that even with such a velocity a projectile of
such a weight could not transcend the limits of the earth's atmosphere.
Further still, even regarding the velocity to be acquired, and granting
it to be sufficient, the shell could not resist the pressure of the gas
developed by the ignition of 1,600,000 lbs. of powder; and supposing
it to resist that pressure, it would be the less able to support that
temperature; it would melt on quitting the Columbiad, and fall back in
a red-hot shower upon the heads of the imprudent spectators.

Barbicane continued his work without regarding these attacks.

Nicholl then took up the question in its other aspects. Without touching
upon its uselessness in all points of view, he regarded the experiment
as fraught with extreme danger, both to the citizens, who might sanction
by their presence so reprehensible a spectacle, and also to the towns
in the neighbourhood of this deplorable cannon. He also observed that
if the projectile did not succeed in reaching its destination (a result
absolutely impossible), it must inevitably fall back upon the earth,
and that the shock of such a mass, multiplied by the square of its
velocity, would seriously endanger every point of the globe. Under the
circumstances, therefore, and without interfering with the rights of free
citizens, it was a case for the intervention of Government, which ought
not to endanger the safety of all for the pleasure of one individual.

Spite of all his arguments, however, Captain Nicholl remained alone in
his opinion. Nobody listened to him, and he did not succeed in alienating
a single admirer from the President of the Gun Club. The latter did not
even take the pains to refute the arguments of his rival.

Nicholl, driven into his last entrenchments, and not able to fight
personally in the cause, resolved to fight with money. He published,
therefore, in the _Richmond Inquirer_ a series of wagers, conceived in
these terms, and on an increasing scale:—

No. 1 (1000 dols.).—That the necessary funds for the experiment of the
Gun Club will not be forthcoming.

No. 2 (2000 dols.).—That the operation of casting a cannon of 900 feet
is impracticable, and cannot possibly succeed.

No. 3 (3000 dols.).—That it is impossible to load the Columbiad, and
that the pyroxyle will take fire spontaneously under the pressure of the
projectile.

No. 4 (4000 dols.).—That the Columbiad will burst at the first fire.

No. 5 (5000 dols.).—That the shot will not travel farther than six
miles, and that it will fall back again a few seconds after its discharge.

It was an important sum, therefore, which the captain risked in his
invincible obstinacy. He had no less than 15,000 dollars at stake.

Notwithstanding the importance of the challenge, on the 19th of May
he received a sealed packet containing the following superbly laconic
reply:—


   "Baltimore, _Oct._ 19.

   "Done.

   "Barbicane."



   CHAPTER XI.

   FLORIDA AND TEXAS.


One question yet remained to be decided: it was necessary to choose
a favourable spot for the experiment. According to the advice of the
Observatory of Cambridge, the gun must be fired perpendicularly to the
plane of the horizon, that is to say, towards the zenith. Now the moon
does not traverse the zenith, except in places situated between 0° and
28° of latitude. It became, then, necessary to determine exactly that
spot on the globe where the immense Columbiad should be cast.

On the 20th of October, at a general meeting of the Gun Club, Barbicane
produced a magnificent map of the United States. "Gentlemen," said he,
in opening the discussion, "I presume that we are all agreed that this
experiment cannot and ought not to be tried anywhere but within the
limits of the soil of the Union. Now, by good fortune, certain frontiers
of the United States extend downwards as far as the 28th parallel of the
north latitude. If you will cast your eye over this map, you will see
that we have at our disposal the whole of the southern portion of Texas
and Florida."

It was finally agreed, then, that the Columbiad must be cast on the soil
of either Texas or Florida. The result, however, of this decision was to
create a rivalry entirely without precedent between the different towns
of these two states.

The 28th parallel, on reaching the American coast, traverses the peninsula
of Florida, dividing it into two nearly equal portions. Then, plunging
into the Gulf of Mexico, it subtends the arc formed by the coast of
Alabama, Mississippi, and Louisiana; then skirting Texas, off which it
cuts an angle, it continues its course over Mexico, crosses the Sonora,
Old California, and loses itself in the Pacific Ocean. It was, therefore,
only those portions of Texas and Florida which were situated below this
parallel which came within the prescribed conditions of latitude.

Florida, in its southern part, reckons no cities of importance; it is
simply studded with forts raised against the roving Indians. One solitary
town, Tampa Town, was able to put in a claim in favour of its situation.

In Texas, on the contrary, the towns are much more numerous and important.
Corpus Christi, in the county of Nuaces, and all the cities situated on
the Rio Bravo, Laredo, Comalites, San Ignacio on the Web, Rio Grande City
on the Starr, Edinburgh in the Hidalgo, Santa Rita, Elpanda, Brownsville
in the Cameron, formed an imposing league against the pretensions of
Florida. So, scarcely was the decision known, when the Texan and Floridan
deputies arrived at Baltimore in an incredibly short space of time. From
that very moment President Barbicane and the influential members of the
Gun Club were besieged day and night by formidable claims. If seven cities
of Greece contended for the honour of having given birth to Homer, here
were two entire states threatening to come to blows about the question
of a cannon.

The rival parties promenaded the streets with arms in their hands; and at
every occasion of their meeting a collision was to be apprehended which
might have been attended with disastrous results. Happily the prudence
and address of President Barbicane averted the danger. These personal
demonstrations found a division in the newspapers of the different
states. The _New York Herald_ and the _Tribune_ supported Texas, while
the _Times_ and the _American Review_ espoused the cause of the Floridan
Deputies. The members of the Gun Club could not decide to which to give
the preference.

Texas produced its array of twenty-six counties; Florida replied that
twelve counties were better than twenty-six in a country only one-sixth
part of the size.

Texas plumed itself upon its 330,000 natives; Florida with a far smaller
territory, boasted of being much more densely populated with 56,000.

The Texians, through the columns of the _Herald_, claimed that some regard
should be had to a state which grew the best cotton in all America,
produced the best green oak for the service of the navy, and contained
the finest oil, besides iron mines, in which the yield was fifty per
cent. of pure metal.

To this the _American Review_ replied that the soil of Florida, although
not equally rich, afforded the best conditions for the moulding and
casting of the Columbiad, consisting as it did of sand and argillaceous
earth.

"That may be all very well," replied the Texians; "but you must first
get to this country. Now the communications with Florida are difficult,
while the coast of Texas offers the bay of Galveston, which possesses
a circumference of fourteen leagues, and is capable of containing the
navies of the entire world!"

"A pretty notion truly," replied the papers in the interest of Florida,
"that of Galveston Bay _below the 29th parallel!_ Have _we_ not got the
bay of Espiritu Santo, opening precisely upon _the_ 28_th degree_, and
by which ships can reach Tampa Town by direct route?"

"A fine bay! half choked with sand!" "Choked yourselves!" returned the
others.

Thus the war went on for several days, when Florida endeavoured to draw
her adversary away on to fresh ground; and one morning the _Times_ hinted
that, the enterprise being essentially American, it ought not to be
attempted upon other than purely American territory.

To these words Texas retorted, "American! are we not as much so as you?
Were not Texas and Florida both incorporated into the Union in 1845?"


Illustration: IT BECAME NECESSARY TO KEEP AN EYE UPON THE DEPUTIES.


"Undoubtedly," replied the _Times_; "but we have belonged to the Americans
ever since 1820."

"Yes!" returned the _Tribune_; "after having been Spaniards or English
for 200 years, you were sold to the United States for five million
dollars!"

"Well! and why need we blush for that? Was not Louisiana bought from
Napoleon in 1803 at the price of sixteen million dollars?"

"Scandalous!" roared the Texan deputies. "A wretched little strip of
country like Florida to dare to compare itself to Texas, who, in place
of selling herself, asserted her own independence, drove out the Mexicans
in March 2, 1836, and declared herself a federal republic after the
victory gained by Samuel Houston, on the banks of the San Jacinto, over
the troops of Santa Anna!—a country, in fine, which voluntarily annexed
itself to the United States of America!"

"Yes; because it was afraid of the Mexicans!" replied Florida.

"Afraid!" From this moment the state of things became intolerable. A
sanguinary encounter seemed daily imminent between the two parties in
the streets of Baltimore. It became necessary to keep an eye upon the
deputies.

President Barbicane knew not which way to look. Notes, documents,
letters full of menaces showered down upon his house. Which side ought
he to take? As regarded the appropriation of the soil, the facility of
communication, the rapidity of transport, the claims of both states were
evenly balanced. As for political prepossessions, they had nothing to do
with the question.

This dead block had existed for some little time, when Barbicane resolved
to get rid of it at once. He called a meeting of his colleagues, and
laid before them a proposition which, it will be seen, was profoundly
sagacious.

"On carefully considering," he said, "what is going on now between Florida
and Texas, it is clear that the same difficulties will recur with all
the towns of the favoured state. The rivalry will descend from state to
city, and so on downwards. Now Texas possesses _eleven_ towns within the
prescribed conditions, which will further dispute the honour and create
us new enemies, while Florida has only _one._ I go in, therefore, for
Florida and Tampa Town."

This decision, on being made known, utterly crushed the Texan deputies.
Seized with an indescribable fury, they addressed threatening letters to
the different members of the Gun Club by name. The magistrates had but
one course to take, and they took it. They chartered a special train,
forced the Texians into it whether they would or no; and they quitted
the city with a speed of thirty miles an hour.

Quickly, however, as they were despatched, they found time to hurl one
last and bitter sarcasm at their adversaries.

Alluding to the extent of Florida, a mere peninsula confined between
two seas, they pretended that it could never sustain the shock of the
discharge, and that it would "bust up" at the very first shot.

"Very well, let it bust up!" replied the Floridans, with a brevity worthy
of the days of ancient Sparta.



   CHAPTER XII.

   URBI ET ORBI.


The astronomical, mechanical, and topographical difficulties resolved,
finally came the question of finance. The sum required was far too great
for any individual, or even any single state, to provide the requisite
millions.

President Barbicane undertook, despite of the matter being a purely
American affair, to render it one of universal interest, and to request
the financial co-operation of all peoples. It was, he maintained, the
right and the duty of the whole earth to interfere in the affairs of its
satellite. The subscription opened at Baltimore extended properly to the
whole world—_Urbi et orbi._

This subscription was successful beyond all expectation; notwithstanding
that it was a question not of _lending_ but of _giving_ the money. It
was a purely disinterested operation in the strictest sense of the term,
and offered not the slightest chance of profit.

The effect, however, of Barbicane's communication was not confined to
the frontiers of the United States; it crossed the Atlantic and Pacific,
invading simultaneously Asia and Europe, Africa and Oceania. The
observatories of the Union placed themselves in immediate communication
with those of foreign countries. Some, such as those of Paris, Petersburg,
Berlin, Stockholm, Hamburg, Malta, Lisbon, Benares, Madras, and others,
transmitted their good wishes; the rest maintained a prudent silence,
quietly awaiting the result. As for the observatory at Greenwich, seconded
as it was by the twenty-two astronomical establishments of Great Britain,
it spoke plainly enough. It boldly denied the possibility of success,
and pronounced in favour of the theories of Captain Nicholl. But this
was nothing more than mere English jealousy.

On the 8th of October President Barbicane published a manifesto full of
enthusiasm, in which he made an appeal to "all persons of good will upon
the face of the earth." This document, translated into all languages,
met with immense success.

Subscription lists were opened in all the principal cities of the Union,
with a central office at the Baltimore Bank, 9, Baltimore Street.

In addition, subscriptions were received at the following banks in the
different states of the two continents:—

At Vienna, with S. M. de Rothschild.
„ Petersburg, Stieglitz and Co.
„ Paris, The Crédit Mobilier.
„ Stockholm, Tottie and Arfuredson.
„ London, N. M. Rothschild and Son.
„ Turin, Ardouin and Co.
„ Berlin, Mendelssohn.
„ Geneva, Lombard, Odier, and Co.
„ Constantinople, The Ottoman Bank.
„ Brussels, J. Lambert.
„ Madrid, Daniel Weisweller.
„ Amsterdam, Netherlands Credit Co.
„ Rome, Torlonia and Co.
„ Lisbon, Lecesne.
„ Copenhagen, Private Bank.
„ Rio Janeiro, do.
„ Monte Video, do.
„ Valparaiso and Lima, Thomas la Chambre and Co.    „ Mexico, Martin
Daran and Co.

Three days after the manifesto of President Barbicane 4,000,000 of dollars
were paid into the different towns of the Union. With such a balance
the Gun Club might begin operations at once. But some days later advices
were received to the effect that the foreign subscriptions were being
eagerly taken up. Certain countries distinguished themselves by their
liberality; others untied their purse-strings with less facility—matter
of temperament. Figures are, however, more eloquent than words, and here
is the official statement of the sums which were paid in to the credit
of the Gun Club at the close of the subscription.


Illustration: THE SUBSCRIPTION WAS OPENED.


Russia paid in as her contingent the enormous sum of 368,733 roubles.
No one need be surprised at this, who bears in mind the scientific taste
of the Russians, and the impetus which they have given to astronomical
studies—thanks to their numerous observatories.

France began by deriding the pretensions of the Americans. The moon
served as a pretext for a thousand stale puns and a score of ballads,
in which bad taste contested the palm with ignorance. But as formerly
the French paid before singing, so now they paid after having had their
laugh, and they subscribed for a sum of 1,253,930 francs. At that price
they had a right to enjoy themselves a little.

Austria showed herself generous in the midst of her financial crisis. Her
public contributions amounted to the sum of 216,000 florins—a perfect
godsend.

52,000 rix-dollars were the remittance of Sweden and Norway; the amount
is large for the country, but it would undoubtedly have been considerably
increased had the subscription been opened in Christiania simultaneously
with that at Stockholm. For some reason or other the Norwegians do not
like to send their money to Sweden.

Prussia, by a remittance of 250,000 thalers, testified her high approval
of the enterprise.

Turkey behaved generously; but she had a personal interest in the matter.
The moon, in fact, regulates the cycle of her years and her fast of
Ramadan. She could not do less than give 1,372,640 piastres; and she gave
them with an eagerness which denoted, however, some pressure on the part
of the Government.

Belgium distinguished herself among the second-rate states by a grant of
513,000 francs—about two centimes per head of her population.

Holland and her colonies interested themselves to the extent of 110,000
florins, only demanding an allowance of five per cent, discount for
paying ready money.

Denmark, a little contracted in territory, gave nevertheless 9000 ducats,
proving her love for scientific experiments.

The Germanic Confederation pledged itself to 34,285 florins. It was
impossible to ask for more; besides, they would not have given it.

Though very much crippled, Italy found 200,000 lire in the pockets of
her people. If she had had Venetia she would have done better; but she
had not.

The States of the Church thought that they could not send less than
7040 Roman crowns; and Portugal carried her devotion to science as far
as 30,000 cruzados. It was the widow's mite—eighty-six piastres; but
self-constituted empires are always rather short of money.

257 francs, this was the modest contribution of Switzerland to the
American work. One must freely admit that she did not see the practical
side of the matter. It did not seem to her that the mere despatch of a
shot to the moon could possibly establish any relation of affairs with
her; and it did not seem prudent to her to embark her capital in so
hazardous an enterprise. After all, perhaps she was right.

As to Spain, she could not scrape together more than 110 reals. She
gave as an excuse that she had her railways to finish. The truth is,
that science is not favourably regarded in that country, it is still
in a backward state; and moreover, certain Spaniards, not by any means
the least educated, did not form a correct estimate of the bulk of the
projectile compared with that of the moon. They feared that it would
disturb the established order of things. In that case it were better to
keep aloof; which they did to the tune of some reals.


Illustration: THE MANUFACTORY AT COLDSPRING, NEAR NEW YORK.


There remained but England; and we know the contemptuous antipathy with
which she received Barbicane's proposition. The English have but one
soul for the whole twenty-six millions of inhabitants which Great Britain
contains. They hinted that the enterprise of the Gun Club was contrary to
the "principle of non-intervention." And they did not subscribe a single
farthing.

At this intimation the Gun Club merely shrugged its shoulders and
returned to its great work. When South America, that is to say, Peru,
Chili, Brazil, the provinces of La Plata and Columbia, had poured forth
their quota into their hands, the sum of 300,000 dollars, it found itself
in possession of a considerable capital, of which the following is a
statement:—

United States subscriptions . . 4,000,000 dollars.
Foreign subscriptions    . . . . 1,446,675 „

                                 —————————
Total,                           5,446,675 „


Such was the sum which the public poured into the treasury of the Gun
Club.

Let no one be surprised at the vastness of the amount. The work of
casting, boring, masonry, the transport of workmen, their establishment
in an almost uninhabited country, the construction of furnaces and
workshops, the plant, the powder, the projectile, and incidental expenses,
would, according to the estimates, absorb nearly the whole. Certain
cannon shots in the Federal war cost 1000 dollars a-piece. This one of
President Barbicane, unique in the annals of gunnery, might well cost
five thousand times more.

On the 20th of October a contract was entered into with the manufactory
at Coldspring, near New York, which during the war had furnished the
largest Parrott cast-iron guns. It was stipulated between the contracting
parties that the manufactory of Coldspring should engage to transport
to Tampa Town, in southern Florida, the necessary materials for casting
the Columbiad. The work was bound to be completed at latest by the 15th
of October following, and the cannon delivered in good condition under
penalty of a forfeit of 100 dollars a day to the moment when the moon
should again present herself under the same conditions—that is to say,
in eighteen years and eleven days.

The engagement of the workmen, their pay, and all the necessary details
of the work, devolved upon the Goldspring Company.

This contract, executed in duplicate, was signed by Barbicane, President
of the Gun Club, of the one part, and T. Murphison, director of the
Coldspring manufactory, of the other, who thus executed the deed on
behalf of their respective principals.



   CHAPTER XIII.

   STONES HILL.


When the decision was arrived at by the Gun Club, to the disparagement of
Texas, every one in America, where reading is an universal acquirement,
set to work to study the geography of Florida. Never before had there
been such a sale for works like _Bertram's Travels in Florida, Roman's
Natural History of East and West Florida, William's Territory of Florida,_
and _Cleland on the Cultivation of the Sugar-Cane in Florida._ It became
necessary to issue fresh editions of these works.

Barbicane had something better to do than to read. He desired to see
things with his own eyes, and to mark the exact position of the proposed
gun. So, without a moment's loss of time, he placed at the disposal of
the Cambridge Observatory the funds necessary for the construction of a
telescope, and entered into negotiations with the house of Breadwill and
Co., of Albany, for the construction of an aluminium projectile of the
required size. He then quitted Baltimore, accompanied by J. T. Maston,
Major Elphinstone, and the manager of the Coldspring Factory.

On the following day, the four fellow-travellers arrived at New Orleans.
There they immediately embarked on board the "Tampico," a despatch-boat
belonging to the Federal navy, which the Government had placed at their
disposal; and, getting up steam, the banks of the Louisiana speedily
disappeared from sight.

The passage was not long. Two days after starting, the "Tampico,"
having made four hundred and eighty miles, came in sight of the coast of
Florida. On a nearer approach Barbicane found himself in view of a low,
flat country of somewhat barren aspect. After coasting along a series of
creeks abounding in lobsters and oysters, the "Tampico" entered the bay
of Espiritu Santo, where she finally anchored in a small natural harbour,
formed by the _embouchure_ of the River Hillisborough, at seven p.m., on
the 22d October.

Our four passengers disembarked at once. "Gentlemen," said Barbicane,
"we have no time to lose; tomorrow we must obtain horses, and proceed to
reconnoitre the country."

Barbicane had scarcely set his foot on shore when three thousand of the
inhabitants of Tampa Town came forth to meet him, an honour due to the
president who had signalized their country by his choice.

Declining, however, every kind of ovation, Barbicane ensconced himself
in a room of the Franklin Hotel.

On the morrow some of those small horses of the Spanish breed, full of
vigour and of fire, stood snorting under his windows; but instead of
_four_ steeds, here were _fifty,_ together with their riders. Barbicane
descended with his three fellow-travellers; and much astonished were they
all to find themselves in the midst of such a cavalcade. He remarked that
every horseman carried a carbine slung across his shoulders and pistols
in his holsters.

On expressing his surprise at these preparations, he was speedily
enlightened by a young Floridan, who quietly said,—

"Sir, there are Seminoles there."

"What do you mean by Seminoles?"

"Savages who scour the prairies. We thought it best, therefore, to escort
you on your road."

"Pooh!" cried J. T. Maston, mounting his steed.

"All right," said the Floridan; "but it is true enough, nevertheless."

"Gentlemen," answered Barbicane, "I thank you for your kind attention;
but it is time to be off."


Illustration: TAMPA TOWN PREVIOUS TO THE UNDERTAKING.


It was five a.m. when Barbicane and his party, quitting Tampa Town,
made their way along the coast in the direction of Alifia Creek. This
little river falls into Hillisborough Bay twelve miles above Tampa Town.
Barbicane and his escort coasted along its right bank to the eastward.
Soon the waves of the bay disappeared behind a bend of rising ground,
and the Floridan "champagne" alone offered itself to view.

Florida, discovered on Palm Sunday, in 1512, by Juan Ponce de Leon, was
originally named _Pascha Florida_. It little deserved that designation
with its dry and parched coasts. But after some few miles of tract the
nature of the soil gradually changes and the country shows itself worthy
of the name. Cultivated plains soon appear, where are united all the
productions of the northern and tropical floras, terminating in prairies
abounding with pineapples and yams, tobacco, rice, cotton-plants, and
sugar-canes, which extend beyond reach of sight, flinging their riches
broadcast with careless prodigality.

Barbicane appeared highly pleased on observing the progressive elevation
of the land; and in answer to a question of J. T. Maston, replied,—

"My worthy friend, we cannot do better than sink our Columbiad in these
high grounds."

"To get nearer to the moon, perhaps?" said the secretary of the Gun Club.

"Not exactly," replied Barbicane, smiling; "do you not see that amongst
these elevated plateaus we shall have a much easier work of it? No
struggles with the water-springs, which will save us long and expensive
tubings; and we shall be working in daylight instead of down a deep and
narrow well. Our business, then, is to open our trenches upon ground some
hundreds of yards above the level of the sea."

"You are right, sir," struck in Murchison, the engineer; "and, if I
mistake not, we shall ere long find a suitable spot for our purpose."

"I wish we were at the first stroke of the pickaxe," said the president.

"And I wish we were at the _last_," cried J. T. Maston.

About ten a.m. the little band had crossed a dozen miles. To fertile
plains succeeded a region of forests. There perfumes of the most varied
kinds mingled together in tropical profusion. These almost impenetrable
forests were composed of pomegranates, orange-trees, citrons, figs,
olives, apricots, bananas, huge vines, whose blossoms and fruits rivalled
each other in colour and perfume. Beneath the odorous shade of these
magnificent trees fluttered and warbled a little world of brilliantly
plumaged birds.

J. T. Maston and the major could not repress their admiration on finding
themselves in presence of the glorious beauties of this wealth of
nature. President Barbicane, however, less sensitive to these wonders,
was in haste to press forward; the very luxuriance of the country was
displeasing to him. They hastened onwards, therefore, and were compelled
to ford several rivers, not without danger, for they were infested with
huge alligators from fifteen to eighteen feet long. Maston courageously
menaced them with his steel hook, but he only succeeded in frightening
some pelicans and teal, while tall flamingos stared stupidly at the
party.

At length these denizens of the swamps disappeared in their turn; smaller
trees became thinly scattered among less dense thickets—a few isolated
groups detached in the midst of endless plains over which ranged herds
of startled deer.

"At last," cried Barbicane, rising in his stirrups, "here we are at the
region of pines!"

"Yes! and of savages too," replied the major.

In fact, some Seminoles had just come in sight upon the horizon; they
rode violently backwards and forwards on their fleet horses, brandishing
their spears or discharging their guns with a dull report. These hostile
demonstrations, however, had no effect upon Barbicane and his companions.


Illustration: THEY WERE COMPELLED TO FORD SEVERAL RIVERS.


They were then occupying the centre of a rocky plain, which the sun
scorched with its parching rays. This was formed by a considerable
elevation of the soil, which seemed to offer to the members of the Gun
Club all the conditions requisite for the construction of their Columbiad.

"Halt!" said Barbicane, reining up. "Has this place any local appellation?"

"It is called Stones Hill," replied one of the Floridans.

Barbicane, without saying a word, dismounted, seized his instruments,
and began to note his position with extreme exactness. The little band,
drawn up in rear, watched his proceedings in profound silence.

At this moment the sun passed the meridian. Barbicane, after a few
moments, rapidly wrote down the result of his observations, and said,—

"This spot is situated 1800 feet above the level of the sea, in 27° 7'
N. lat. and 5° 7' W. long. of the meridian of Washington. It appears
to me by its rocky and barren character to offer all the conditions
requisite for our experiment. On that plain will be raised our magazines,
workshops, furnaces, and workmen's huts; and here, from this very spot,"
said he, stamping his foot on the summit of Stones Hill, "hence shall
our projectile take its flight into the regions of the Solar
World."



   CHAPTER XIV.

   PICKAXE AND TROWEL.


The same evening Barbicane and his companions returned to Tampa Town;
and Murchison, the engineer, re-embarked on board the "Tampico" for New
Orleans. His object was to enlist an army of workmen, and to collect
together the greater part of the materials. The members of the Gun Club
remained at Tampa Town, for the purpose of setting on foot the preliminary
works by the aid of the people of the country.

Eight days after its departure, the "Tampico" returned into the bay
of Espiritu Santo, with a whole flotilla of steamboats. Murchison had
succeeded in assembling together fifteen hundred artisans. Attracted
by the high pay and considerable bounties offered by the Gun Club, he
had enlisted a choice legion of stokers, iron-founders, lime-burners,
miners, brickmakers, and artisans of every trade, without distinction of
colour. As many of these people brought their families with them, their
departure resembled a perfect emigration.

On the 31st October, at ten o'clock in the morning, the troop disembarked
on the quays of Tampa Town; and one may imagine the activity which
pervaded that little town, whose population was thus doubled in a single
day.

During the first few days they were busy discharging the cargo brought
by the flotilla, the machines, and the rations, as well as a large number
of huts constructed of iron plates, separately pieced and numbered. At
the same period Barbicane laid the first sleepers of a railway fifteen
miles in length intended to unite Stones Hill with Tampa Town. On the
first of November Barbicane quitted Tampa Town with a detachment of
workmen; and on the following day the whole town of huts was erected
round Stones Hill. This they enclosed with palisades; and in respect of
energy and activity, it might have shortly been mistaken for one of the
great cities of the Union. Everything was placed under a complete system
of dicipline, and the works were commenced in most perfect order.

The nature of the soil having been carefully examined, by means of
repeated borings, the work of excavation was fixed for the 4th of
November.

On that day Barbicane called together his foremen and addressed them as
follows:—"You are well aware, my friends, of the object with which I
have assembled you together in this wild part of Florida. Our business
is to construct a cannon measuring nine feet in its interior diameter,
six feet thick, and with a stone revetment of nineteen and a half feet
in thickness. We have, therefore, a well of sixty feet in diameter
to dig down to a depth of nine hundred feet. This great work must be
completed _within eight months,_ so that you have 2,543,400 cubic feet
of earth to excavate in 255 days; that is to say, in round numbers, 2000
cubic feet per day. That which would present no difficulty to a thousand
navvies working in open country will be of course more troublesome in
a comparatively confined space. However, the thing must be done, and
I reckon for its accomplishment upon your courage as much as upon your
skill."

At eight o'clock in the morning the first stroke of the pickaxe was
struck upon the soil of Florida; and from that moment that prince of
tools was never inactive for one moment in the hands of the excavators.
The gangs relieved each other every three hours.

On the 4th of November fifty workmen commenced digging, in the very
centre of the enclosed space on the summit of Stones Hill, a circular
hole sixty feet in diameter. The pickaxe first struck upon a kind of
black earth, six inches in thickness, which was speedily disposed of.
To this earth succeeded two feet of fine sand, which was carefully laid
aside as being valuable for serving for the casting of the inner mould.
After the sand appeared some compact white clay, resembling the chalk
of Great Britain, which extended down to a depth of four feet. Then the
iron of the picks struck upon the hard bed of the soil; a kind of rock
formed of petrified shells, very dry, very solid, and which the picks
could with difficulty penetrate. At this point the excavation exhibited
a depth of six feet and a half and the work of the masonry was begun.

At the bottom of this excavation they constructed a wheel of oak, a kind
of circle strongly bolted together, and of immense strength. The centre
of this wooden disc was hollowed out to a diameter equal to the exterior
diameter of the Columbiad. Upon this wheel rested the first layers of
the masonry, the stones of which were bound together by hydraulic cement,
with irresistible tenacity. The workmen, after laying the stones from
the circumference to the centre, were thus enclosed within a kind of
well twenty-one feet in diameter. When this work was accomplished, the
miners resumed their picks and cut away the rock from underneath the
_wheel_ itself, taking care to support it as they advanced upon blocks
of great thickness. At every two feet which the hole gained in depth they
successively withdrew the blocks. The _wheel_ then sank little by little,
and with it the massive ring of masonry, on the upper bed of which the
masons laboured incessantly, always reserving some vent holes to permit
the escape of gas during the operation of casting.

This kind of work required on the part of the workmen extreme nicety and
minute attention. More than one, in digging underneath the wheel, was
dangerously injured by the splinters of stone. But their ardour never
relaxed, night or day. By day they worked under the rays of the scorching
sun; by night, under the gleam of the electric light. The sounds of
the picks against the rock, the bursting of mines, the grinding of the
machines, the wreaths of smoke scattered through the air, traced around
Stones Hill a circle of terror which the herds of buffaloes and the war
parties of the Seminoles never ventured to pass. Nevertheless, the works
advanced regularly, as the steam-cranes actively removed the rubbish.
Of unexpected obstacles there was little account; and with regard to
foreseen difficulties, they were speedily disposed of.


Illustration: THE WORK PROGRESSED REGULARLY.


At the expiration of the first month the well had attained the depth
assigned for that lapse of time, viz. 112 feet. This depth was doubled
in December, and trebled in January.

During the month of February the workmen had to contend with a sheet of
water which made its way right across the outer soil. It became necessary
to employ very powerful pumps and compressed engines to drain it off,
so as to close up the orifice from whence it issued; just as one stops
a leak on board ship. They at last succeeded in getting the upper hand
of these untoward streams; only, in consequence of the loosening of the
soil, the wheel partly gave way, and a slight partial settlement ensued.
This accident cost the life of several workmen.

No fresh occurrence thenceforward arrested the progress of the operation;
and on the 10th of June, twenty days before the expiration of the period
fixed by Barbicane, the well, lined throughout with its facing of stone,
had attained the depth of 900 feet. At the bottom the masonry rested upon
a massive block measuring thirty feet in thickness, whilst on the upper
portion it was level with the surrounding soil.

President Barbicane and the members of the Gun Club warmly congratulated
their engineer Murchison: the cyclopean work had been accomplished with
extraordinary rapidity.

During these eight months Barbicane never quitted Stones Hill for a
single instant. Keeping ever close by the work of excavation, he busied
himself incessantly with the welfare and health of his workpeople, and
was singularly fortunate in warding off the epidemics common to large
communities of men, and so disastrous in those regions of the globe which
are exposed to the influences of tropical climates.

Many workmen, it is true, paid with their lives for the rashness inherent
in these dangerous labours; but these mishaps are impossible to be
avoided, and they are classed amongst details with which the Americans
trouble themselves but little. They have in fact more regard for human
nature in general than for the individual in particular.

Nevertheless, Barbicane professed opposite principles to these, and
put them in force at every opportunity. So, thanks to his care, his
intelligence, his useful intervention in all difficulties, his prodigious
and humane sagacity, the average of accidents did not exceed that of
transatlantic countries, noted for their excessive precautions, France,
for instance, among others, where they reckon about one accident for
every two hundred thousand francs of work.



   CHAPTER XV.

   THE FÊTE OF THE CASTING.


During the eight months which were employed in the work of excavation
the preparatory works of the casting had been carried on simultaneously
with extreme rapidity. A stranger arriving at Stones Hill would have been
surprised at the spectacle offered to his view.

At 600 yards from the well, and circularly arranged around it as a central
point, rose 1200 reverberating ovens, each six feet in diameter, and
separated from each other by an interval of three feet. The circumference
occupied by these 1200 ovens presented a length of two miles. Being all
constructed on the same plan, each with its high quadrangular chimney,
they produced a most singular effect.

It will be remembered that on their third meeting the Committee had
decided to use cast-iron for the Columbiad, and in particular the _white_
description. This metal in fact is the most tenacious, the most ductile,
and the most malleable, and consequently suitable for all moulding
operations; and when smelted with pit coal, is of superior quality for
all engineering works requiring great resisting power, such as cannon,
steam-boilers, hydraulic presses, and the like.

Cast-iron, however, if subjected to only one single fusion, is rarely
sufficiently homogeneous; and it requires a second fusion completely to
refine it by dispossessing it of its last earthly deposits. So before
being forwarded to Tampa Town, the iron ore, molten in the great furnaces
of Coldspring, and brought into contact with coal and silicium heated to
a high temperature, was carburized and transformed into cast-iron. After
this first operation, the metal was sent on to Stones Hill. They had,
however, to deal with 136,000,000 lbs. of iron, a quantity far too costly
to send by railway. The cost of transport would have been double that of
material. It appeared preferable to freight vessels at New York, and to
load them with the iron in bars. This, however, required not less than
sixty-eight vessels of 1000 tons, a veritable fleet, which, quitting New
York on the 3rd of May, on the 10th of the same month ascended the Bay
of Espiritu Santo, and discharged their cargoes, without dues, in the
port at Tampa Town. Thence the iron was transported by rail to Stones
Hill, and about the middle of January this enormous mass of metal was
delivered at its destination.

It will be easily understood that 1200 furnaces were not too many to
melt simultaneously these 60,000 tons of iron. Each of these furnaces
contained nearly 140,000 lbs. weight of metal. They were all built after
the model of those which served for the casting of the Rodman gun, they
were trapezoidal in shape, with a high elliptical arch. These furnaces,
constructed of fireproof brick, were especially adapted for burning
pit coal, with a flat bottom upon which the iron bars were laid. This
bottom, inclined at an angle of 25°, allowed the metal to flow into the
receiving troughs; and the 1200 converging trenches carried the molten
metal down to the central well.

The day following that on which the works of the masonry and boring had
been completed, Barbicane set to work upon the central mould. His object
now was to raise within the centre of the well, and with a coincident
axis, a cylinder 900 feet high, and 9 feet in diameter, which should
exactly fill up the space reserved for the bore of the Columbiad. This
cylinder was composed of a mixture of clay and sand, with the addition of
a little hay and straw. The space left between the mould and the masonry
was intended to be filled up by the molten metal, which would thus form
the walls six feet in thickness. This cylinder, in order to maintain its
equilibrium, had to be bound by iron bands, and firmly fixed at certain
intervals by cross-clamps fastened into the stone lining; after the
castings these would be buried in the block of metal, leaving no external
projection.


Illustration: THE CASTING.


This operation was completed on the 8th of July, and the run of the metal
was fixed for the following day.

"This fête of the casting will be a grand ceremony," said J. T. Maston
to his friend Barbicane.

"Undoubtedly," said Barbicane; "but it will not be a public fête."

"What! will you not open the gates of the enclosure to all comers?"

"I must be very careful, Maston. The casting of the Columbiad is an
extremely delicate, not to say a dangerous operation, and I should prefer
its being done privately. At the discharge of the projectile, a fête if
you like—till then, no!"

The president was right. The operation involved unforeseen dangers, which
a great influx of spectators would have hindered him from averting. It was
necessary to preserve complete freedom of movement. No one was admitted
within the enclosure except a delegation of members of the Gun Club,
who had made the voyage to Tampa Town. Among these was the brisk Bilsby,
Tom Hunter, Colonel Blomsberry, Major Elphinstone, General Morgan, and
the rest of the lot to whom the casting of the Columbiad was a matter
of personal interest. J. T. Maston became their cicerone. He omitted no
point of detail; he conducted them throughout the magazines, workshops,
through the midst of the engines, and compelled them to visit the whole
1200 furnaces one after the other. At the end of the twelve-hundredth
visit they were pretty well knocked up.

The casting was to take place at 12 o'clock precisely. The previous
evening each furnace had been charged with 114,000 lbs. weight of metal
in bars disposed cross-ways to each other, so as to allow the hot air
to circulate freely between them. At daybreak the 1200 chimneys vomited
their torrents of flame into the air, and the ground was agitated with
dull tremblings. As many pounds of metal as there were to _cast_, so many
pounds of coal were there to _burn_. Thus there were 68,000 tons of coal
which projected in the face of the sun a thick curtain of smoke. The heat
soon became insupportable within the circle of furnaces, the rumbling of
which resembled the rolling of thunder. The powerful ventilators added
their continuous blasts and saturated with oxygen the glowing plates. The
operation, to be successful, required to be conducted with great rapidity.
On a signal given by a cannon-shot each furnace was to give vent to the
molten iron and completely to empty itself. These arrangements made,
foremen and workmen waited the preconcerted moment with an impatience
mingled with a certain amount of emotion. Not a soul remained within the
enclosure. Each superintendent took his post by the aperture of the run.

Barbicane and his colleagues, perched on a neighbouring eminence,
assisted at the operation. In front of them was a piece of artillery
ready to give fire on the signal from the engineer. Some minutes before
midday the first driblets of metal began to flow; the reservoirs filled
little by little; and, by the time that the whole melting was completely
accomplished, it was kept in abeyance for a few minutes in order to
facilitate the separation of foreign substances.

Twelve o'clock struck! A gunshot suddenly pealed forth and shot its
flame into the air. Twelve hundred melting-troughs were simultaneously
opened and twelve hundred fiery serpents crept towards the central
well, unrolling their incandescent curves. There, down they plunged
with a terrific noise into a depth of 900 feet. It was an exciting and
a magnificent spectacle. The ground trembled, while these molten waves,
launching into the sky their wreaths of smoke, evaporated the moisture
of the mould and hurled it upwards through the vent-holes of the stone
lining in the form of dense vapour-clouds. These artificial clouds
unrolled their thick spirals to a height of 1000 yards into the air.
A savage, wandering somewhere beyond the limits of the horizon, might
have believed that some new crater was forming in the bosom of Florida,
although there was neither any eruption, nor typhoon, nor storm, nor
struggle of the elements, nor any of those terrible phenomena which
nature is capable of producing. No, it was man alone who had produced
these reddish vapours, these gigantic flames worthy of a volcano itself,
these tremendous vibrations resembling the shock of an earthquake, these
reverberations rivalling those of hurricanes and storms; and it was his
hand which precipitated into an abyss, dug by himself, a whole Niagara
of molten metal!



   CHAPTER XVI.

   THE COLUMBIAD.


Had the casting succeeded? They were reduced to mere conjecture. There
was indeed every reason to expect success, since the mould had absorbed
the entire mass of the molten metal; still some considerable time must
elapse before they could arrive at any certainty upon the matter.

The patience of the members of the Gun Club was sorely tried during this
period of time. But they could do nothing. J. T. Maston escaped roasting
by a miracle. Fifteen days after the casting an immense column of smoke
was still rising in the open sky and the ground burnt the soles of the
feet within a radius of 200 feet round the summit of Stones Hill. It was
impossible to approach nearer. All they could do was to wait with what
patience they might.

"Here we are at the 10th August," exclaimed J. T. Maston one morning,
"only four months to the 1st of December! We shall never be ready in
time!" Barbicane said nothing, but his silence covered serious irritation.

However, daily observations revealed a certain change going on in the
state of the ground. About the 15th August the vapours ejected had
sensibly diminished in intensity and thickness. Some days afterwards the
earth exhaled only a slight puff of smoke, the last breath of the monster
enclosed within its circle of stone. Little by little the belt of heat
contracted, until on the 22d August Barbicane, his colleagues, and the
engineer were enabled to set foot on the iron sheet which lay level upon
the summit of Stones Hill.

"At last!" exclaimed the President of the Gun Club, with an immense sigh
of relief.

The work was resumed the same day. They proceeded at once to extract the
interior mould, for the purpose of clearing out the boring of the piece.
Pickaxes and boring irons were set to work without intermission. The
clayey and sandy soils had acquired extreme hardness under the action of
the heat; but by the aid of the machines, the rubbish on being dug out
was rapidly carted away on railway waggons; and such was the ardour of
the work, so persuasive the arguments of Barbicane's dollars, that by
the 3rd of September all traces of the mould had entirely disappeared.

Immediately the operation of boring was commenced; and by the aid of
powerful machines, a few weeks later, the inner surface of the immense
tube had been rendered perfectly cylindrical, and the bore of the piece
had acquired a thorough polish.

At length, on the 22nd of September, less than a twelvemonth after
Barbicane's original proposition, the enormous weapon, accurately bored,
and exactly vertically pointed, was ready for work. There was only the
moon now to wait for; and they were pretty sure that she would not fail
in the rendezvous.

The ecstacy of J. T. Maston knew no bounds, and he narrowly escaped a
frightful fall while staring down the tube. But for the strong hand of
Colonel Blomsberry, the worthy secretary, like a modern Erostratus, would
have found his death in the depths of the Columbiad.

The cannon was then finished; there was no possible doubt as to its
perfect completion. So, on the 6th of October, Captain Nicholl opened
an account between himself and President Barbicane, in which he debited
himself to the latter in the sum of 2000 dollars. One may believe that
the Captain's wrath was increased to its highest point, and must have
made him seriously ill. However, he had still three bets of three, four,
and five thousand dollars, respectively; and if he gained two out of
these, his position would not be very bad. But the money question did
not enter into his calculations; it was the success of his rival in
casting a cannon against which iron plates sixty feet thick would have
been ineffectual, that dealt him a terrible blow.

After the 23rd of September the enclosure of Stones Hill was thrown open
to the public; and it will be easily imagined what was the concourse of
visitors to this spot! There was an incessant flow of people to and from
Tampa Town and the place, which resembled a procession, or rather, in
fact, a pilgrimage.

It was already clear to be seen that, on the day of the experiment itself,
the aggregate of spectators would be counted by millions; for they were
already arriving from all parts of the earth upon this narrow strip of
promontory. Europe was emigrating to America.

Up to that time, however, it must be confessed, the curiosity of the
numerous comers was but scantily gratified. Most had counted upon
witnessing the spectacle of the casting, and they were treated to
nothing but smoke. This was sorry food for hungry eyes; but Barbicane
would admit no one to that operation. Then ensued grumbling, discontent,
murmurs; they blamed the President, taxed him with dictatorial conduct.
His proceedings were declared "un-American." There was very nearly a
riot round Stones Hill; but Barbicane remained inflexible. When, however,
the Columbiad was entirely finished, this state of closed doors could
no longer be maintained; besides it would have been bad taste, and even
imprudence, to affront the public feeling. Barbicane, therefore, opened
the enclosure to all comers; but, true to his practical disposition, he
determined to coin money out of the public curiosity.

It was something, indeed, to be enabled to contemplate this immense
Columbiad; but to descend into its depths, this seemed to the Americans
the _ne plus ultra_ of earthly felicity. Consequently, there was not
one curious spectator who was not willing to give himself the treat of
visiting the interior of this metallic abyss. Baskets suspended from
steam-cranes permitted them to satisfy their curiosity. There was a
perfect mania. Women, children, old men, all made it a point of duty to
penetrate the mysteries of the colossal gun. The fare for the descent was
fixed at five dollars per head; and despite this high charge, during the
two months which preceded the experiment, the influx of visitors enabled
the Gun Club to pocket nearly 500,000 dollars!


Illustration: TAMPA TOWN AFTER THE UNDERTAKING.


It is needless to say that the first visitors of the Columbiad were the
members of the Gun Club. This privilege was justly reserved for that
illustrious body. The ceremony took place on the 25th September. A basket
of honour took down the President, J. T. Maston, Major Elphinstone,
General Morgan, Colonel Blomsberry, and other members of the club, to
the number of ten in all. How hot it was at the bottom of that long tube
of metal! They were half suffocated. But what delight! What ecstasy! A
table had been laid with six covers on the massive stone which formed
the bottom of the Columbiad, and lighted by a jet of electric light
resembling that of day itself. Numerous exquisite dishes, which seemed
to descend from heaven, were placed successively before the guests, and
the richest wines of France flowed in profusion during this splendid
repast, served nine hundred feet beneath the surface of the earth!

The festival was animated, not to say somewhat noisy. Toasts flew
backwards and forwards. They drank to the earth and to her satellite, to
the Gun Club, the Union, the moon, Diana, Phœbe, Selene, the "peaceful
courier of the night"! All the hurrahs, carried upwards upon the sonorous
waves of the immense acoustic tube, arrived with the sound of thunder
at its mouth; and the multitude ranged round Stones Hill heartily united
their shouts with those of the ten revellers hidden from view at the
bottom of the gigantic Columbiad.

J. T. Maston was no longer master of himself. Whether he shouted or
gesticulated, ate or drank most, would be a difficult matter to determine.
At all events, he would not have given his place up for an empire, "not
even if the cannon—loaded, primed, and fired at that very moment—were
to blow him in pieces into the planetary world."


Illustration: THE BANQUET IN THE COLUMBIAD.



   CHAPTER XVII.

   A TELEGRAPHIC DESPATCH.


The great works undertaken by the Gun Club had now virtually come to an
end; and two months still remained before the day for the discharge of
the shot to the moon. To the general impatience these two months appeared
as long as years! Hitherto the smallest details of the operation had been
daily chronicled by the journals, which the public devoured with eager
eyes.

Just at this moment a circumstance, the most unexpected, the most
extraordinary and incredible, occurred to rouse afresh their panting
spirits, and to throw every mind into a state of the most violent
excitement.

One day, the 30th September, at 3.47 p.m., a telegram, transmitted by
cable from Valentia (Ireland) to Newfoundland and the American mainland,
arrived at the address of President Barbicane.

The President tore open the envelope, read the despatch, and, despite
his remarkable powers of self-control, his lips turned pale and his eyes
grew dim, on reading the twenty words of this telegram.

Here is the text of the despatch, which figures now in the archives of
the Gun Club:—


   "France, Paris,

   "30 _September_, 4 _a.m._

   "Barbicane, Tampa Town, Florida, United States.

   "Substitute for your spherical shell a cylindro-conical projectile.
    I shall go inside. Shall arrive by steamer 'Atlanta.'

   "Michel Ardan."



   CHAPTER XVIII.

   THE PASSENGER OF THE "ATLANTA."


If this astounding news, instead of flying through the electric wires,
had simply arrived by post in the ordinary sealed envelope, Barbicane
would not have hesitated a moment. He would have held his tongue about
it, both as a measure of prudence, and in order not to have to reconsider
his plans. This telegram might be a cover for some jest, especially as
it came from a Frenchman. What human being would ever have conceived the
idea of such a journey? and, if such a person really existed, he must be
an idiot, whom one would shut up in a lunatic ward, rather than within
the walls of the projectile.

The contents of the despatch, however, speedily became known; for
the telegraphic officials possessed but little discretion, and Michel
Ardan's proposition ran at once throughout the several States of the
Union. Barbicane had, therefore, no further motive for keeping silence.
Consequently, he called together such of his colleagues as were at the
moment in Tampa Town, and without any expression of his own opinions
simply read to them the laconic text itself. It was received with every
possible variety of expressions of doubt, incredulity, and derision from
every one, with the exception of J. T. Maston, who exclaimed, "It is a
grand idea, however!"

When Barbicane originally proposed to send a shot to the moon every one
looked upon the enterprise as simple and practicable enough—a mere
question of gunnery; but when a person, professing to be a reasonable
being, offered to take passage within the projectile, the whole thing
became a farce, or, in plainer language a _humbug._


Illustration: PRESIDENT BARBICANE AT HIS WINDOW.


One question, however, remained. Did such a being exist? This telegram
flashed across the depths of the Atlantic, the designation of the vessel
on board which he was to take his passage, the date assigned for his
speedy arrival, all combined to impart a certain character of reality to
the proposal. They must get some clearer notion of the matter. Scattered
groups of inquirers at length condensed themselves into a compact crowd,
which made straight for the residence of President Barbicane. That worthy
individual was keeping quiet with the intention of watching events as they
arose. But he had forgotten to take into account the public impatience;
and it was with no pleasant countenance that he watched the population
of Tampa Town gathering under his windows. The murmurs and vociferations
below presently obliged him to appear. He came forward, therefore, and
on silence being procured, a citizen put point-blank to him the following
question:—"Is the person mentioned in the telegram, under the name of
Michel Ardan, on his way here? Yes or no."

"Gentlemen," replied Barbicane, "I know no more than you do."

"We must know," roared the impatient voices.

"Time will show," calmly replied the President.

"Time has no business to keep a whole country in suspense," replied the
orator. "Have you altered the plans of the projectile according to the
request of the telegram?"

"Not yet, gentlemen; but you are right! we must have better information
to go by. The telegraph must complete its information."

"To the telegraph!" roared the crowd.

Barbicane descended; and heading the immense assemblage, led the way to
the telegraph office. A few minutes later a telegram was despatched to
the secretary of the underwriters at Liverpool, requesting answers to
the following queries:—

"About the ship 'Atlanta'—when did she leave Europe? Had she on board
a Frenchman named Michel Ardan?"

Two hours afterwards Barbicane received information too exact to leave
room for the smallest remaining doubt.

"The steamer 'Atlanta' from Liverpool put to sea on the 2nd October,
bound for Tampa Town, having on board a Frenchman borne on the list of
passengers by the name of Michel Ardan."

That very evening he wrote to the house of Breadwill and Co., requesting
them to suspend the casting of the projectile until the receipt of
further orders. On the 20th October, at 9 a.m., the semaphores of the
Bahama Canal signalled a thick smoke on the horizon. Two hours later a
large steamer exchanged signals with them. The name of the Atlanta flew
at once over Tampa Town. At four o'clock the English vessel entered the
Bay of Espiritu Santo. At five it crossed the passage of Hillisborough
Bay at full steam. At six she cast anchor at Port Tampa. The anchor had
scarcely caught the sandy bottom when 500 boats surrounded the "Atlanta,"
and the steamer was taken by assault. Barbicane was the first to set foot
on deck, and in a voice of which he vainly tried to conceal the emotion,
called "Michel Ardan."

"Here!" replied an individual perched on the poop.

Barbicane, with arms crossed, looked fixedly at the passenger of the
"Atlanta."

He was a man of about 42 years of age, of large build, but slightly
round-shouldered. His massive head momentarily shook a shock of reddish
hair, which resembled a lion's mane. His face was short with a broad
forehead, and furnished with a moustache as bristly as a cat's, and little
patches of yellowish whisker upon full cheeks. Round, wildish eyes,
slightly near-sighted, completed a physiognomy essentially _feline._ His
nose was firmly shaped, his mouth particularly sweet in expression, high
forehead, intelligent and furrowed with wrinkles like a newly-ploughed
field. The body was powerfully developed and firmly fixed upon long legs.
Muscular arms, and a general air of decision gave him the appearance of
a hardy, jolly companion. He was dressed in a suit of ample dimensions,
loose neckerchief, open shirt-collar, disclosing a robust neck; his cuffs
were invariably unbuttoned, through which appeared a pair of red hands.


Illustration: MICHEL ARDEN.


On the bridge of the steamer, in the midst of the crowd, he bustled to
and fro, never still for a moment, "dragging his anchors," as the sailors
say, gesticulating, making free with everybody, biting his nails with
nervous avidity. He was one of those originals which nature sometimes
invents in the freak of a moment, and of which she then breaks the mould.

Amongst other peculiarities, this curiosity gave himself out for a
sublime ignoramus, "like Shakespeare," and professed supreme contempt
for all scientific men. Those "fellows," as he called them, "are only
fit to mark the points, while we play the game." He was, in fact, a
thorough Bohemian, adventurous, but not an adventurer; a hair-brained
fellow, a kind of Icarus, only possessing relays of wings. For the rest,
he was ever in scrapes, ending invariably by falling on his feet, like
those little pith figures which they sell for children's toys. In two
words, his motto was "I have my opinions," and the love of the impossible
constituted his ruling passion.

Such was the passenger of the "Atlanta," always excitable, as if boiling
under the action of some internal fire by the character of his physical
organization. If ever two individuals offered a striking contrast to each
other, these were certainly Michel Ardan and the Yankee Barbicane; both,
moreover, being equally enterprising and daring, each in his own way.

The scrutiny which the President of the Gun Club had instituted regarding
this new rival was quickly interrupted by the shouts and hurrahs of the
crowd. The cries became at last so uproarious, and the popular enthusiasm
assumed so personal a form, that Michel Ardan, after having shaken hands
some thousands of times, at the imminent risk of leaving his fingers
behind him, was fain at last to make a bolt for his cabin.

Barbicane followed him without uttering a word.

"You are Barbicane, I suppose?" said Michel Ardan in a tone of voice in
which he would have addressed a friend of twenty years' standing.

"Yes," replied the President of the G. C.

"All right! how d'ye do, Barbicane? how are you getting on—pretty well?
that's right."

"So," said Barbicane without further preliminary, "you are quite
determined to go."

"Quite decided."

"Nothing will stop you?"

"Nothing. Have you modified your projectile according to my telegram."

"I waited for your arrival. But," asked Barbicane again, "have you
carefully reflected?"

"Reflected? have I any time to spare? I find an opportunity of making a
tour in the moon, and I mean to profit by it. There is the whole gist of
the matter."

Barbicane looked hard at this man who spoke so lightly of his project
with such complete absence of anxiety. "But, at least," said he, "you
have some plans, some means of carrying your project into execution?"

"Excellent, my dear Barbicane; only permit me to offer one remark:—My
wish is to tell my story once for all, to everybody, and then to have
done with it; then there will be no need for recapitulation. So, if you
have no objection, assemble your friends, colleagues, the whole town,
all Florida, all America if you like, and to-morrow I shall be ready to
explain my plans and answer any objections whatever that may be advanced.
You may rest assured I shall wait without stirring. Will that suit you?"

"All right," replied Barbicane.

So saying, the President left the cabin and informed the crowd of the
proposal of Michel Ardan. His words were received with clappings of hands
and shouts of joy. They had removed all difficulties. To-morrow every
one would contemplate at his ease this European hero. However, some of
the spectators, more infatuated than the rest, would not leave the deck
of the "Atlanta." They passed the night on board. Amongst others, J.
T. Maston got his hook fixed in the combing of the poop, and it pretty
nearly required the capstan to get it out again.

"He is a hero! a hero!" he cried, a theme of which he was never tired of
ringing the changes; "and we are only like weak, silly women, compared
with this European!"

As to the president, after having suggested to the visitors it was time
to retire, he re-entered the passenger's cabin, and remained there till
the bell of the steamer made it midnight.

But then the two rivals in popularity shook hands heartily and parted on
terms of intimate friendship.



   CHAPTER XIX.

   A MONSTER MEETING.


On the following day Barbicane, fearing that indiscreet questions might
be put to Michel Ardan, was desirous of reducing the number of the
audience to a few of the initiated, his own colleagues for instance. He
might as well have tried to check the Falls of Niagara! He was compelled,
therefore, to give up the idea, and to let his new friend run the chances
of a public conference. The place chosen for this monster meeting was a
vast plain situated in the rear of the town. In a few hours, thanks to the
help of the shipping in port, an immense roofing of canvas was stretched
over the parched prairie, and protected it from the burning rays of the
sun. There 300,000 people braved for many hours the stifling heat while
awaiting the arrival of the Frenchman. Of this crowd of spectators a first
set could both see and hear; a second set saw badly and heard nothing
at all; and as for the third, it could neither see nor hear anything at
all. At three o'clock Michel Ardan made his appearance, accompanied by
the principal members of the Gun Club. He was supported on his right by
President Barbicane, and on his left by J. T. Maston, more radiant than
the midday sun and nearly as ruddy. Ardan mounted a platform, from the
top of which his view extended over a sea of black hats. He exhibited not
the slightest embarrassment; he was just as gay, familiar, and pleasant
as if he were at home. To the hurrahs which greeted him he replied by
a graceful bow; then, waving his hand to request silence, he spoke in
perfectly correct English as follows:—


Illustration: THE MEETING.


"Gentlemen, despite the very hot weather I request your patience for a
short time while I offer some explanations regarding the projects which
seem to have so interested you. I am neither an orator nor a man of
science, and I had no idea of addressing you in public; but my friend
Barbicane has told me that you would like to hear me, and I am quite at
your service. Listen to me, therefore, with your 600,000 ears, and please
to excuse the faults of the speaker. Now pray do not forget that you see
before you a perfect ignoramus whose ignorance goes so far that he cannot
even understand the difficulties! It seemed to him that it was a matter
quite simple, natural, and easy to take one's place in a projectile and
start for the moon! That journey must be undertaken sooner or later;
and, as for the mode of locomotion adopted, it follows simply the law of
progress. Man began by walking on all-fours; then, one fine day, on two
feet; then in a carriage; then in a stage-coach; and lastly by railway.
Well, the projectile is the vehicle of the future, and the planets
themselves are nothing else! Now some of you, gentlemen, may imagine that
the velocity we propose to impart to it is extravagant. It is nothing
of the kind. All the stars exceed it in rapidity, and the earth herself
is at this moment carrying us round the sun at three times as rapid a
rate, and yet she is a mere lounger on the way compared with many others
of the planets! And her velocity is constantly _decreasing._ Is it not
evident, then, I ask you, that there will some day appear velocities far
greater than these, of which light or electricity will probably be the
mechanical agent?

"Yes, gentlemen," continued the orator, "in spite of the opinions of
certain narrow-minded people, who would shut up the human race upon
this globe, as within some magic circle which it must never outstep, we
shall one day travel to the moon, the planets, and the stars, with the
same facility, rapidity, and certainty as we now make the voyage from
Liverpool to New York! Distance is but a relative expression, and must
end by being reduced to zero."

The assembly, strongly predisposed as they were in favour of the French
hero, were slightly staggered at this bold theory. Michel Ardan perceived
the fact.

"Gentlemen," he continued with a pleasant smile, "you do not seem quite
convinced. Very good! Let us reason the matter out. Do you know how long
it would take for an _express train_ to reach the moon? Three hundred
days; no more! And what is that? The distance is no more than nine times
the circumference of the earth; and there are no sailors or travellers,
of even moderate activity, who have not made longer journeys than that
in their lifetime. And now consider that I shall be only ninety-seven
hours on my journey. Ah! I see you are reckoning that the moon is a long
way off from the earth, and that one must think twice before making the
experiment. What would you say, then, if we were talking of going to
Neptune, which revolves at a distance of more than two thousand seven
hundred and twenty millions of miles from the sun! And yet what is that
compared with the distance of the fixed stars, some of which, such as
Arcturus, are at billions of miles distant from us? And then you talk
of the _distance_ which separates the planets from the sun! And there
are people who affirm that such a thing as distance exists. Absurdity,
folly, idiotic nonsense! Would you know what I think of our own solar
universe? Shall I tell you my theory? It is very simple! In my opinion
the solar system is a solid, homogeneous body; the planets which compose
it are in _actual contact_ with each other; and whatever space exists
between them is nothing more than the space which separates the molecules
of the densest metal, such as silver, iron, or platinum! I have the
right, therefore, to affirm, and I repeat, with the conviction which must
penetrate all your minds, 'Distance is but an empty name; distance does
not really exist!'"

"Hurrah!" cried one voice (need it be said it was that of J. T. Maston?).
"Distance does not exist!" And overcome by the energy of his movements,
he nearly fell from the platform to the ground. He just escaped a severe
fall, which would have proved to him that distance was by no means _an
empty name._


Illustration: PROJECTILE TRAINS FOR THE MOON.


"Gentlemen," resumed the orator, "I repeat that the distance between the
earth and her satellite is a mere trifle, and undeserving of serious
consideration. I am convinced that before twenty years are over one half
of our earth will have paid a visit to the moon. Now, my worthy friends,
if you have any question to put to me, you will, I fear, sadly embarrass
a poor man like myself; still I will do my best to answer you."

Up to this point the President of the Gun Club had been satisfied with the
turn which the discussion had assumed. It became now, however, desirable
to divert Ardan from questions of a practical nature, with which he was
doubtless far less conversant. Barbicane, therefore, hastened to get in
a word, and began by asking his new friend whether he thought that the
moon and the planets were inhabited.

"You put before me a great problem, my worthy President," replied the
orator, smiling. "Still, men of great intelligence, such as Plutarch,
Swedenborg, Bernardin de St. Pierre, and others have, if I mistake not,
pronounced in the affirmative. Looking at the question from the natural
philosopher's point of view, I should say that _nothing useless_ existed
in the world; and, replying to your question by another, I should venture
to assert, that if these worlds are _habitable_, they either are, have
been, or will be inhabited."

"No one could answer more logically or fairly," replied the president.
"The question then reverts to this: _Are_ these worlds habitable? For my
own part I believe they are."

"For myself, I feel certain of it," said Michel Ardan.

"Nevertheless," retorted one of the audience, "there are many arguments
_against_ the habitability of the worlds. The conditions of life must
evidently be greatly modified upon the majority of them. To mention
only the planets, we should be either broiled alive in some, or frozen
to death in others, according as they are more or less removed from the
sun."

"I regret," replied Michel Ardan, "that I have not the honour of personally
knowing my contradictor, for I would have attempted to answer him. His
objection has its merits, I admit; but I think we may successfully combat
it, as well as all others which affect the habitability of the other
worlds. If I were a _natural philosopher,_ I would tell him that if less
of caloric were _set in motion_ upon the planets which are nearest to
the sun, and more, on the contrary, upon those which are farthest removed
from it, this simple fact would alone suffice to equalize the heat, and
to render the temperature of those worlds supportable by beings organized
like ourselves. If I were a _naturalist_, I would tell him that, according
to some illustrious men of science, nature has furnished us with instances
upon the earth of animals existing under very varying conditions of life;
that fish respire in a medium fatal to other animals; that amphibious
creatures possess a double existence very difficult of explanation; that
certain denizens of the seas maintain life at enormous depths, and there
support a pressure equal to that of fifty or sixty atmospheres without
being crushed; that several aquatic insects, insensible to temperature,
are met with equally among boiling springs and in the frozen plains
of the Polar Sea; in fine, that we cannot help recognizing in nature a
diversity of means of operation oftentimes incomprehensible, but not the
less real. If I were a _chemist_, I would tell him that the aerolites,
bodies evidently formed exteriorly of our terrestrial globe, have, upon
analysis, revealed indisputable traces of carbon, a substance which
owes its origin solely to organized beings, and which, according to the
experiments of Reichenbach, must necessarily itself have been _endued
with animation._ And lastly, were I a theologian, I would tell him that
the scheme of the Divine Redemption, according to St. Paul, seems to be
applicable, not merely to the earth, but to all the celestial worlds.
But, unfortunately I am neither theologian, nor chemist, nor naturalist,
nor philosopher; therefore, in my absolute ignorance of the great laws
which govern the universe, I confine myself to saying in reply, 'I do not
know whether the worlds are inhabited or not; and since I do not know,
_I am going to see!_"

Whether Michel Ardan's antagonist hazarded any further arguments or
not it is impossible to say, for the uproarious shouts of the crowd
would not allow any expression of opinion to gain a hearing. On silence
being restored, the triumphant orator contented himself with adding the
following remarks:—

"Gentlemen, you will observe that I have but slightly touched upon
this great question. There is another altogether different line of
arguments in favour of the habitability of the stars, which I omit for
the present. I only desire to call attention to one point. To those who
maintain that the planets are _not_ inhabited one may reply:—You might
be perfectly in the right, if you could only show that the earth is the
_best possible world,_ spite of what Voltaire has said. She has but _one_
satellite, while Jupiter, Uranus, Saturn, Neptune have each several,
an advantage by no means to be despised. But that which renders our own
globe so uncomfortable is the inclination of its axis to the plane of its
orbit. Hence the inequality of days and nights; hence the disagreeable
diversity of the seasons. On the surface of our unhappy spheroid we
are always either too hot or too cold; we are frozen in winter, broiled
in summer; it is the planet of rheumatism, coughs, bronchitis; while
on the surface of Jupiter, for example, where the axis is but slightly
inclined, the inhabitants may enjoy uniform temperatures. It possesses
zones of perpetual springs, summers, autumns, and winters; every Jovian
may choose for himself what climate he likes, and there spend the whole
of his life in security from all variations of temperature. You will, I
am sure, readily admit this superiority of Jupiter over our own planet,
to say nothing of his years, which each equal twelve of ours! Under
such auspices, and such marvellous conditions of existence, it appears
to me that the inhabitants of so fortunate a world must be in every
respect superior to ourselves. All we require, in order to attain to
such perfection, is the mere trifle of having an axis of rotation less
inclined to the plane of its orbit!"

"Hurrah!" roared an energetic voice, "let us unite our efforts, invent
the necessary machines, and rectify the earth's axis!"

A thunder of applause followed this proposal, the author of which was, of
course, no other than J. T. Maston. And, in all probability, if the truth
must be told, if the Yankees could only have found a point of application
for it, they would have constructed a lever capable of raising the earth
and rectifying its axis. It was just this deficiency which baffled these
daring mechanicians.



   CHAPTER XX.

   ATTACK AND RIPOSTE.


As soon as the excitement had subsided, the following words were heard
uttered in a strong and determined voice:—

"Now that the speaker has favoured us with so much imagination, would he
be so good as to return to his subject, and give us a little practical
view of the question?"

All eyes were directed towards the person who spoke. He was a little
dried-up man, of an active figure, with an American "goatee" beard.
Profiting by the different movements in the crowd, he had managed by
degrees to gain the front row of spectators. There, with arms crossed
and stern gaze, he watched the hero of the meeting. After having put
his question he remained silent, and appeared to take no notice of
the thousands of looks directed towards himself, nor of the murmur of
disapprobation excited by his words. Meeting at first with no reply, he
repeated his question with marked emphasis, adding, "We are here to talk
about the _moon_ and not about the _earth_."

"You are right, sir," replied Michel Ardan; "the discussion has become
irregular. We will return to the moon."

"Sir," said the unknown, "you pretend that our satellite is inhabited.
Very good; but if Selenites do exist, that race of beings assuredly must
live without breathing, for—I warn you for your own sake—there is
not the smallest particle of air on the surface of the moon."

At this remark Ardan pushed up his shock of red hair; he saw that he was
on the point of being involved in a struggle with this person upon the
very gist of the whole question. He looked sternly at him in his turn
and said,—

"Oh! so there is no air in the moon? And pray, if you are so good, who
ventures to affirm that?"

"The men of science."

"Really?"

"Really."

"Sir," replied Michel, "pleasantry apart, I have a profound respect for
men of science who do possess science, but a profound contempt for men
of science who do not."

"Do you know any who belong to the latter category?"

"Decidedly. In France there are some who maintain that, mathematically,
a bird cannot possibly fly; and others who demonstrate theoretically that
fishes were never made to live in water."

"I have nothing to do with persons of that description, and I can quote,
in support of my statement, names which you cannot refuse deference to."

"Then, sir, you will sadly embarrass a poor ignorant, who, besides, asks
nothing better than to learn."

"Why, then, do you introduce scientific questions if you have never
studied them?" asked the unknown somewhat coarsely.

"For the reason that 'he is always brave who never suspects danger.' I
know nothing, it is true; but it is precisely my very weakness which
constitutes my strength."

"Your weakness amounts to folly," retorted the unknown in a passion.

"All the better," replied our Frenchman, "if it carries me up to the
_moon._"

Barbicane and his colleagues devoured with their eyes the intruder who had
so boldly placed himself in antagonism to their enterprise. Nobody knew
him, and the president, uneasy as to the result of so free a discussion,
watched his new friend with some anxiety. The meeting began to be somewhat
fidgety also, for the contest directed their attention to the dangers,
if not the actual impossibilities, of the proposed expedition.


Illustration: ATTACK AND RIPOSTE.


"Sir," replied Ardan's antagonist, "there are many and incontrovertible
reasons which prove the absence of an atmosphere in the moon. I might
say that, _à priori_, if one ever did exist, it must have been absorbed
by the earth; but I prefer to bring forward indisputable facts."

"Bring them forward then, sir, as many as you please."

"You know," said the stranger, "that when any luminous rays cross a
medium such as the air, they are deflected out of the straight line; in
other words, they undergo _refraction._ Well! When stars are occulted by
the moon, their rays, on grazing the edge of her disc, exhibit not the
least deviation, nor offer the slightest indication of refraction. It
follows, therefore, that the moon cannot be surrounded by an atmosphere."

"In point of fact," replied Ardan, "this is your chief, if not your _only_
argument; and a really scientific man might be puzzled to answer it. For
myself, I will simply say that it is defective, because it assumes that
the angular diameter of the moon has been completely determined, which
is not the case. But let us proceed. Tell me, my dear sir, do you admit
the existence of volcanoes on the moon's surface?"

"_Extinct_, yes! In activity, no!"

"These volcanoes, however, were at one time in a state of activity?"

"True! but, as they furnished themselves the oxygen necessary for
combustion, the mere fact of their eruption does not prove the presence
of an atmosphere."

"Proceed again, then; and let us set aside this class of arguments in
order to come to direct observations. In 1715 the astronomers Louville
and Halley, watching the eclipse of the 3rd May, remarked some very
extraordinary scintillations. These jets of light, rapid in nature, and
of frequent recurrence, they attributed to thunderstorms generated in
the lunar atmosphere."

"In 1715," replied the unknown, "the astronomers Louville and Halley
mistook for lunar phenomena some which were purely terrestrial, such as
meteoric or other bodies which are generated in our own atmosphere. This
was the scientific explanation at the time of the facts; and that is my
answer now."

"On again, then," replied Ardan; "Herschel, in 1787, observed a great
number of luminous points on the moon's surface, did he not?"

"Yes! but without offering any solution of them. Herschel himself never
inferred from them the necessity of a lunar atmosphere. And I may add
that Bœer and Moedler, the two great authorities upon the moon, are
quite agreed as to the entire absence of air on its surface."

A movement was here manifest among the assemblage, who appeared to be
growing excited by the arguments of this singular personage.

"Let us proceed," replied Ardan, with perfect coolness, "and come to one
important fact. A skilful French astronomer, M. Laussedat, in watching
the eclipse of July 18, 1860, proved that the horns of the solar crescent
were _rounded and truncated._ Now, this appearance could only have been
produced by a deviation of the solar rays in traversing the atmosphere
of the moon. There is no other possible explanation of the fact."

"But is this established as a fact?"

"Absolutely certain!"

A counter-movement here took place in favour of the hero of the meeting,
whose opponent was now reduced to silence. Ardan resumed the conversation;
and without exhibiting any exultation at the advantage he had gained,
simply said,—

"You see, then, my dear sir, we must not pronounce with absolute
positiveness against the existence of an atmosphere in the moon. That
atmosphere is, probably, of extreme rarity; nevertheless at the present
day science generally admits that it exists."

"Not in the mountains, at all events," returned the unknown, unwilling
to give in.

"No! but at the bottom of the valleys, and not exceeding a few hundred
feet in height."

"In any case you will do well to take every precaution, for the air will
be terribly rarified."

"My good sir, there will always be enough for a solitary individual;
besides, once arrived up there, I shall do my best to economize, and not
to breathe except on grand occasions!"

A tremendous roar of laughter rang in the ears of the mysterious
interlocutor, who glared fiercely round upon the assembly.

"Then," continued Ardan, with a careless air, "since we are in accord
regarding the presence of a certain atmosphere, we are forced to admit
the presence of a certain quantity of water. This is a happy consequence
for me. Moreover, my amiable contradictor, permit me to submit to you
one further observation. We only know one side of the moon's disc; and
if there is but little air on the face presented to us, it is possible
that there is plenty on the one turned away from us."

"And for what reason?"

"Because the moon, under the action of the earth's attraction, has
assumed the form of an egg, which we look at from the smaller end. Hence
it follows, by Hausen's calculations, that its centre of gravity is
situated in the other hemisphere. Hence it results that the great mass
of air and water must have been drawn away to the other face of our
satellite during the first days of its creation."

"Pure fancies!" cried the unknown.

"No! Pure theories! which are based upon the laws of mechanics, and it
seems difficult to me to refute them. I appeal then to this meeting, and
I put it to them whether life, such as exists upon the earth, is possible
on the surface of the moon?"

Three hundred thousand auditors at once applauded the proposition.
Ardan's opponent tried to get in another word, but he could not obtain
a hearing. Cries and menaces fell upon him like hail.

"Enough! enough!" cried some.

"Drive the intruder off!" shouted others.

"Turn him out!" roared the exasperated crowd.

But he, holding firmly on to the platform, did not budge an inch, and let
the storm pass on, which would soon have assumed formidable proportions,
if Michel Ardan had not quieted it by a gesture. He was too chivalrous
to abandon his opponent in an apparent extremity.

"You wished to say a few more words?" he asked, in a pleasant voice.

"Yes, a thousand; or rather, no, only one! If you persevere in your
enterprise, you must be a—"

"Very rash person! How can you treat me as such? me, who have demanded a
cylindro-conical projectile, in order to prevent turning round and round
on my way like a squirrel?"

"But, unhappy man, the dreadful recoil will smash you to pieces at your
starting."

"My dear contradictor, you have just put your finger upon the true and
the only difficulty; nevertheless, I have too good an opinion of the
industrial genius of the Americans not to believe that they will succeed
in overcoming it."

"But the heat developed by the rapidity of the projectile in crossing
the strata of air?"

"Oh! the walls are thick, and I shall soon have crossed the atmosphere."

"But victuals and water?"

"I have calculated for a twelvemonth's supply, and I shall be only four
days on the journey."

"But for air to breathe on the road?"

"I shall make it by chemical process."

"But your fall on the moon, supposing you ever reach it?"

"It will be six times less dangerous than a sudden fall upon the earth,
because the weight will be only one-sixth as great on the surface of the
moon."

"Still it will be enough to smash you like glass!"

"What is to prevent my retarding the shock by means of rockets conveniently
placed, and lighted at the right moment?"

"But after all, supposing all difficulties surmounted, all obstacles
removed, supposing everything combined to favour you, and granting that
you may arrive safe and sound in the moon, how will you come back?"

"I am not coming back!"

At this reply, almost sublime in its very simplicity, the assembly became
silent. But its silence was more eloquent than could have been its cries
of enthusiasm. The unknown profited by the opportunity and once more
protested,—

"You will inevitably kill yourself!" he cried; "and your death will be
that of a madman, useless even to science!"

"Go on, my dear unknown, for truly your prophecies are most agreeable!"

"It really is too much!" cried Michel Ardan's adversary. "I do not know
why I should continue so frivolous a discussion! Please yourself about
this insane expedition! We need not trouble ourselves about you!"

"Pray don't stand upon ceremony!"

"No! another person is responsible for your act."

"Who, may I ask?" demanded Michel Ardan in an imperious tone.

"The ignoramus who organized this equally absurd and impossible
experiment!"

The attack was direct. Barbicane, ever since the interference of the
unknown, had been making fearful efforts of self-control; now, however,
seeing himself directly attacked, he could restrain himself no longer.
He rose suddenly, and was rushing upon the enemy who thus braved him to
the face, when all at once he found himself separated from him.

The platform was lifted by a hundred strong arms, and the President of
the Gun Club shared with Michel Ardan triumphal honours. The shield was
heavy, but the bearers came in continuous relays, disputing, struggling,
even fighting among themselves in their eagerness to lend their shoulders
to this demonstration.

However, the unknown had not profited by the tumult to quit his post.
Besides he could not have done it in the midst of that compact crowd.
There he held on in the front row with crossed arms, glaring at President
Barbicane.

The shouts of the immense crowd continued at their highest pitch throughout
this triumphant march. Michel Ardan took it all with evident pleasure.
His face gleamed with delight. Several times the platform seemed seized
with pitching and rolling like a weather-beaten ship. But the two heroes
of the meeting had good sea-legs. They never stumbled; and their vessel
arrived without dues at the port of Tampa Town.

Michel Ardan managed fortunately to escape from the last embraces of
his vigorous admirers. He made for the Hotel Franklin, quickly gained
his chamber, and slid under the bedclothes, while an army of a hundred
thousand men kept watch under his windows.

During this time a scene, short, grave, and decisive, took place between
the mysterious personage and the President of the Gun Club.

Barbicane, free at last, had gone straight at his adversary.

"Come!" he said shortly.

The other followed him on to the quay; and the two presently found
themselves alone at the entrance of an open wharf on Jones' Fall.

The two enemies, still mutually unknown, gazed at each other.

"Who are you?" asked Barbicane.


Illustration: THE PLATFORM WAS SUDDENLY CARRIED AWAY.


"Captain Nicholl!"

"So I suspected. Hitherto chance has never thrown you in my way."

"I am come for that purpose."

"You have insulted me."

"Publicly!"

"And you will answer to me for this insult?"

"At this very moment."

"No! I desire that all that passes between us shall be secret. There is
a wood situated three miles from Tampa, the wood of Skersnaw. Do you know
it?"

"I know it."

"Will you be so good as to enter it to-morrow morning at five o'clock,
on one side?"

"Yes! if you will enter at the other side at the same hour."

"And you will not forget your rifle?" said Barbicane.

"No more than you will forget yours," replied Nicholl.

These words having been coldly spoken, the President of the Gun Club and
the captain parted. Barbicane returned to his lodging; but instead of
snatching a few hours of repose, he passed the night in endeavouring to
discover a means of evading the recoil of the projectile, and resolving
the difficult problem proposed by Michel Ardan during the discussion at
the meeting.



   CHAPTER XXI.

   HOW A FRENCHMAN MANAGES AN AFFAIR.


While the contract of this duel was being discussed by the president and
the captain—this dreadful, savage duel, in which each adversary became
a man-hunter—Michel Ardan was resting from the fatigues of his triumph.
_Resting_ is hardly an appropriate expression, for American beds rival
marble or granite tables for hardness.

Ardan was sleeping, then, badly enough, tossing about between the cloths
which served him for sheets, and he was dreaming of making a more
comfortable couch in his projectile when a frightful noise disturbed his
dreams. Thundering blows shook his door. They seemed to be caused by some
iron instrument. A great deal of loud talking was distinguishable in this
racket, which was rather too early in the morning. "Open the door," some
one shrieked, "for Heaven's sake!" Ardan saw no reason for complying with
a demand so roughly expressed. However, he got up and opened the door
just as it was giving way before the blows of this determined visitor.
The secretary of the Gun Club burst into the room. A bomb could not have
made more noise or have entered the room with less ceremony.

"Last night," cried J. T. Maston, _ex abrupto_, "our president was
publicly insulted during the meeting. He provoked his adversary, who is
none other than Captain Nicholl! They are fighting this morning in the
wood of Skersnaw. I heard all particulars from the mouth of Barbicane
himself. If he is killed, then our scheme is at end. We must prevent this
duel; and one man alone has enough influence over Barbicane to stop him,
and that man is Michel Ardan."


Illustration: MASTON BURST INTO THE ROOM.


While J. T. Maston was speaking, Michel Ardan, without interrupting him,
had hastily put on his clothes; and, in less than two minutes, the two
friends were making for the suburbs of Tampa Town with rapid strides.

It was during this walk that Maston told Ardan the state of the case. He
told him the real causes of the hostility between Barbicane and Nicholl;
how it was of old date, and why, thanks to unknown friends, the president
and the captain had, as yet, never met face to face. He added that it
arose simply from a rivalry between iron plates and shot, and, finally,
that the scene at the meeting was only the long-wished-for opportunity
for Nicholl to pay off an old grudge.

Nothing is more dreadful than private duels in America. The two adversaries
attack each other like wild beasts. Then it is that they might well covet
those wonderful properties of the Indians of the prairies—their quick
intelligence, their ingenious cunning, their scent of the enemy. A single
mistake, a moment's hesitation, a single false step may cause death. On
these occasions Yankees are often accompanied by their dogs, and keep up
the struggle for hours.

"What demons you are!" cried Michel Ardan, when his companion had depicted
this scene to him with much energy.

"Yes we are," replied J. T. modestly; "but we had better make haste."

Though Michel Ardan and he had crossed the plain still wet with dew, and
had taken the shortest route over creeks and ricefields, they could not
reach Skersnaw under five hours and a half.

Barbicane must have passed the border half an hour ago.

There was an old bushman working there, occupied in selling faggots from
trees that had been levelled by his axe.

Maston ran towards him, saying, "Have you seen a man go into the wood,
armed with a rifle? Barbicane, the president, my best friend?"

The worthy secretary of the Gun Club thought that his president must be
known by all the world. But the bushman did not seem to understand him.

"A hunter?" said Ardan.

"A hunter? Yes," replied the bushman.

"Long ago?"

"About an hour."

"Too late!" cried Maston.

"Have you heard any gun-shots?" asked Ardan.

"No!"

"Not one?"

"Not one! that hunter did not look as if he knew how to hunt!"

"What is to be done?" said Maston.

"We must go into the wood, at the risk of getting a ball which is not
intended for us."

"Ah!" cried Maston, in a tone which could not be mistaken, "I would
rather have twenty balls in my own head than one in Barbicane's."

"Forward, then," said Ardan, pressing his companion's hand.

A few moments later the two friends had disappeared in the copse. It was
a dense thicket, in which rose huge cypresses, sycamores, tulip-trees,
olives, tamarinds, oaks, and magnolias. These different trees had
interwoven their branches into an inextricable maze, through which the
eye could not penetrate. Michel Ardan and Maston walked side by side in
silence through the tall grass, cutting themselves a path through the
strong creepers, casting curious glances on the bushes, and momentarily
expecting to hear the sound of rifles. As for the traces which Barbicane
ought to have left of his passage through the wood, there was not a
vestige of them visible: so they followed the barely perceptible paths
along which Indians had tracked some enemy, and which the dense foliage
darkly overshadowed.

After an hour spent in vain pursuit the two stopped in intensified
anxiety.

"It must be all over," said Maston, discouraged. "A man like Barbicane
would not dodge with his enemy, or ensnare him, would not even manœuvre!
He is too open, too brave. He has gone straight ahead, right into the
danger, and doubtless far enough from the bushman for the wind to prevent
his hearing the report of the rifles."

"But surely," replied Michel Ardan, "since we entered the wood we should
have heard!"

"And what if we came too late?" cried Maston in tones of despair.

For once Ardan had no reply to make, he and Maston resuming their walk
in silence. From time to time, indeed, they raised great shouts, calling
alternately Barbicane and Nicholl, neither of whom, however, answered
their cries. Only the birds, awakened by the sound, flew past them
and disappeared among the branches, while some frightened deer fled
precipitately before them.

For another hour their search was continued. The greater part of the
wood had been explored. There was nothing to reveal the presence of the
combatants. The information of the bushman was after all doubtful, and
Ardan was about to propose their abandoning this useless pursuit, when
all at once Maston stopped.

"Hush!" said he, "there is some one down there!"

"Some one?" repeated Michel Ardan.

"Yes; a man! He seems motionless. His rifle is not in his hands. What
can he be doing?"

"But can you recognize him?" asked Ardan, whose short sight was of little
use to him in such circumstances.

"Yes! yes! He is turning towards us," answered Maston.

"And it is?"

"Captain Nicholl!"

"Nicholl?" cried Michel Ardan, feeling a terrible pang of grief.

"Nicholl unarmed! He has, then, no longer any fear of his adversary!"

"Let us go to him," said Michel Ardan, "and find out the truth."

But he and his companion had barely taken fifty steps when they paused to
examine the captain more attentively. They expected to find a bloodthirsty
man, happy in his revenge!

On seeing him, they remained stupefied.

A net, composed of very fine meshes, hung between two enormous
tulip-trees, and in the midst of this snare, with its wings entangled,
was a poor little bird, uttering pitiful cries, while it vainly struggled
to escape. The bird-catcher who had laid this snare was no human being,
but a venomous spider, peculiar to that country, as large as a pigeon's
egg, and armed with enormous claws. The hideous creature, instead of
rushing on its prey, had beaten a sudden retreat and taken refuge in
the upper branches of the tulip-tree, for a formidable enemy menaced its
stronghold.

Here, then, was Nicholl, his gun on the ground, forgetful of danger,
trying if possible to save the victim from its cobweb prison. At last it
was accomplished, and the little bird flew joyfully away and disappeared.

Nicholl lovingly watched its flight, when he heard these words pronounced
by a voice full of emotion,—

"You are indeed a brave man!"

He turned. Michel Ardan was before him, repeating in a different tone,—

"And a kindhearted one!"

"Michel Ardan!" cried the captain. "Why are you here?"

"To press your hand, Nicholl, and to prevent you from either killing
Barbicane or being killed by him."

"Barbicane!" returned the captain. "I have been looking for him for the
last two hours in vain. Where is he hiding?"


Illustration: IN THE MIDST OF THIS SNARE WAS A POOR LITTLE BIRD.


"Nicholl!" said Michel Ardan, "this is not courteous! we ought always to
treat an adversary with respect; rest assured if Barbicane is still alive
we shall find him all the more easily; because if he has not, like you,
been amusing himself with freeing oppressed birds, he must be looking
for _you_. When we have found him, Michel Ardan tells you this, there
will be no duel between you."

"Between President Barbicane and myself," gravely replied Nicholl, "there
is a rivalry which the death of one of us—"

"Pooh, pooh!" said Ardan. "Brave fellows like you indeed! you shall not
fight!"

"I will fight, sir!"

"No!"

"Captain," said J. T. Maston, with much feeling, "I am a friend of the
president's, his _alter ego_, his second self; if you really must kill
some one, _shoot me!_ it will do just as well!"

"Sir," Nicholl replied, seizing his rifle convulsively, "these jokes—"

"Our friend Maston is not joking," replied Ardan. "I fully understand
his idea of being killed himself in order to save his friend. But neither
he nor Barbicane will fall before the balls of Captain Nicholl. Indeed I
have so attractive a proposal to make to the two rivals, that both will
be eager to accept it."

"What is it?" asked Nicholl with manifest incredulity.

"Patience!" exclaimed Ardan. "I can only reveal it in the presence of
Barbicane."

"Let us go in search of him then!" cried the captain.

The three men started off at once; the captain having discharged his
rifle threw it over his shoulder, and advanced in silence.

Another half-hour passed, and the pursuit was still fruitless. Maston was
oppressed by sinister forebodings. He looked fiercely at Nicholl, asking
himself whether the captain's vengeance had been already satisfied, and
the unfortunate Barbicane, shot, was perhaps lying dead on some bloody
track. The same thought seemed to occur to Ardan; and both were casting
inquiring glances on Nicholl, when suddenly Maston paused.

The motionless figure of a man leaning against a gigantic catalpa twenty
feet off appeared, half-veiled by the foliage. "It is he!" said Maston.

Barbicane never moved. Ardan looked at the captain, but he did not wince.
Ardan went forward crying,—

"Barbicane, Barbicane!"

No answer! Ardan rushed towards his friend; but in the act of seizing
his arms, he stopped short and uttered a cry of surprise.

Barbicane, pencil in hand, was tracing geometrical figures in a memorandum
book, whilst his unloaded rifle lay beside him on the ground.

Absorbed in his studies, Barbicane, in his turn forgetful of the duel,
had seen and heard nothing.

When Ardan took his hand, he looked up and stared at his visitor in
astonishment.

"Ah, it is you!" he cried at last. "I have found it, my friend, I have
found it!"

"What?"

"My plan!"

"What plan?"

"The plan for counteracting the effect of the shock at the departure of
the projectile!"

"Indeed?" said Michel Ardan, looking at the captain out of the corner of
his eye.

"Yes! water! simply water, which will act as a spring—ah! Maston,"
cried Barbicane, "you here also?"

"Himself," replied Ardan; "and permit me to introduce to you at the same
time the worthy Captain Nicholl!"

"Nicholl!" cried Barbicane, who jumped up at once. "Pardon me, captain,
I had quite forgotten—I am ready!"

Michel Ardan interfered, without giving the two enemies time to say
anything more.


Illustration: "GO WITH ME, AND SEE WHETHER WE ARE STOPPED
   ON OUR JOURNEY."


"Thank Heaven!" said he. "It is a happy thing that brave men like you two
did not meet sooner! we should now have been mourning for one or other
of you. But, thanks to Providence, which has interfered, there is now no
further cause for alarm. When one forgets one's anger in mechanics or in
cobwebs, it is a sign that the anger is not dangerous."

Michel Ardan then told the president how the captain had been found
occupied.

"I put it to you now," said he in conclusion, "are two such good fellows
as you are made on purpose to smash each other's skulls with shot?"

There was in "the situation" somewhat of the ridiculous, something
quite unexpected; Michel Ardan saw this, and determined to effect a
reconciliation.

"My good friends," said he, with his most bewitching smile, "this is
nothing but a misunderstanding. Nothing more! well! to prove that it is
all over between you, accept frankly the proposal I am going to make to
you."

"Make it," said Nicholl.

"Our friend Barbicane believes that his projectile will go straight to
the moon?"

"Yes, certainly," replied the president.

"And our friend Nicholl is persuaded it will fall back upon the earth?"

"I am certain of it," cried the captain.

"Good!" said Ardan. "I cannot pretend to make you agree; but I suggest
this:—Go with me, and so see whether we are stopped on our journey."

"What?" exclaimed J. T. Maston, stupefied.

The two rivals, on this sudden proposal, looked steadily at each other.
Barbicane waited for the captain's answer. Nicholl watched for the
decision of the president.

"Well?" said Michel. "There is now no fear of the shock!"

"Done!" cried Barbicane.

But quickly as he pronounced the word, he was not before Nicholl.

"Hurrah! bravo! hip! hip! hurrah!" cried Michel, giving a hand to each
of the late adversaries. "Now that it is all settled, my friends, allow
me to treat you after French fashion. Let us be off to breakfast!"



   CHAPTER XXII.

   THE NEW CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES.


That same day all America heard of the affair of Captain Nicholl and
President Barbicane, as well as its singular _denouement_. From that
day forth, Michel Ardan had not one moment's rest. Deputations from all
corners of the Union harassed him without cessation or intermission.
He was compelled to receive them all, whether he would or no. How many
hands he shook, how many people he was "hail-fellow-well-met" with, it
is impossible to guess! Such a triumphal result would have intoxicated
any other man; but he managed to keep himself in a state of delightful
_semi_-tipsiness.

Among the deputations of all kinds which assailed him, that of "The
Lunatics" were careful not to forget what they owed to the future
conqueror of the moon. One day, certain of these poor people, so numerous
in America, came to call upon him, and requested permission to return
with him to their native country.

"Singular hallucination!" said he to Barbicane, after having dismissed
the deputation with promises to convey numbers of messages to friends in
the moon. "Do you believe in the influence of the moon upon distempers?"

"Scarcely!"

"No more do I, despite some remarkable recorded facts of history. For
instance, during an epidemic in 1693, a large number of persons died
at the very moment of an eclipse. The celebrated Bacon always fainted
during an eclipse. Charles VI. relapsed six times into madness during
the year 1399, sometimes during the new, sometimes during the full
moon. Gall observed that insane persons underwent an accession of their
disorder twice in every month, at the epochs of new and full moon. In
fact, numerous observations made upon fevers, somnambulisms, and other
human maladies, seem to prove that the moon does exercise some mysterious
influence upon man."

"But the how and the wherefore?" asked Barbicane.

"Well, I can only give you the answer which Arago borrowed from Plutarch,
which is nineteen centuries old. 'Perhaps the stories are not true!'"

In the height of his triumph, Michel Ardan had to encounter all the
annoyances incidental to a man of celebrity. Managers of entertainments
wanted to exhibit him. Barnum offered him a million dollars to make the
tour of the United States in his show. As for his photographs, they were
sold of all sizes, and his portrait taken in every imaginable posture.
More than half a million copies were disposed of in an incredibly short
space of time.

But it was not only the men who paid him homage, but the women also. He
might have married well a hundred times over, if he had been willing to
settle in life. The old maids, in particular, of forty years and upwards,
and dry in proportion, devoured his photographs day and night. They
would have married him by hundreds, even if he had imposed upon them the
condition of accompanying him into space. He had, however, no intention
of transplanting a race of Franco-Americans upon the surface of the moon.

He therefore declined all offers.

As soon as he could withdraw from these somewhat embarrassing
demonstrations, he went, accompanied by his friends, to pay a visit to
the Columbiad. He was highly gratified by his inspection, and made the
descent to the bottom of the tube of this gigantic machine which was
presently to launch him to the regions of the moon.

It is necessary here to mention a proposal of J. T. Maston's. When the
secretary of the Gun Club found that Barbicane and Nicholl accepted the
proposal of Michel Ardan, he determined to join them, and make one of
a snug party of four. So one day he determined to be admitted as one
of the travellers. Barbicane, pained at having to refuse him, gave him
clearly to understand that the projectile could not possibly contain
so many passengers. Maston, in despair, went in search of Michel Ardan,
who counselled him to resign himself to the situation, adding one or two
arguments _ad hominem_.

"You see, old fellow," he said, "you must not take what I say in bad part;
but really, between ourselves, you are in too incomplete a condition to
appear in the moon!"

"Incomplete?" shrieked the valiant invalid.

"Yes, my dear fellow! imagine our meeting some of the inhabitants up
there! Would you like to give them such a melancholy notion of what goes
on down here? to teach them what war is, to inform them that we employ
our time chiefly in devouring each other, in smashing arms and legs, and
that too on a globe which is capable of supporting a hundred billions of
inhabitants, and which actually does contain nearly two hundred millions?
Why, my worthy friend, we should have to turn you out of doors!"

"But still, if you arrive there in pieces, you will be as _incomplete_
as I am."

"Unquestionably," replied Michel Ardan; "but we shall not."

In fact, a preparatory experiment, tried on the 18th October, had yielded
the best results and caused the most well-grounded hopes of success.
Barbicane, desirous of obtaining some notion of the effect of the shock
at the moment of the projectile's departure, had procured a 38-inch
mortar from the arsenal of Pensacola. He had this placed on the bank of
Hillisborough Roads, in order that the shell might fall back into the
sea, and the shock be thereby destroyed. His object was to ascertain the
extent of the shock of departure, and not that of the return.

A hollow projectile had been prepared for this curious experiment. A thick
padding fastened upon a kind of elastic network, made of the best steel,
lined the inside of the walls. It was a veritable _nest_ most carefully
wadded.

"What a pity I can't find room in there," said J. T. Maston, regretting
that his height did not allow of his trying the adventure.

Within this shell were shut up a large cat, and a squirrel belonging to
J. T. Maston, and of which he was particularly fond. They were desirous,
however, of ascertaining how this little animal, least of all others
subject to giddiness, would endure this experimental voyage.

The mortar was charged with 160 lbs. of powder, and the shell placed in
the chamber. On being fired, the projectile rose with great velocity,
described a majestic parabola, attained a height of about a thousand
feet, and with a graceful curve descended in the midst of the vessels
that lay there at anchor.

Without a moment's loss of time a small boat put off in the direction of
its fall; some active divers plunged into the water and attached ropes
to the handles of the shell, which was quickly dragged on board. Five
minutes did not elapse between the moment of enclosing the animals and
that of unscrewing the coverlid of their prison.

Ardan, Barbicane, Maston, and Nicholl were present on board the boat,
and assisted at the operation with an interest which may readily be
comprehended. Hardly had the shell been opened when the cat leaped out,
slightly bruised, but full of life, and exhibiting no signs whatever of
having made an aerial expedition. No trace, however, of the squirrel
could be discovered. The truth at last became apparent;—the cat had
eaten its fellow-traveller!

J. T. Maston grieved much for the loss of his poor squirrel, and proposed
to add its case to that of other martyrs to science.

After this experiment all hesitation, all fear disappeared.


Illustration: THE CAT TAKEN OUT OF THE SHELL.


Besides, Barbicane's plans would ensure greater perfection for his
projectile, and go far to annihilate altogether the effects of the shock.
Nothing now remained but to go!

Two days later Michel Ardan received a message from the President of the
United States, an honour of which he showed himself especially sensible.

After the example of his illustrious fellow-countryman, the Marquis de
la Fayette, the government had decreed to him the title of "Citizen of
the United States of America."



   CHAPTER XXIII.

   THE PROJECTILE-VEHICLE.


On the completion of the Columbiad the public interest centred in the
projectile itself, the vehicle which was destined to carry the three
hardy adventurers into space.

The new plans had been sent to Breadwill and Co., of Albany, with the
request for their speedy execution. The projectile was consequently cast
on the 2d November, and immediately forwarded by the Eastern Railway to
Stones Hill, which it reached without accident on the 10th of that month,
where Michel Ardan, Barbicane, and Nicholl were waiting impatiently for
it.

The projectile had now to be filled to the depth of three feet with a
bed of water, intended to support a watertight wooden disc, which worked
easily within the walls of the projectile. It was upon this kind of
raft that the travellers were to take their place. This body of water
was divided by horizontal partitions, which the shock of the departure
would have to break in succession. Then each sheet of the water, from
the lowest to the highest, running off into escape tubes toward the top
of the projectile, constituted a kind of spring; and the wooden disc,
supplied with extremely powerful plugs, could not strike the lowest plate
except after breaking successively the different partitions. Undoubtedly
the travellers would still have to encounter a violent _recoil_ after
the complete escapement of the water; but the first shock would be almost
entirely destroyed by this powerful spring. The upper part of the walls
were lined with a thick padding of leather, fastened upon springs of the
best steel, behind which the escape tubes were completely concealed; thus
all imaginable precautions had been taken for averting the first shock;
and if they _did_ get crushed, they must, as Michel Ardan said, be made
of very bad materials.


Illustration: THE ARRIVAL OF THE PROJECTILE AT STONE'S HILL.


The entrance into this metallic tower was by a narrow aperture contrived
in the wall of the cone. This was hermetically closed by a plate of
aluminium, fastened internally by powerful screw-pressure. The travellers
could therefore quit their prison at pleasure, as soon as they should
reach the moon.

Light and view were given by means of four thick lenticular glass
scuttles, two pierced in the circular wall itself, the third in the
bottom, the fourth in the top. These scuttles then were protected against
the shock of departure by plates let into solid grooves, which could
easily be opened outwards by unscrewing them from the inside. Reservoirs
firmly fixed contained water and the necessary provisions; and fire and
light were procurable by means of gas, contained in a special reservoir
under a pressure of several atmospheres. They had only to turn a tap,
and for six hours the gas would light and warm this comfortable vehicle.

There now remained only the question of air; for allowing for the
consumption of air by Barbicane, his two companions, and two dogs which
he proposed taking with him, it was necessary to renew the air of the
projectile. Now air consists principally of twenty-one parts of oxygen
and seventy-nine of nitrogen. The lungs absorb the oxygen, which is
indispensable for the support of life, and reject the nitrogen. The air
expired loses nearly five per cent. of the former and contains nearly an
equal volume of carbonic acid, produced by the combustion of the elements
of the blood. In an air-tight enclosure, then, after a certain time, all
the oxygen of the air will be replaced by the carbonic acid—a gas fatal
to life. There were two things to be done then—first, to replace the
absorbed oxygen; secondly, to destroy the expired carbonic acid; both
easy enough to do, by means of chlorate of potassium and caustic potash.
The former is a salt which appears under the form of white crystals;
when raised to a temperature of 400° it is transformed into chlorate
of potass, and the oxygen which it contains is entirely liberated. Now
twenty-eight pounds of chlorate of potassium produce seven pounds of
oxygen, or 2400 _litres_—the quantity necessary for the travellers
during twenty-four hours.

Caustic potash has a great affinity for carbonic acid; and it is
sufficient to shake it in order for it to seize upon the acid and form
bi-carbonate of potass. By these two means they would be enabled to
restore to the vitiated air its life-supporting properties.

It is necessary, however, to add that the experiments had hitherto been
made _in anima vili_. Whatever its scientific accuracy was, they were at
present ignorant how it would answer with human beings. The honour of
putting it to the proof was energetically claimed by J. T. Maston.

"Since I am not to go," said the brave artillerist, "I may at least live
for a week in the projectile."

It would have been hard to refuse him; so they consented to his wish.
A sufficient quantity of chlorate of potassium and of caustic potash
was placed at his disposal, together with provisions for eight days.
And having shaken hands with his friends, on the 12th November, at six
o'clock a.m., after strictly informing them not to open his prison before
the 20th, at six o'clock p.m., he slid down the projectile, the plate
of which was at once hermetically sealed. What did he do with himself
during that week? They could get no information. The thickness of the
walls of the projectile prevented any sound reaching from the inside
to the outside. On the 20th of November, at six p.m. exactly, the plate
was opened. The friends of J. T. Maston had been all along in a state of
much anxiety; but they were promptly reassured on hearing a jolly voice
shouting a boisterous hurrah.

Presently afterwards the secretary of the Gun Club appeared at the top
of the cone in a triumphant attitude. He had grown fat!


Illustration: J. T. MASTON HAD GROWN FAT.



   CHAPTER XXIV.

   THE TELESCOPE OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.


On the 20th October in the preceding year, after the close of the
subscription, the president of the Gun Club had credited the Observatory
of Cambridge with the necessary sums for the construction of a gigantic
optical instrument. This instrument was designed for the purpose of
rendering visible on the surface of the moon any object exceeding nine
feet in diameter.

At the period when the Gun Club essayed their great experiment, such
instruments had reached a high degree of perfection, and produced some
magnificent results. Two telescopes in particular, at this time, were
possessed of remarkable power and of gigantic dimensions. The first,
constructed by Herschel, was thirty-six feet in length, and had an
object-glass of four feet six inches; it possessed a magnifying power
of 6000. The second was raised in Ireland, in Parsonstown Park, and
belongs to Lord Rosse. The length of this tube is forty-eight feet, and
the diameter of its object-glass six feet; it magnifies 6400 times, and
required an immense erection of brickwork and masonry for the purpose of
working it, its weight being twelve tons and a half.

Still, despite these colossal dimensions, the actual enlargements
scarcely exceeded 6000 times in round numbers; consequently, the moon
was brought within no nearer an apparent distance than thirty-nine miles;
and objects of less than sixty feet in diameter, unless they were of very
considerable length, were still imperceptible.

In the present case, dealing with a projectile nine feet in diameter
and fifteen feet long, it became necessary to bring the moon within an
apparent distance of five miles at most; and for that purpose to establish
a magnifying power of 48,000 times.

Such was the question proposed to the Observatory of Cambridge. There
was no lack of funds; the difficulty was purely one of construction.

After considerable discussion as to the best form and principle of
the proposed instrument the work was finally commenced. According to
the calculations of the Observatory of Cambridge, the tube of the new
reflector would require to be 280 feet in length, and the object-glass
sixteen feet in diameter. Colossal as these dimensions may appear, they
were diminutive in comparison with the 10,000 foot telescope proposed by
the astronomer Hooke only a few years ago!

Regarding the choice of locality, that matter was promptly determined.
The object was to select some lofty mountain, and there are not many of
these in the United States. In fact there are but two chains of moderate
elevation, between which runs the magnificent Mississippi, the "king of
rivers," as these Republican Yankees delight to call it.

Eastwards rise the Apalachians, the very highest point of which, in New
Hampshire, does not exceed the very moderate altitude of 5600 feet.

On the west, however, rise the Rocky Mountains, that immense range which,
commencing at the Straits of Magellan, follows the western coast of
Southern America under the name of the Andes or the Cordilleras, until
it crosses the Isthmus of Panama, and runs up the whole of North America
to the very borders of the Polar Sea. The highest elevation of this range
still does not exceed 10,700 feet. With this elevation, nevertheless, the
Gun Club were compelled to be content, inasmuch as they had determined
that both telescope and Columbiad should be erected within the limits of
the Union. All the necessary apparatus was consequently sent on to the
summit of Long's Peak, in the territory of Missouri.


Illustration: THE TELESCOPE OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.


Neither pen nor language can describe the difficulties of all kinds
which the American engineers had to surmount, or the prodigies of daring
and skill which they accomplished. They had to raise enormous stones,
massive pieces of wrought iron, heavy corner-clamps and huge portions
of cylinder, with an object-glass weighing nearly 30,000 lbs., above
the line of perpetual snow for more than 10,000 feet in height, after
crossing desert prairies, impenetrable forests, fearful rapids, far
from all centres of population, and in the midst of savage regions, in
which every detail of life becomes an almost insoluble problem. And yet,
notwithstanding these innumerable obstacles, American genius triumphed.
In less than a year after the commencement of the works, towards the close
of September, the gigantic reflector rose into the air to a height of
280 feet. It was raised by means of an enormous iron crane; an ingenious
mechanism allowed it to be easily worked towards all the points of the
heavens, and to follow the stars from the one horizon to the other during
their journey through the heavens.

It had cost 400,000 dollars. The first time it was directed towards the
moon the observers evinced both curiosity and anxiety. What were they
about to discover in the field of this telescope which magnified objects
48,000 times? Would they perceive peoples, herds of lunar animals,
towns, lakes, seas? No! there was nothing which science had not already
discovered! and on all the points of its disc the volcanic nature of the
moon became determinable with the utmost precision.

But the telescope of the Rocky Mountains, before doing its duty to the Gun
Club, rendered immense services to astronomy. Thanks to its penetrative
power, the depths of the heavens were sounded to the utmost extent; the
apparent diameter of a great number of stars was accurately measured; and
Mr. Clark, of the Cambridge staff, resolved the Crab nebula in Taurus,
which the reflector of Lord Rosse had never been able to decompose.



   CHAPTER XXV.

   FINAL DETAILS.


It was the 22nd of November; the departure was to take place in ten days.
One operation alone remained to be accomplished to bring all to a happy
termination; an operation delicate and perilous, requiring infinite
precautions, and against the success of which Captain Nicholl had laid
his third bet. It was, in fact, nothing less than the loading of the
Columbiad, and the introduction into it of 400,000 pounds of gun-cotton.
Nicholl had thought, not perhaps without reason, that the handling of
such formidable quantities of pyroxyle would, in all probability, involve
a grave catastrophe; and at any rate, that this immense mass of eminently
inflammable matter would inevitably ignite when submitted to the pressure
of the projectile.

There were indeed dangers accruing as before from the carelessness of
the Americans, but Barbicane had set his heart on success, and took all
possible precautions. In the first place, he was very careful as to the
transportation of the gun-cotton to Stones Hill. He had it conveyed in
small quantities, carefully packed in sealed cases. These were brought
by rail from Tampa Town to the camp, and from thence were taken to the
Columbiad by barefooted workmen, who deposited them in their places by
means of cranes placed at the orifice of the cannon. No steam-engine was
permitted to work, and every fire was extinguished within two miles of
the works.

Even in November they feared to work by day, lest the sun's rays acting
on the gun-cotton might lead to unhappy results. This led to their
working at night, by light produced in a vacuum by means of Rühmkorff's
apparatus, which threw an artificial brightness into the depths of the
Columbiad. There the cartridges were arranged with the utmost regularity,
connected by a metallic thread, destined to communicate to them all
simultaneously the electric spark, by which means this mass of gun-cotton
was eventually to be ignited.

By the 28th of November 800 cartridges had been placed in the bottom
of the Columbiad. So far the operation had been successful! But what
confusion, what anxieties, what struggles were undergone by President
Barbicane! In vain had he refused admission to Stones Hill; every day
the inquisitive neighbours scaled the palisades, some even carrying
their imprudence to the point of smoking while surrounded by bales of
gun-cotton. Barbicane was in a perpetual state of alarm. J. T. Maston
seconded him to the best of his ability, by giving vigorous chase to the
intruders, and carefully picking up the still lighted cigar ends which
the Yankees threw about. A somewhat difficult task! seeing that more
than 300,000 persons were gathered round the enclosure. Michel Ardan
had volunteered to superintend the transport of the cartridges to the
mouth of the Columbiad; but the president, having surprised him with an
enormous cigar in his mouth, while he was hunting out the rash spectators
to whom he himself offered so dangerous an example, saw that he could not
trust this fearless smoker, and was therefore obliged to mount a special
guard over him.

At last, Providence being propitious, this wonderful loading came to
a happy termination, Captain Nicholl's third bet being thus lost. It
remained now to introduce the projectile into the Columbiad, and to place
it on its soft bed of gun-cotton.

But before doing this, all those things necessary for the journey had to
be carefully arranged in the projectile-vehicle. These necessaries were
numerous; and had Ardan been allowed to follow his own wishes, there
would have been no space remaining for the travellers. It is impossible
to conceive of half the things this charming Frenchman wished to convey to
the moon. A veritable stock of useless trifles! But Barbicane interfered
and refused admission to anything not absolutely needed. Several
thermometers, barometers, and telescopes were packed in the instrument
case.

The travellers being desirous of examining the moon carefully during
their voyage, in order to facilitate their studies, they took with them
Bœer and Moedler's excellent _Mappa Selenographica_, a masterpiece of
patience and observation, which they hoped would enable them to identify
those physical features in the moon, with which they were acquainted.
This map reproduced with scrupulous fidelity the smallest details of the
lunar surface which faces the earth; the mountains, valleys, craters,
peaks, and ridges were all represented, with their exact dimensions,
relative positions, and names; from the mountains Doërfel and Leibnitz
on the eastern side of the disc, to the _Mare frigoris_ of the North
Pole.

They took also three rifles and three fowling-pieces, and a large quantity
of balls, shot, and powder.

"We cannot tell whom we shall have to deal with," said Michel Ardan. "Men
or beasts may possibly object to our visit. It is only wise to take all
precautions."

These defensive weapons were accompanied by pickaxes, crowbars, saws,
and other useful implements, not to mention clothing adapted to every
temperature, from that of the polar regions to that of the torrid zone.

Ardan wished to convey a number of animals of different sorts (not
indeed a pair of every known species), as he could not see the necessity
of acclimatizing serpents, tigers, alligators, or any other noxious
beasts in the moon. "Nevertheless," he said to Barbicane, "some valuable
and useful beasts, bullocks, cows, horses, and donkeys, would bear the
journey very well, and would also be very useful to us."

"I dare say, my dear Ardan," replied the president, "but our
projectile-vehicle is no Noah's ark, from which it differs both in
dimensions and object. Let us confine ourselves to possibilities."


Illustration: THE INTERIOR OF THE PROJECTILE.


After a prolonged discussion, it was agreed that the travellers should
restrict themselves to a sporting-dog belonging to Nicholl, and to a
large Newfoundland. Several packets of seeds were also included among the
necessaries. Michel Ardan, indeed, was anxious to add some sacks full of
earth to sow them in; as it was, he took a dozen shrubs carefully wrapped
up in straw to plant in the moon.

The important question of provisions still remained; it being necessary
to provide against the possibility of their finding the moon absolutely
barren. Barbicane managed so successfully, that he supplied them with
sufficient rations for a year. These consisted of preserved meats and
vegetables, reduced by strong hydraulic pressure to the smallest possible
dimensions. They were also supplied with brandy, and took water enough
for two months, being confident, from astronomical observations, that
there was no lack of water on the moon's surface. As to provisions,
doubtless the inhabitants of the _earth_ would find nourishment somewhere
in the _moon_. Ardan never questioned this; indeed, had he done so, he
would never have undertaken the journey.

"Besides," he said one day to his friends, "we shall not be completely
abandoned by our terrestrial friends; they will take care not to forget
us."

"No, indeed!" replied J. T. Maston.

"What do you mean?" asked Nicholl.

"Nothing would be simpler," replied Ardan; "the Columbiad will be always
there. Well! whenever the moon is in a favourable condition as to the
zenith, if not to the perigee, that is to say about once a year, could
you not send us a shell packed with provisions, which we might expect on
some appointed day?"

"Hurrah! hurrah!" cried J. T. Maston; "what an ingenious fellow! what a
splendid idea! Indeed, my good friends, we shall not forget you!"

"I shall reckon upon you! Then, you see, we shall receive news regularly
from the earth, and we shall indeed be stupid if we hit upon no plan for
communicating with our good friends here!"

These words inspired such confidence, that Michel Ardan carried all the
Gun Club with him in his enthusiasm. What he said seemed so simple and
so easy, so sure of success, that none could be so sordidly attached to
this earth as to hesitate to follow the three travellers on their lunar
expedition.

All being ready at last, it remained to place the projectile in the
Columbiad, an operation abundantly accompanied by dangers and difficulties.

The enormous shell was conveyed to the summit of Stones Hill. There,
powerful cranes raised it, and held it suspended over the mouth of the
cylinder.

It was a fearful moment! What if the chains should break under its
enormous weight? The sudden fall of such a body would inevitably cause
the gun-cotton to explode!

Fortunately this did not happen; and some hours later the
projectile-vehicle descended gently into the heart of the cannon and
rested on its couch of pyroxyle, a veritable bed of explosive eider-down.
Its pressure had no result, other than the more effectual ramming down
of the charge of the Columbiad.

"I have lost," said the Captain, who forthwith paid President Barbicane
the sum of 3000 dollars.

Barbicane did not wish to accept the money from one of his
fellow-travellers, but gave way at last before the determination of
Nicholl, who wished before leaving the earth to fulfil all his
engagements.

"Now," said Michel Ardan, "I have only one thing more to wish for you,
my brave Captain."

"What is that?" asked Nicholl.

"It is that you may lose your two other bets! Then we shall be sure not
to be stopped on our journey!"


Illustration: AN INNUMERABLE MULTITUDE COVERED THE PRAIRIE ROUND STONE'S
HILL.



   CHAPTER XXVI.

   FIRE!


The first of December had arrived! the fatal day! for, if the projectile
were not discharged that very night at 10h. 46m. 40s. p.m., more than
eighteen years must roll by before the moon would again present herself
under the same conditions of zenith and perigee.

The weather was magnificent. Despite the approach of winter, the sun
shone brightly, and bathed in its radiant light that earth which three
of its denizens were about to abandon for a new world.

How many persons lost their rest on the night which preceded this
long-expected day! All hearts beat with disquietude, save only the heart
of Michel Ardan. That imperturbable personage came and went with his
habitual business-like air, while nothing whatever denoted that any
unusual matter preoccupied his mind.

After dawn, an innumerable multitude covered the prairie which extends,
as far as the eye can reach, round Stones Hill. Every quarter of an hour
the railway brought fresh accessions of sightseers; and, according to
the statement of the _Tampa Town Observer_, not less than five millions
of spectators thronged the soil of Florida.

For a whole month previously, the mass of these persons had bivouacked
round the enclosure, and laid the foundations for a town which was
afterwards called "Ardan's Town." The whole plain was covered with huts,
cottages, and tents. Every nation under the sun was represented there;
and every language might be heard spoken at the same time. It was a
perfect Babel re-enacted. All the various classes of American society were
mingled together in terms of absolute equality. Bankers, farmers, sailors,
cotton-planters, brokers, merchants, watermen, magistrates, elbowed
each other in the most free-and-easy way. Louisiana Creoles fraternised
with farmers from Indiana; Kentucky and Tennessee gentlemen and haughty
Virginians conversed with trappers and the half-savages of the lakes
and butchers from Cincinnati. Broad-brimmed white hats and Panamas, blue
cotton trowsers, light coloured stockings, cambric frills, were all here
displayed; while upon shirt-fronts, wristbands, and neckties, upon every
finger, even upon the very _ears_, they wore an assortment of rings,
shirt-pins, brooches, and trinkets, of which the value only equalled
the execrable taste. Women, children, and servants, in equally expensive
dress, surrounded their husbands, fathers, or masters, who resembled the
patriarchs of tribes in the midst of their immense households.

At meal-times, all fell to work upon the dishes peculiar to the Southern
States, and consumed with an appetite that threatened speedy exhaustion
of the victualling powers of Florida, fricasseed frogs, stuffed monkey,
fish chowder, underdone 'possum, and raccoon steaks. And as for the
liquors which accompanied this indigestible repast! The shouts, the
vociferations that resounded through the bars and taverns decorated with
glasses, tankards, and bottles of marvellous shape, mortars for pounding
sugar, and bundles of straws! "Mint-julep!" roars one of the barmen;
"Claret sangaree!" shouts another; "Cocktail!" "Brandy-smash!" "Real
mint-julep in the new style!" All these cries intermingled produced a
bewildering and deafening hubbub.

But on this day, 1st December, such sounds were rare. No one thought
of eating or drinking, and at four p.m. there were vast numbers of
spectators who had not even taken their customary lunch! And, a still
more significant fact, even the national passion for play seemed quelled
for the time under the general excitement of the hour.

Up till nightfall, a dull, noiseless agitation, such as precedes great
catastrophes, ran through the anxious multitude. An indescribable
uneasiness pervaded all minds, an indefinable sensation which oppressed
the heart. Every one wished it was over.

However, about seven o'clock, the heavy silence was dissipated. The moon
rose above the horizon. Millions of hurrahs hailed her appearance. She
was punctual to the rendezvous, and shouts of welcome greeted her on all
sides, as her pale beams shone gracefully in the clear heavens. At this
moment the three intrepid travellers appeared. This was the signal for
renewed cries of still greater intensity. Instantly the vast assemblage,
as with one accord, struck up the national hymn of the United States,
and "Yankee Doodle," sung by five millions of hearty throats, rose like a
roaring tempest to the farthest limits of the atmosphere. Then a profound
silence reigned throughout the crowd.

The Frenchman and the two Americans had by this time entered the enclosure
reserved in the centre of the multitude. They were accompanied by the
members of the Gun Club, and by deputations sent from all the European
Observatories. Barbicane, cool and collected, was giving his final
directions. Nicholl, with compressed lips, his arms crossed behind his
back, walked with a firm and measured step. Michel Ardan, always easy,
dressed in thorough traveller's costume, leathern gaiters on his legs,
pouch by his side, in loose velvet suit, cigar in mouth, was full of
inexhaustible gaiety, laughing, joking, playing pranks with J. T. Maston.
In one word, he was the thorough "Frenchman" (and worse, a "Parisian")
to the last moment.

Ten o'clock struck! The moment had arrived for taking their places in the
projectile! The necessary operations for the descent, and the subsequent
removal of the cranes and scaffolding that inclined over the mouth of
the Columbiad, required a certain period of time.

Barbicane had regulated his chronometer to the tenth part of a second by
that of Murchison the engineer, who was charged with the duty of firing
the gun by means of an electric spark. Thus the travellers enclosed
within the projectile were enabled to follow with their eyes the impassive
needle which marked the precise moment of their departure.

The moment had arrived for saying "Good-bye!" The scene was a touching
one. Despite his feverish gaiety, even Michel Ardan was touched. J. T.
Maston had found in his own dry eyes one ancient tear, which he had
doubtless reserved for the occasion. He dropped it on the forehead of
his dear president.

"Can I not go?" he said, "there is still time!"

"Impossible, old fellow!" replied Barbicane. A few moments later, the
three fellow-travellers had ensconced themselves in the projectile, and
screwed down the plate which covered the entrance-aperture. The mouth of
the Columbiad, now completely disencumbered, was open entirely to the
sky.

The moon advanced upwards in a heaven of the purest clearness, outshining
in her passage the twinkling light of the stars. She passed over the
constellation of the Twins, and was now nearing the halfway point between
the horizon and the zenith. A terrible silence weighed upon the entire
scene! Not a breath of wind upon the earth! not a sound of breathing
from the countless chests of the spectators! Their hearts seemed afraid
to beat! All eyes were fixed upon the yawning mouth of the Columbiad.

Murchison followed with his eye the hand of his chronometer. It wanted
scarce forty seconds to the moment of departure, but each second seemed
to last an age! At the twentieth there was a general shudder, as it
occurred to the minds of that vast assemblage that the bold travellers
shut up within the projectile were also counting those terrible seconds.
Some few cries here and there escaped the crowd.

"Thirty-five!—thirty-six!—thirty-seven!—thirty-eight!—thirty-nine!
—forty! Fire!!!"


Illustration: FIRE.


Instantly Murchison pressed with his finger the key of the electric
battery, restored the current of the fluid, and discharged the spark into
the breach of the Columbiad.

An appalling unearthly report followed instantly, such as can be compared
to nothing whatever known, not even to the roar of thunder, or the blast
of volcanic explosions! No words can convey the slightest idea of the
terrific sound! An immense spout of fire shot up from the bowels of the
earth as from a crater. The earth heaved up, and with great difficulty
some few spectators obtained a momentary glimpse of the projectile
victoriously cleaving the air in the midst of the fiery vapours!



   CHAPTER XXVII.

   FOUL WEATHER.


At the moment when that pyramid of fire rose to a prodigious height into
the air, the glare of the flame lit up the whole of Florida; and for a
moment day superseded night over a considerable extent of the country.
This immense canopy of fire was perceived at a distance of 100 miles
out at sea, and more than one ship's captain entered in his log the
appearance of this gigantic meteor.

The discharge of the Columbiad was accompanied by a perfect earthquake.
Florida was shaken to its very depths. The gases of the powder, expanded
by heat, forced back the atmospheric strata with tremendous violence,
and this artificial hurricane rushed like a waterspout through the air.

Not a single spectator remained on his feet! Men, women, children, all
lay prostrate like ears of corn under a tempest. There ensued a terrible
tumult; a large number of persons were seriously injured. J. T. Maston,
who, despite of all dictates of prudence had kept in advance of the mass,
was pitched back 120 feet, shooting like a projectile over the heads of
his fellow-citizens. Three hundred thousand persons remained deaf for a
time, and as though struck stupefied.

As soon as the first effects were over, the injured, the deaf, and lastly,
the crowd in general, woke up with frenzied cries. "Hurrah for Ardan!
Hurrah for Barbicane! Hurrah for Nicholl!" rose to the skies. Thousands
of persons, noses in air, armed with telescopes and race-glasses, were
questioning space, forgetting all contusions and emotions in the one idea
of watching for the projectile. They looked in vain! It was no longer to
be seen, and they were obliged to wait for telegrams from Long's Peak.
The Director of the Cambridge Observatory was at his post on the Rocky
Mountains; and to him, as a skilful and persevering astronomer, all
observations had been confided.


Illustration: EFFECT OF THE EXPLOSION.


Illustration: THE DIRECTOR AT HIS POST.


But an unforeseen phenomenon came in to subject the public impatience to
a severe trial.

The weather, hitherto so fine, suddenly changed; the sky became heavy with
clouds. It could not have been otherwise after the terrible derangement
of the atmospheric strata, and the dispersion of the enormous quantity
of vapour arising from the combustion of 200,000 lbs. of
pyroxyle!

On the morrow the horizon was covered with clouds—a thick and
impenetrable curtain between earth and sky, which unhappily extended as
far as the Rocky Mountains. It was a fatality! But since man had chosen
so to disturb the atmosphere, he was bound to accept the consequences of
his experiment.

Supposing, now, that the experiment had succeeded, the travellers having
started on the 1st of December, at 10h. 46m. 40s. p.m., were due on
the 4th at 0h. p.m. at their destination. So that up to that time it
would have been very difficult after all to have observed, under such
conditions, a body so small as the shell. Therefore they waited with what
patience they might.

From the 4th to the 6th of December inclusive, the weather remaining much
the same in America, the great European instruments of Herschel, Rosse,
and Foucault, were constantly directed towards the moon, for the weather
was then magnificent; but the comparative weakness of their glasses
prevented any trustworthy observations being made.

On the 7th the sky seemed to lighten. They were in hopes now, but their
hope was of but short duration, and at night again thick clouds hid the
starry vault from all eyes.

Matters were now becoming serious, when on the 9th, the sun reappeared
for an instant, as if for the purpose of teasing the Americans. It was
received with hisses; and wounded, no doubt, by such a reception, showed
itself very sparing of its rays.

On the 10th, no change! J. T. Maston went nearly mad, and great fears
were entertained regarding the brain of this worthy individual, which
had hitherto been so well preserved within his gutta-percha cranium.

But on the 11th one of those inexplicable tempests peculiar to those
intertropical regions was let loose in the atmosphere. A terrific east
wind swept away the groups of clouds which had been so long gathering,
and at night the semi-disc of the orb of night rode majestically amidst
the soft constellations of the sky.



   CHAPTER XXVIII.

   A NEW STAR.


That very night, the startling news so impatiently awaited, burst like
a thunderbolt over the United States of the Union, and thence, darting
across the ocean, ran through all the telegraphic wires of the globe.
The projectile had been detected, thanks to the gigantic reflector of
Long's Peak! Here is the note received by the Director of the Observatory
of Cambridge. It contains the scientific conclusion regarding this great
experiment of the Gun Club.

"Long's Peak December 12.

"To the Officers of the Observatory of Cambridge.

"The projectile discharged by the Columbiad at Stones Hill has been
detected by Messrs. Belfast and J. T. Maston, 12th December, at 8.47
p.m., the moon having entered her last quarter. This projectile has not
arrived at its destination. It has passed by the side; but sufficiently
near to be retained by the lunar attraction.

"The rectilinear movement has thus become changed into a circular motion
of extreme velocity, and it is now pursuing an elliptical orbit round
the moon, of which it has become a true satellite.

"The elements of this new star we have as yet been unable to determine;
we do not yet know the velocity of its passage. The distance which
separates it from the surface of the moon may be estimated at about 2833
miles.

"However, two hypothesis come here into our consideration.

"1. Either the attraction of the moon will end by drawing them into
itself, and the travellers will attain their destination; or,—

"2. The projectile, following an immutable law, will continue to gravitate
round the moon till the end of time.

"At some future time, our observations will be able to determine this
point, but till then the experiment of the Gun Club can have no other
result than to have provided our solar system with a new star.

"J. Belfast."

To how many questions did this unexpected denouement give rise? What
mysterious results was the future reserving for the investigations of
science? At all events, the names of Nicholl, Barbicane, and Michel Ardan
were certain to be immortalized in the annals of astronomy!

When the despatch from Long's Peak had once become known, there was but
one universal feeling of surprise and alarm. Was it possible to go to the
aid of these bold travellers? No! for they had placed themselves beyond
the pale of humanity, by crossing the limits imposed by the Creator on
his earthly creatures. They had air enough for _two_ months; they had
victuals enough for _twelve;—but after that?_ There was only one man
who would not admit that the situation was desperate,—he alone had
confidence; and that was their devoted friend J. T. Maston.

Besides, he never let them get out of sight. His home was henceforth the
post at Long's Peak; his horizon, the mirror of that immense reflector.
As soon as the moon rose above the horizon, he immediately caught her in
the field of the telescope; he never let her go for an instant out of
his sight, and followed her assiduously in her course through the stellar
spaces. He watched with untiring patience the passage of the projectile
across her silvery disc, and really the worthy man remained in perpetual
communication with his three friends, whom he did not despair of seeing
again some day.

"Those three men," said he, "have carried into space all the resources
of art, science, and industry. With that, one can do anything; and you
will see that, some day, they will come out all right."



   ROUND THE MOON:

   A Sequel To

   FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON.

      ——————



   PRELIMINARY CHAPTER.

   RECAPITULATING THE FIRST PART OF THIS WORK, AND
      SERVING AS A PREFACE TO THE SECOND.


During the year 186—, the whole world was greatly excited by a scientific
experiment unprecedented in the annals of science. The members of the
Gun Club, a circle of artillerymen formed at Baltimore after the American
war, conceived the idea of putting themselves in communication with the
moon!—yes, with the moon,—by sending to her a projectile. Their
president, Barbicane, the promoter of the enterprise, having consulted
the astronomers of the Cambridge Observatory upon the subject, took all
necessary means to ensure the success of this extraordinary enterprise,
which had been declared practicable by the majority of competent judges.
After setting on foot a public subscription, which realized nearly
1,200,000_l._ they began the gigantic work.

According to the advice forwarded from the members of the Observatory,
the gun destined to launch the projectile had to be fixed in a country
situated between the 0 and 28th degrees of north or south latitude, in
order to aim at the moon when at the zenith; and its initiatory velocity
was fixed at twelve thousand yards to the second. Launched on the 1st
of December, at 10hrs. 46m. 40s. p.m., it ought to reach the moon four
days after its departure, that is on the 5th of December, at midnight
precisely, at the moment of her attaining her _perigee_, that is her
nearest distance from the earth, which is exactly 86,410 leagues (French),
or 238,833 miles _mean distance_ (English).

The principal members of the Gun Club, President Barbicane, Major
Elphinstone, the secretary Joseph T. Maston, and other learned men, held
several meetings, at which the shape and composition of the projectile
were discussed, also the position and nature of the gun, and the quality
and quantity of the powder to be used. It was decided: 1st, that the
projectile should be a shell made of aluminium with a diameter of 108
inches and a thickness of twelve inches to its walls; and should weigh
19,250 lbs. 2ndly, that the gun should be a Columbiad cast in iron,
900 feet long, and run perpendicularly into the earth. 3rdly, that the
charge should contain 400,000 pounds of gun-cotton, which, giving out
six billions of litres of gas in rear of the projectile, would easily
carry it towards the orb of night.

These questions determined President Barbicane, assisted by Murchison
the engineer, to choose a spot situated in Florida, in 27° 7' North
latitude, and 77° 3' West (Greenwich) longitude. It was on this spot,
after stupendous labour, that the Columbiad was cast with full success.
Things stood thus, when an incident took place which increased the
interest attached to this great enterprise a hundredfold.

A Frenchman, an enthusiastic Parisian, as witty as he was bold, asked
to be enclosed in the projectile, in order that he might reach the moon,
and reconnoitre this terrestrial satellite. The name of this intrepid
adventurer was Michel Ardan. He landed in America, was received with
enthusiasm, held meetings, saw himself carried in triumph, reconciled
President Barbicane to his mortal enemy, Captain Nicholl, and, as a
token of reconciliation, persuaded them both to start with him in the
projectile. The proposition being accepted, the shape of the projectile
was slightly altered. It was made of a cylindro-conical form. This species
of aerial car was lined with strong springs and partitions to deaden the
shock of departure. It was provided with food for a year, water for some
months, and gas for some days. A self-acting apparatus supplied the three
travellers with air to breathe. At the same time, on one of the highest
points of the Rocky Mountains, the Gun Club had a gigantic telescope
erected, in order that they might be able to follow the course of the
projectile through space. All was then ready.

On the 30th November, at the hour fixed upon, from the midst of an
extraordinary crowd of spectators, the departure took place; and for the
first time, three human beings quitted the terrestrial globe, and launched
into interplanetary space with almost a certainty of reaching their
destination. These bold travellers, Michel Ardan, President Barbicane,
and Captain Nicholl, ought to make the passage in ninety-seven hours,
thirteen minutes, and twenty seconds. Consequently, their arrival on
the lunar disc could not take place until the 5th December at twelve at
night, at the exact moment when the moon should be full, and not on the
4th, as some badly-informed journals had announced.

But an unforeseen circumstance, viz., the detonation produced by
the Columbiad, had the immediate effect of troubling the terrestrial
atmosphere, by accumulating a large quantity of vapour, a phenomenon
which excited universal indignation, for the moon was hidden from the
eyes of the watchers for several nights.

The worthy Joseph T. Maston, the staunchest friend of the three
travellers, started for the Rocky Mountains, accompanied by the Hon. J.
Belfast, director of the Cambridge Observatory, and reached the station
of Long's Peak, where the telescope was erected which brought the moon
within an apparent distance of two leagues. The honorable secretary of
the Gun Club wished himself to observe the vehicle of his daring friends.

The accumulation of clouds in the atmosphere prevented all observations
on the 5th, 6th, 7th, 8th, 9th, and 10th of December. Indeed it was
thought that all observations would have to be put off to the 3rd of
January in the following year; for the moon entering its last quarter on
the 11th, would then only present an ever-decreasing portion of her disc,
insufficient to allow of their following the course of the projectile.

At length, to the general satisfaction, a heavy storm cleared the
atmosphere on the night of the 11th and 12th December, and the moon, with
half illuminated disc, was plainly to be seen upon the black
sky.

That very night a telegram was sent from the station of Long's Peak
by Joseph T. Maston and Belfast to the gentlemen of the Cambridge
Observatory, announcing that on the 11th of December at 8h. 47m. p.m.,
the projectile launched by the Columbiad of Stones Hill had been detected
by Messrs. Belfast and Maston,—that it had deviated from its course
from some unknown cause, and had not reached its destination; but that
it had passed near enough to be retained by the lunar attraction; that
its rectilinear movement had been changed to a circular one, and that
following an elliptical orbit round the star of night it had become its
_satellite._ The telegram added that the elements of this new star had
not yet been calculated; and indeed three observations made upon a star
in three different positions are necessary to determine these elements.
Then it showed that the distance separating the projectile from the lunar
surface "might" be reckoned at about 2833 miles.

It ended with this double hypothesis; either the attraction of the moon
would draw it to herself, and the travellers thus attain their end; or
that the projectile, held in one immutable orbit, would gravitate around
the lunar disc to all eternity.

With such alternatives, what would be the fate of the travellers?
Certainly they had food for some time. But supposing they did succeed
in their rash enterprise, how would they return? Could they ever return?
Should they hear from them? These questions, debated by the most learned
pens of the day, strongly engrossed the public attention.

It is advisable here to make a remark which ought to be well considered
by hasty observers. When a purely speculative discovery is announced to
the public, it cannot be done with too much prudence. No one is obliged
to discover either a planet, a comet, or a satellite; and whoever makes
a mistake in such a case exposes himself justly to the derision of the
mass. Far better is it to wait; and that is what the impatient Joseph T.
Maston should have done before sending this telegram forth to the world,
which, according to his idea, told the whole result of the enterprise.
Indeed this telegram contained two sorts of errors, as was proved
eventually. 1st, errors of observation, concerning the distance of the
projectile from the surface of the moon, for on the 11th December it was
impossible to see it; and what Joseph T. Maston had seen, or thought he
saw, could not have been the projectile of the Columbiad. 2ndly, errors
of theory on the fate in store for the said projectile; for in making it
a satellite of the moon, it was putting it in direct contradiction to
all mechanical laws.

One single hypothesis of the observers of Long's Peak could ever be
realized, that which foresaw the case of the travellers (if still alive)
uniting their efforts with the lunar attraction to attain the surface of
the disc.

Now these men, as clever as they were daring, _had_ survived the terrible
shock consequent on their departure, and it is their journey in the
projectile car which is here related in its most dramatic as well as in
its most singular details. This recital will destroy many illusions and
surmises; but it will give a true idea of the singular changes in store
for such an enterprise; it will bring out the scientific instincts of
Barbicane, the industrious resources of Nicholl, and the audacious humour
of Michel Ardan.

Besides this, it will prove that their worthy friend, Joseph T. Maston,
was wasting his time, while leaning over the gigantic telescope he
watched the course of the moon through the starry space.



   CHAPTER I.

   FROM TWENTY MINUTES PAST TEN TO FORTY-SEVEN MINUTES
      PAST TEN P.M.


As ten o'clock struck, Michel Ardan, Barbicane, and Nicholl, took leave
of the numerous friends they were leaving on the earth. The two dogs,
destined to propagate the canine race on the lunar continents, were
already shut up in the projectile.

The three travellers approached the orifice of the enormous cast-iron
tube, and a crane let them down to the conical top of the projectile.
There, an opening made for the purpose gave them access to the aluminium
car. The tackle belonging to the crane being hauled from outside, the
mouth of the Columbiad was instantly disencumbered of its last supports.

Nicholl, once introduced with his companions inside the projectile,
began to close the opening by means of a strong plate, held in position
by powerful screws. Other plates, closely fitted, covered the lenticular
glasses, and the travellers, hermetically enclosed in their metal prison,
were plunged in profound darkness.

"And now, my dear companions," said Michel Ardan, "let us make ourselves
at home; I am a domesticated man and strong in housekeeping. We are bound
to make the best of our new lodgings, and make ourselves comfortable.
And first let us try and see a little. Gas was not invented for moles."

So saying, the thoughtless fellow lit a match by striking it on the
sole of his boot; and approached the burner fixed to the receptacle,
in which the carbonized hydrogen, stored at high pressure, sufficed for
the lighting and warming of the projectile for a hundred and forty-four
hours, or six days and six nights. The gas caught fire, and thus lighted
the projectile looked like a comfortable room with thickly padded walls,
furnished with a circular divan, and a roof rounded in the shape of a
dome.

The objects it contained, arms, instruments, and utensils securely
fastened against the rounds of wadding, could bear the shock of departure
with impunity. Humanly speaking, every possible precaution had been taken
to bring this rash experiment to a successful termination.

Michel Ardan examined everything, and declared himself satisfied with
his installation.

"It is a prison," said he, "but a travelling prison; and, with the right
of putting my nose to the window, I could well stand a lease of a hundred
years. You smile, Barbicane. Have you any _arrière-pensée?_ Do you say
to yourself, 'This prison may be our tomb?' Tomb, perhaps; still I would
not change it for Mahomet's, which floats in space but never advances an
inch!"

Whilst Michel Ardan was speaking, Barbicane and Nicholl were making their
last preparations.

Nicholl's chronometer marked twenty minutes past ten p.m. when the three
travellers were finally enclosed in their projectile. This chronometer
was set within the tenth of a second by that of Murchison the engineer.
Barbicane consulted it.

"My friends," said he, "it is twenty minutes past ten. At forty-seven
minutes past ten Murchison will launch the electric spark on the wire
which communicates with the charge of the Columbiad. At that precise
moment we shall leave our spheroid. Thus we have still twenty-seven
minutes to remain on the earth."

"Twenty-six minutes thirteen seconds," replied the methodical Nicholl.

"Well!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, in a good-humoured tone, "much may be
done in twenty-six minutes. The gravest questions of morals and politics
may be discussed, and even solved. Twenty-six minutes well employed are
worth more than twenty-six years in which nothing is done. Some
_seconds_ of a Pascal or a Newton are more precious than the whole
existence of a crowd of raw simpletons—"


Illustration: THE GAS CAUGHT FIRE.


"And you conclude, then, you everlasting talker?" asked Barbicane.

"I conclude that we have twenty-six minutes left," replied Ardan.

"Twenty-four only," said Nicholl.

"Well, twenty-four, if you like, my noble captain," said Ardan;
"twenty-four minutes in which to investigate—"

"Michel," said Barbicane, "during the passage we shall have plenty of
time to investigate the most difficult questions. For the present we must
occupy ourselves with our departure."

"Are we not ready?"

"Doubtless; but there are still some precautions to be taken, to deaden
as much as possible the first shock."

"Have we not the water-cushions placed between the partition-breaks,
whose elasticity will sufficiently protect us?"

"I hope so, Michel," replied Barbicane gently, "but I am not sure."

"Ah, the joker!" exclaimed Michel Ardan. "He hopes!—He is not
sure!—and he waits for the moment when we are encased to make this
deplorable admission! I beg to be allowed to get out!"

"And how?" asked Barbicane.

"Humph!" said Michel Ardan, "it is not easy; we are in the train, and
the guard's whistle will sound before twenty-four minutes are over."

"_Twenty_," said Nicholl.

For some moments the three travellers looked at each other. Then they
began to examine the objects imprisoned with them.

"Everything is in its place," said Barbicane. "We have now to decide how
we can best place ourselves to resist the shock. Position cannot be an
indifferent matter; and we must, as much as possible, prevent the rush
of blood to the head."

"Just so," said Nicholl.

"Then," replied Michel Ardan, ready to suit the action to the word, "let
us put our heads down and our feet in the air, like the clowns in the
grand circus."

"No," said Barbicane, "let us stretch ourselves on our sides; we shall
resist the shock better that way. Remember that, when the projectile
starts, it matters little whether we are in it or before it; it amounts
to much the same thing."

"If it is only 'much the same thing,' I may cheer up," said Michel Ardan.

"Do you approve of my idea, Nicholl?" asked Barbicane.

"Entirely," replied the captain. "We've still thirteen minutes and a
half."

"That Nicholl is not a man," exclaimed Michel; "he is a chronometer with
seconds, an escape, and eight holes."

But his companions were not listening; they were taking up their last
positions with the most perfect coolness. They were like two methodical
travellers in a car, seeking to place themselves as comfortably as
possible.

We might well ask ourselves of what materials are the hearts of these
Americans made, to whom the approach of the most frightful danger added
no pulsation.

Three thick and solidly-made couches had been placed in the projectile.
Nicholl and Barbicane placed them in the centre of the disc forming the
floor. There the three travellers were to stretch themselves some moments
before their departure.

During this time, Ardan, not being able to keep still, turned in his
narrow prison like a wild beast in a cage, chatting with his friends,
speaking to the dogs Diana and Satellite, to whom, as may be seen, he
had given significant names.

"Ah, Diana! Ah, Satellite!" he exclaimed, teazing them; "so you are going
to show the moon-dogs the good habits of the dogs of the earth! That
will do honour to the canine race! If ever we do come down again, I will
bring a cross type of 'moon-dogs,' which will make a stir!"


Illustration: DIANA AND SATELLITE.


"If there _are_ dogs in the moon," said Barbicane.

"There are," said Michel Ardan, "just as there are horses, cows, donkeys,
and chickens. I bet that we shall find chickens."

"A hundred dollars we shall find none!" said Nicholl.

"Done, my captain!" replied Ardan, clasping Nicholl's hand. "But, by
the bye, you have already lost three bets with our president, as the
necessary funds for the enterprise have been found, as the operation of
casting has been successful, and lastly, as the Columbiad has been loaded
without accident, six thousand dollars."

"Yes," replied Nicholl. "Thirty-seven minutes six seconds past ten."

"It is understood, captain. Well, before another quarter of an hour
you will have to count 9000 dollars to the president; 4000 because the
Columbiad will not burst, and 5000 because the projectile will rise more
than six miles in the air."

"I have the dollars," replied Nicholl, slapping the pocket of his coat.
"I only ask to be allowed to pay."

"Come, Nicholl, I see that you are a man of method, which I could never
be; but indeed you have made a series of bets of very little advantage
to yourself, allow me to tell you."

"And why?" asked Nicholl.

"Because, if you gain the first, the Columbiad will have burst, and the
projectile with it; and Barbicane will no longer be there to reimburse
your dollars."

"My stake is deposited at the bank in Baltimore," replied Barbicane
simply; "and if Nicholl is not there, it will go to his heirs."

"Ah, you practical men!" exclaimed Michel Ardan; "I admire you the more
for not being able to understand you."

"Forty-two minutes past ten!" said Nicholl.

"Only five minutes more!" answered Barbicane.

"Yes, five little minutes!" replied Michel Ardan; "and we are enclosed
in a projectile, at the bottom of a gun 900 feet long! And under this
projectile are rammed 400,000 lbs. of gun-cotton, which is equal to
1,600,000 lbs. of ordinary powder! And friend Murchison, with his
chronometer in hand, his eye fixed on the needle, his finger on the
electric apparatus, is counting the seconds preparatory to launching us
into interplanetary space."

"Enough, Michel, enough!" said Barbicane, in a serious voice; "let us
prepare. A few instants alone separate us from an eventful moment. One
clasp of the hand, my friends."

"Yes," exclaimed Michel Ardan, more moved than he wished to appear; and
the three bold companions were united in a last embrace.

"God preserve us!" said the religious Barbicane.

Michel Ardan and Nicholl stretched themselves on the couches placed in
the centre of the disc.

"Forty seven minutes past ten!" murmured the captain.

"Twenty seconds more!" Barbicane quickly put out the gas and lay down by
his companions, and the profound silence was only broken by the ticking
of the chronometer marking the seconds.

Suddenly a dreadful shock was felt, and the projectile, under the force
of six billions of litres of gas, developed by the combustion of the
pyroxyle, mounted into space.


Illustration: THE COURAGEOUS FRENCHMAN.



   CHAPTER II.

   THE FIRST HALF-HOUR.


What had happened? What effect had this frightful shock produced? Had
the ingenuity of the constructors of the projectile obtained any happy
result? Had the shock been deadened, thanks to the springs, the four
plugs, the water-cushions, and the partition-breaks? Had they been able
to subdue the frightful pressure of the initiatory speed of more than
11,000 yards, which was enough to traverse Paris or New York in a second?
This was evidently the question suggested to the thousand spectators
of this moving scene. They forgot the aim of the journey, and thought
only of the travellers. And if one amongst them—Joseph T. Maston for
example—could have cast one glimpse into the projectile, what would he
have seen?

Nothing then. The darkness was profound. But its cylindro-conical
partitions had resisted wonderfully. Not a rent or a dent anywhere! The
wonderful projectile was not even heated under the intense deflagration
of the powder, nor liquefied, as they seemed to fear, in a shower of
aluminium.

The interior showed but little disorder; indeed, only a few objects had
been violently thrown towards the roof; but the most important seemed
not to have suffered from the shock at all; their fixtures were intact.

On the movable disc, sunk down to the bottom by the smashing of the
partition-breaks and the escape of the water, three bodies lay apparently
lifeless. Barbicane, Nicholl, and Michel Ardan— did they still breathe?
or was the projectile nothing now but a metal coffin, bearing three
corpses into space?

Some minutes after the departure of the projectile, one of the bodies
moved, shook its arms, lifted its head, and finally succeeded in getting
on its knees. It was Michel Ardan. He felt himself all over, gave a
sonorous "Hem!" and then said,—

"Michel Ardan is whole. How about the others?"

The courageous Frenchman tried to rise, but could not stand. His head
swam, from the rush of blood; he was blind; he was like a drunken man.

"Bur-r!" said he. "It produces the same effect as two bottles of Corton,
though perhaps less agreeable to swallow." Then, passing his hand several
times across his forehead and rubbing his temples, he called in a firm
voice,—

"Nicholl! Barbicane!"

He waited anxiously. No answer; not even a sigh to show that the hearts
of his companions were still beating. He called again. The same silence.

"The devil!" he exclaimed. They look as if they had fallen from a fifth
story on their heads. "Bah!" he added, with that imperturbable confidence
which nothing could check, "if a Frenchman can get on his knees, two
Americans ought to be able to get on their feet. But first let us light
up."

Ardan felt the tide of life return by degrees. His blood became calm,
and returned to its accustomed circulation. Another effort restored his
equilibrium. He succeeded in rising, drew a match from his pocket, and
approaching the burner lighted it. The receiver had not suffered at all.
The gas had not escaped. Besides, the smell would have betrayed it; and
in that case Michel Ardan could not have carried a lighted match with
impunity through the space filled with hydrogen. The gas mixing with the
air would have produced a detonating mixture, and the explosion would
have finished what the shock had perhaps begun. When the burner was lit,
Ardan leaned over the bodies of his companions: they were lying one on
the other, an inert mass, Nicholl above, Barbicane underneath.


Illustration: THEY RAISED BARBICANE.


Ardan lifted the captain, propped him up against the divan, and began to
rub vigorously. This means, used with judgment, restored Nicholl, who
opened his eyes, and instantly recovering his presence of mind, seized
Ardan's hand and looked around him.

"And Barbicane?" said he.

"Each in turn," replied Michel Ardan. "I began with you, Nicholl, because
you were on the top. Now let us look to Barbicane." Saying which, Ardan
and Nicholl raised the president of the Gun Club and laid him on the
divan. He seemed to have suffered more than either of his companions; he
was bleeding, but Nicholl was reassured by finding that the hemorrhage
came from a slight wound on the shoulder, a mere graze, which he bound
up carefully.

Still, Barbicane was a long time coming to himself, which frightened his
friends, who did not spare friction.

"He breathes though," said Nicholl, putting his ear to the chest of the
wounded man.

"Yes," replied Ardan, "he breathes like a man who has some notion of that
daily operation. Rub, Nicholl; let us rub harder." And the two improvised
practitioners worked so hard and so well that Barbicane recovered his
senses. He opened his eyes, sat up, took his two friends by the hands,
and his first words were—

"Nicholl, are we moving?"

Nicholl and Barbicane looked at each other; they had not yet troubled
themselves about the projectile; their first thought had been for the
traveller, not for the car.

"Well, are we really moving?" repeated Michel Ardan.

"Or quietly resting on the soil of Florida?" asked Nicholl.

"Or at the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico?" added Michel Ardan.

"What an idea!" exclaimed the president.

And this double hypothesis suggested by his companions had the effect
of recalling him to his senses. In any case they could not yet decide
on the position of the projectile. Its apparent immovability, and the
want of communication with the outside, prevented them from solving the
question. Perhaps the projectile was unwinding its course through space.
Perhaps after a short rise it had fallen upon the earth, or even in the
Gulf of Mexico—a fall which the narrowness of the peninsula of Florida
would render not impossible.

The case was serious, the problem interesting, and one that must be
solved as soon as possible. Thus, highly excited, Barbicane's moral
energy triumphed over physical weakness, and he rose to his feet. He
listened. Outside was perfect silence; but the thick padding was enough
to intercept all sounds coming from the earth. But one circumstance
struck Barbicane, viz., that the temperature inside the projectile was
singularly high. The president drew a thermometer from its case and
consulted it. The instrument showed 81° Fahr.

"Yes," he exclaimed, "yes, we are moving! This stifling heat, penetrating
through the partitions of the projectile, is produced by its friction on
the atmospheric strata. It will soon diminish, because we are already
floating in space, and after having been nearly stifled, we shall have
to suffer intense cold."

"What!" said Michel Ardan. "According to your showing, Barbicane, we are
already beyond the limits of the terrestrial atmosphere?"

"Without a doubt, Michel. Listen to me. It is fifty-five minutes past
ten; we have been gone about eight minutes; and if our initiatory speed
has not been checked by the friction, six seconds would be enough for us
to pass through the forty miles of atmosphere which surrounds the globe."

"Just so," replied Nicholl; "but in what proportion do you estimate the
diminution of speed by friction?"

"In the proportion of one-third, Nicholl. This diminution is considerable,
but according to my calculations it is nothing less. If, then, we had
an initiatory speed of 12,000 yards, on leaving the atmosphere this
speed would be reduced to 9165 yards. In any case we have already passed
through this interval, and—"

"And then," said Michel Ardan, "friend Nicholl has lost his two bets:
four thousand dollars because the Columbiad did not burst; five thousand
dollars because the projectile has risen more than six miles. Now,
Nicholl, pay up."

"Let us prove it first," said the captain, "and we will pay afterwards.
It is quite possible that Barbicane's reasoning is correct, and that I
have lost my nine thousand dollars. But a new hypothesis presents itself
to my mind, and it annuls the wager."

"What is that?" asked Barbicane quickly.

"The hypothesis that, for some reason or other, fire was never set to
the powder, we have not started at all."

"My goodness, captain," exclaimed Michel Ardan, "that hypothesis is
worthy of my brain! It cannot be a serious one. For have we not been
half annihilated by the shock? Did I not recall you to life? Is not the
president's shoulder still bleeding from the blow it has received?"

"Granted," replied Nicholl; "but one question."

"Well, captain?"

"Did you hear the detonation, which certainly ought to be loud?"

"No," replied Ardan, much surprised; "certainly I did not hear the
detonation."

"And you, Barbicane?"

"Nor I, either."

"Very well," said Nicholl.

"Well now," murmured the president "why did we not hear the detonation?"

The three friends looked at each other with a disconcerted air. It
was quite an inexplicable phenomenon. The projectile had started, and
consequently there must have been a detonation.

"Let us first find out where we are," said Barbicane, "and let down the
panel."

This very simple operation was soon accomplished.

The nuts which held the bolts to the outer plates of the right-hand
scuttle gave way under the pressure of the English wrench. These bolts
were pushed outside, and buffers covered with india-rubber stopped up
the holes which let them through. Immediately the outer plate fell back
upon its hinges like a porthole, and the lenticular glass which closed
the scuttle appeared. A similar one was let into the thick partition on
the opposite side of the projectile, another in the top of the dome, and
finally a fourth in the middle of the base. They could, therefore, make
observations in four different directions: the firmament by the side
and most direct windows, the earth or the moon by the upper and under
openings in the projectile.

Barbicane and his two companions immediately rushed to the uncovered
window. But it was lit by no ray of light. Profound darkness surrounded
them, which, however, did not prevent the president from exclaiming,—

"No, my friends, we have not fallen back upon the earth; no, nor are we
submerged in the Gulf of Mexico. Yes! we are mounting into space. See
those stars shining in the night, and that impenetrable darkness heaped
up between the earth and us!"

"Hurrah! hurrah!" exclaimed Michel Ardan and Nicholl in one voice.

Indeed, this thick darkness proved that the projectile had left the earth,
for the soil, brilliantly lit by the moonbeams, would have been visible
to the travellers, if they had been lying on its surface. This darkness
also showed that the projectile had passed the atmospheric strata, for
the diffused light spread in the air would have been reflected on the
metal walls, which reflection was wanting. This light would have lit
the window, and the window was dark. Doubt was no longer possible; the
travellers had left the earth.


Illustration: IT WAS AN ENORMOUS DISC.


"I have lost," said Nicholl.

"I congratulate you," replied Ardan.

"Here are the nine thousand dollars," said the captain, drawing a roll
of paper dollars from his pocket.

"Will you have a receipt for it?" asked Barbicane, taking the sum.

"If you do not mind," answered Nicholl; "it is more business-like."

And coolly and seriously, as if he had been at his strong-box, the
president drew forth his note-book, tore out a blank leaf, wrote a proper
receipt in pencil, dated and signed it with the usual flourish,* and gave
it to the captain, who carefully placed it in his pocketbook. Michel
Ardan, taking off his hat, bowed to his two companions without speaking.
So much formality under such circumstances left him speechless. He had
never before seen anything so "American."

* This is a purely French habit.

This affair settled, Barbicane and Nicholl had returned to the window,
and were watching the constellations. The stars looked like bright points
on the black sky. But from that side they could not see the orb of night,
which, travelling from east to west, would rise by degrees towards the
zenith. Its absence drew the following remark from Ardan.

"And the moon; will she perchance fail at our rendezvous?"

"Do not alarm yourself," said Barbicane; "our future globe is at its
post, but we cannot see her from this side; let us open the other."

As Barbicane was about leaving the window to open the opposite scuttle,
his attention was attracted by the approach of a brilliant object. It
was an enormous disc, whose colossal dimension could not be estimated.
Its face, which was turned to the earth, was very bright. One might have
thought it a small moon reflecting the light of the larger one. She
advanced with great speed, and seemed to describe an orbit round the
earth, which would intersect the passage of the projectile. This body
revolved upon its axis, and exhibited the phenomena of all celestial
bodies abandoned in space.

"Ah!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, "what is that? another projectile?"

Barbicane did not answer. The appearance of this enormous body surprised
and troubled him. A collision was possible, and might be attended with
deplorable results; either the projectile would deviate from its path,
or a shock, breaking its impetus, might precipitate it to the earth; or,
lastly, it might be irresistibly drawn away by the powerful asteroid. The
president caught at a glance the consequences of these three hypotheses,
either of which would, one way or the other, bring their experiment to
an unsuccessful and fatal termination. His companions stood silently
looking into space. The object grew rapidly as it approached them, and
by an optical illusion the projectile seemed to be throwing itself before
it.

"By Jove!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, "we shall run into one another!"

Instinctively the travellers drew back. Their dread was great, but it
did not last many seconds. The asteroid passed several hundred yards
from the projectile and disappeared, not so much from the rapidity of
its course, as that its face being opposite the moon, it was suddenly
merged into the perfect darkness of space.

"A happy journey to you," exclaimed Michel Ardan, with a sigh of relief.
"Surely infinity of space is large enough for a poor little projectile
to walk through without fear. Now, what is this portentous globe which
nearly struck us?"

"I know," replied Barbicane.

"Oh, indeed! you know everything."

"It is," said Barbicane, "a simple meteorite, but an enormous one, which
the attraction of the earth has retained as a satellite."

"Is it possible!" exclaimed Michel Ardan; "the earth then has two moons
like Neptune?"

"Yes, my friend, two moons, though it passes generally for having only
one; but this second moon is so small, and its speed so great, that the
inhabitants of the earth cannot see it. It was by noticing disturbances
that a French astronomer, M. Petit, was able to determine the existence
of this second satellite and calculate its elements. According to his
observations, this meteorite will accomplish its revolution round the
earth in three hours and twenty minutes, which implies a wonderful rate
of speed."

"Do all astronomers admit the existence of this satellite?" asked Nicholl.

"No," replied Barbicane; "but if, like us, they had met it, they could
no longer doubt it. Indeed, I think that this meteorite, which, had it
struck the projectile, would have much embarrassed us, will give us the
means of deciding what our position in space is."

"How?" said Ardan.

"Because its distance is known, and when we met it, we were exactly 4650
miles from the surface of the terrestrial globe."

"More than 2000 French leagues," exclaimed Michel Ardan. "That beats the
express trains of the pitiful globe called the earth."

"I should think so," replied Nicholl, consulting his chronometer; "it
is eleven o'clock, and it is only thirteen minutes since we left the
American Continent."

"Only thirteen minutes?" said Barbicane.

"Yes," said Nicholl; "and if our initiatory speed of 12,000 yards has
been kept up, we shall have made about 20,000 miles in the hour."

"That is all very well, my friends," said the president, "but the
insoluble question still remains. Why did we not hear the detonation of
the Columbiad?"

For want of an answer the conversation dropped, and Barbicane began
thoughtfully to let down the shutter of the second side. He succeeded;
and through the uncovered glass the moon filled the projectile with
a brilliant light. Nicholl, as an economical man, put out the gas,
now useless, and whose brilliancy prevented any observation of the
interplanetary space.

The lunar disc shone with wonderful purity. Her rays, no longer filtered
through the vapoury atmosphere of the terrestrial globe, shone through
the glass, filling the air in the interior of the projectile with silvery
reflections. The black curtain of the firmament in reality heightened the
moon's brilliancy, which in this void of ether unfavourable to diffusion
did not eclipse the neighbouring stars. The heavens, thus seen, presented
quite a new aspect, and one which the human eye could never dream of.
One may conceive the interest with which these bold men watched the orb
of night, the great aim of their journey.

In its motion the earth's satellite was insensibly nearing the zenith,
the mathematical point which it ought to attain ninety-six hours later.
Her mountains, her plains, every projection was as clearly discernible
to their eyes as if they were observing it from some spot upon the earth;
but its light was developed through space with wonderful intensity. The
disc shone like a platinum mirror. Of the earth flying from under their
feet, the travellers had lost all recollection.

It was Captain Nicholl who first recalled their attention to the vanishing
globe.

"Yes," said Michel Ardan, "do not let us be ungrateful to it. Since we
are leaving our country, let our last looks be directed to it. I wish to
see the earth once more before it is quite hidden from my eyes."

To satisfy his companions, Barbicane began to uncover the window at the
bottom of the projectile, which would allow them to observe the earth
direct. The disc, which the force of the projection had beaten down to
the base, was removed, not without difficulty. Its fragments, placed
carefully against the wall, might serve again upon occasion. Then a
circular gap appeared, nineteen inches in diameter, hollowed out of
the lower part of the projectile. A glass cover, six inches thick and
strengthened with upper fastenings, closed it tightly. Beneath was fixed
an aluminium plate, held in place by bolts. The screws being undone,
and the bolts let go, the plate fell down, and visible communication was
established between the interior and the exterior.

Michel Ardan knelt by the glass. It was cloudy, seemingly opaque.

"Well!" he exclaimed, "and the earth?"

"The earth?" said Barbicane. "There it is."

"What! that little thread; that silver crescent?"

"Doubtless, Michel. In four days, when the moon will be full, at the
very time we shall reach it, the earth will be new, and will only appear
to us as a slender crescent which will soon disappear, and for some days
will be enveloped in utter darkness."

"That the earth?" repeated Michel Ardan, looking with all his eyes at
the thin slip of his native planet.

The explanation given by President Barbicane was correct. The earth,
with respect to the projectile, was entering its last phase. It was in
its octant, and showed a crescent finely traced on the dark background
of the sky. Its light, rendered bluish by the thick strata of the
atmosphere was less intense than that of the crescent moon, but it was
of considerable dimensions, and looked like an enormous arch stretched
across the firmament. Some parts brilliantly lighted, especially on its
concave part, showed the presence of high mountains, often disappearing
behind thick spots, which are never seen on the lunar disc. They were
rings of clouds placed concentrically round the terrestrial globe.

Whilst the travellers were trying to pierce the profound darkness, a
brilliant cluster of shooting stars burst upon their eyes. Hundreds of
meteorites, ignited by the friction of the atmosphere, irradiated the
shadow of the luminous train, and lined the cloudy parts of the disc
with their fire. At this period the earth was in its perihelium, and
the month of December is so propitious to these shooting stars, that
astronomers have counted as many as twenty-four thousand in an hour. But
Michel Ardan, disdaining scientific reasonings, preferred thinking that
the earth was thus saluting the departure of her three children with her
most brilliant fireworks.

Indeed this was all they saw of the globe lost in the shadow, an inferior
orb of the solar world, rising and setting to the great planets like a
simple morning or evening star! This globe, where they had left all their
affections, was nothing more than a fugitive crescent!

Long did the three friends look without speaking, though united in heart,
whilst the projectile sped onward with an ever-decreasing speed. Then
an irresistible drowsiness crept over their brain. Was it weariness both
of body and mind? No doubt; for after the over-excitement of those last
hours passed upon earth, reaction was inevitable.

"Well," said Nicholl, "since we must sleep, let us sleep."

And stretching themselves on their couches, they were all three soon in
a profound slumber.

But they had not forgotten themselves more than a quarter of an hour,
when Barbicane sat up suddenly, and rousing his companions with a loud
voice, exclaimed,—

"I have found it!"

"What have you found?" asked Michel Ardan, jumping from his bed.

"The reason why we did not hear the detonation of the Columbiad."

"And it is—?" said Nicholl.

"Because our projectile travelled _faster than the sound!_"



   CHAPTER III.

   THEIR PLACE OF SHELTER.


This curious but certainly correct explanation once given, the three
friends returned to their slumbers. Could they have found a calmer or
more peaceful spot to sleep in? On the earth, houses, towns, cottages,
and country feel every shock given to the exterior of the globe. On sea,
the vessels rocked by the waves are still in motion; in the air, the
balloon oscillates incessantly on the fluid strata of divers densities.
This projectile alone, floating in perfect space, in the midst of perfect
silence, offered perfect repose.

Thus the sleep of our adventurous travellers might have been indefinitely
prolonged, if an unexpected noise had not awakened them at about seven
o'clock in the morning of the 2nd of December, eight hours after their
departure.

This noise was a very natural barking.

"The dogs! it is the dogs!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, rising at once.

"They are hungry," said Nicholl.

"By Jove!" replied Michel, "we have forgotten them."

"Where are they?" asked Barbicane.

They looked and found one of the animals crouched under the divan.
Terrified and shaken by the initiatory shock, it had remained in the
corner till its voice returned with the pangs of hunger. It was the
amiable Diana, still very confused, who crept out of her retreat, though
not without much persuasion, Michel Ardan encouraging her with most
gracious words.

"Come, Diana," said he; "come, my girl! thou whose destiny will be
marked in the cynegetic annals; thou whom the pagans would have given as
companion to the god Anubis, and Christians as friend to St. Roch; thou
who art rushing into interplanetary space, and wilt perhaps be the Eve
of all Selenite dogs! come, Diana, come here."

Diana, flattered or not, advanced by degrees, uttering plaintive cries.

"Good," said Barbicane; "I see Eve, but where is Adam?"

"Adam?" replied Michel; "Adam cannot be far off; he is there somewhere;
we must call him. Satellite! here, Satellite!"

But Satellite did not appear. Diana would not leave off howling. They
found, however, that she was not bruised, and they gave her a pie, which
silenced her complaints. As to Satellite, he seemed quite lost. They had
to hunt a long time before finding him in one of the upper compartments
of the projectile, whither some unaccountable shock must have violently
hurled him. The poor beast, much hurt, was in a piteous state.

"The devil!" said Michel.

They brought the unfortunate dog down with great care. Its skull had been
broken against the roof, and it seemed unlikely that he could recover
from such a shock. Meanwhile, he was stretched comfortably on a cushion.
Once there, he heaved a sigh.

"We will take care of you," said Michel; "we are responsible for your
existence. I would rather lose an arm than a paw of my poor Satellite."

Saying which, he offered some water to the wounded dog, who swallowed it
with avidity.

This attention paid, the travellers watched the earth and the moon
attentively. The earth was now only discernible by a cloudy disc ending
in a crescent, rather more contracted than that of the previous evening;
but its expanse was still enormous, compared with that of the moon, which
was approaching nearer and nearer to a perfect circle.


Illustration: THEY GAVE HER A PIE.


"By Jove!" said Michel Ardan, "I am really sorry that we did not start
when the earth was full, that is to say, when our globe was in opposition
to the sun."

"Why?" asked Nicholl.

"Because we should have seen our continents and seas in a new light,—the
first resplendent under the solar rays, the latter cloudy as represented
on some maps of the world. I should like to have seen those poles of the
earth on which the eye of man has never yet rested.

"I dare say," replied Barbicane; "but if the earth had been _full_, the
moon would have been _new_; that is to say, invisible, because of the
rays of the sun. It is better for us to see the destination we wish to
reach, than the point of departure."

"You are right, Barbicane," replied Captain Nicholl; "and, besides, when
we have reached the moon, we shall have time during the long lunar nights
to consider at our leisure the globe on which our likenesses swarm."

"Our likenesses!" exclaimed Michel Ardan; "they are no more our likenesses
than the Selenites are! We inhabit a new world, peopled by ourselves—the
projectile! I am Barbicane's likeness, and Barbicane is Nicholl's. Beyond
us, around us, human nature is at an end, and we are the only population
of this microcosm until we become pure Selenites."

"In about eighty-eight hours," replied the captain.

"Which means to say?" asked Michel Ardan.

"That it is half-past eight," replied Nicholl.

"Very well," retorted Michel; "then it is impossible for me to find even
the shadow of a reason why we should not go to breakfast."

Indeed the inhabitants of the new star could not live without eating, and
their stomachs were suffering from the imperious laws of hunger. Michel
Ardan, as a Frenchman, was declared chief cook, an important function,
which raised no rival. The gas gave sufficient heat for the culinary
apparatus, and the provision-box furnished the elements of this first
feast.

The breakfast began with three bowls of excellent soup, thanks to the
liquefaction in hot water of those precious cakes of Liebig, prepared from
the best parts of the ruminants of the Pampas. To the soup succeeded some
beefsteaks, compressed by an hydraulic press, as tender and succulent as
if brought straight from the kitchen of an English eating-house. Michel,
who was imaginative, maintained that they were even "red."

Preserved vegetables ("fresher than nature," said the amiable Michel)
succeeded the dish of meat; and was followed by some cups of tea with
bread and butter, after the American fashion.

The beverage was declared exquisite, and was due to the infusion of the
choicest leaves, of which the Emperor of Russia had given some chests
for the benefit of the travellers.

And lastly, to crown the repast, Ardan brought out a fine bottle of Nuits,
which was found "by chance" in the provision-box. The three friends drank
to the union of the earth and her satellite.

And, as if he had not already done enough for the generous wine which
he had distilled on the slopes of Burgundy, the sun chose to be of the
party. At this moment the projectile emerged from the conical shadow
cast by the terrestrial globe, and the rays of the radiant orb struck
the lower disc of the projectile direct occasioned by the angle which
the moon's orbit makes with that of the earth.

"The sun!" exclaimed Michel Ardan.

"No doubt," replied Barbicane; "I expected it."

"But," said Michel, "the conical shadow which the earth leaves in space
extends beyond the moon?"

"Far beyond it, if the atmospheric refraction is not taken into
consideration," said Barbicane. "But when the moon is enveloped in this
shadow, it is because the centres of the three stars, the sun, the earth,
and the moon, are all in one and the same straight line. Then the _nodes_
coincide with the _phases_ of the moon, and there is an eclipse. If we
had started when there was an eclipse of the moon, all our passage would
have been in the shadow, which would have been a pity."


Illustration: THE SUN CHOSE TO BE OF THE PARTY.


"Why?"

"Because, though we are floating in space, our projectile, bathed in the
solar rays, will receive their light and heat. It economizes the gas,
which is in every respect a good economy."

Indeed, under these rays which no atmosphere can temper, either in
temperature or brilliancy, the projectile grew warm and bright, as if
it had passed suddenly from winter to summer. The moon above, the sun
beneath, were inundating it with their fire.

"It is pleasant here," said Nicholl.

"I should think so," said Michel Ardan. "With a little earth spread on
our aluminium planet we should have green peas in twenty-four hours. I
have but one fear, which is that the walls of the projectile might melt."

"Calm yourself, my worthy friend," replied Barbicane; "the projectile
withstood a very much higher temperature than this as it slid through
the strata of the atmosphere. I should not be surprised if it did not
look like a meteor on fire to the eyes of the spectators in Florida."

"But then Joseph T. Maston will think we are roasted!"

"What astonishes me," said Barbicane, "is that we have not been. That
was a danger we had not provided for."

"I feared it," said Nicholl simply.

"And you never mentioned it, my sublime captain," exclaimed Michel Ardan,
clasping his friend's hand.

Barbicane now began to settle himself in the projectile as if he was
never to leave it. One must remember that this aerial car had a base
with a superficies of fifty-four square feet. Its height to the roof
was twelve feet. Carefully laid out in the inside, and little encumbered
by instruments and travelling utensils which each had their particular
place, it left the three travellers a certain freedom of movement. The
thick window inserted in the bottom could bear any amount of weight, and
Barbicane and his companions walked upon it as if it were solid plank;
but the sun striking it directly with its rays lit the interior of the
projectile from beneath, thus producing singular effects of light.

They began by investigating the state of their store of water and
provisions, neither of which had suffered, thanks to the care taken to
deaden the shock. Their provisions were abundant, and plentiful enough
to last the three travellers for more than a year. Barbicane wished to
be cautious, in case the projectile should land on a part of the moon
which was utterly barren. As to water and the reserve of brandy, which
consisted of fifty gallons, there was only enough for two months; but
according to the last observations of astronomers, the moon had a low,
dense, and thick atmosphere, at least in the deep valleys, and there
springs and streams could not fail. Thus, during their passage, and
for the first year of their settlement on the lunar continent, these
adventurous explorers would suffer neither hunger nor thirst.

Now about the air in the projectile. There, too, they were secure.
Reiset and Regnaut's apparatus, intended for the production of oxygen,
was supplied with chlorate of potassium for two months. They necessarily
consumed a certain quantity of gas, for they were obliged to keep the
producing substance at a temperature of above 400°. But there again they
were all safe. The apparatus only wanted a little care. But it was not
enough to renew the oxygen; they must absorb the carbonic acid produced by
expiration. During the last twelve hours the atmosphere of the projectile
had become charged with this deleterious gas. Nicholl discovered the
state of the air by observing Diana panting painfully. The carbonic
acid, by a phenomenon similar to that produced in the famous Grotto del
Cane, had collected at the bottom of the projectile owing to its weight.
Poor Diana, with her head low, would suffer before her masters from the
presence of this gas. But Captain Nicholl hastened to remedy this state
of things, by placing on the floor several receivers containing caustic
potash which he shook about for a time, and this substance, greedy of
carbonic acid, soon completely absorbed it, thus purifying the air.

An inventory of instruments was then begun. The thermometers and
barometers had resisted, all but one minimum thermometer, the glass of
which was broken. An excellent aneroid was drawn from the wadded box
which contained it and hung on the wall. Of course it was only affected
by and marked the pressure of the air inside the projectile, but it also
showed the quantity of moisture which it contained. At that moment its
needle oscillated between 25.24 and 25.08.

It was fine weather.

Barbicane had also brought several compasses, which he found intact.
One must understand that under present conditions their needles were
acting _wildly_, that is without any _constant_ direction. Indeed, at
the distance they were from the earth, the magnetic pole could have no
perceptible action upon the apparatus; but the box placed on the lunar
disc might perhaps exhibit some strange phenomena. In any case it would
be interesting to see whether the earth's satellite submitted like
herself to its magnetic influence.

A hypsometer to measure the height of the lunar mountains, a sextant
to take the height of the sun, glasses which would be useful as they
neared the moon, all these instruments were carefully looked over, and
pronounced good in spite of the violent shock.

As to the pickaxes and different tools which were Nicholl's especial
choice; as to the sacks of different kinds of grain and shrubs which
Michel Ardan hoped to transplant into Selenite ground, they were stowed
away in the upper part of the projectile. There was a sort of granary
there, loaded with things which the extravagant Frenchman had heaped up.
What they were no one knew, and the good-tempered fellow did not explain.
Now and then he climbed up by cramp-irons riveted to the walls, but kept
the inspection to himself. He arranged and rearranged, he plunged his
hand rapidly into certain mysterious boxes, singing in one of the falsest
of voices an old French refrain to enliven the situation.

Barbicane observed with some interest that his guns and other arms had
not been damaged. These were important, because, heavily loaded, they
were to help to lessen the fall of the projectile, when drawn by the
lunar attraction (after having passed the point of neutral attraction) on
to the moon's surface; a fall which ought to be six times less rapid than
it would have been on the earth's surface, thanks to the difference of
bulk. The inspection ended with general satisfaction, when each returned
to watch space through the side windows and the lower glass
coverlid.

There was the same view. The whole extent of the celestial sphere swarmed
with stars and constellations of wonderful purity, enough to drive an
astronomer out of his mind! On one side the sun, like the mouth of a
lighted oven, a dazzling disc without a halo, standing out on the dark
background of the sky! On the other, the moon returning its fire by
reflection, and apparently motionless in the midst of the starry world.
Then, a large spot seemingly nailed to the firmament, bordered by a
silvery cord: it was the earth! Here and there nebulous masses like large
flakes of starry snow; and from the zenith to the nadir, an immense ring
formed by an impalpable dust of stars, the "Milky Way," in the midst of
which the sun ranks only as a star of the fourth magnitude. The observers
could not take their eyes from this novel spectacle, of which no
description could give an adequate idea. What reflections it suggested!
What emotions hitherto unknown awoke in their souls! Barbicane wished
to begin the relation of his journey while under its first impressions,
and hour after hour took notes of all facts happening in the beginning
of the enterprise. He wrote quietly, with his large square writing, in
a businesslike style.



Illustration: ARDAN PLUNGED HIS HAND RAPIDLY INTO CERTAIN
   MYSTERIOUS BOXES.


During this time Nicholl, the calculator, looked over the minutes of
their passage, and worked out figures with unparalleled dexterity. Michel
Ardan chatted first with Barbicane, who did not answer him, and then
with Nicholl, who did not hear him, with Diana, who understood none of
his theories, and lastly with himself, questioning and answering, going
and coming, busy with a thousand details; at one time bent over the
lower glass, at another roosting in the heights of the projectile, and
always singing. In this microcosm he represented French loquacity and
excitability, and we beg you to believe that they were well represented.
The day, or rather (for the expression is not correct) the lapse of
twelve hours, which forms a day upon earth, closed with a plentiful
supper carefully prepared. No accident of any nature had yet happened
to shake the travellers' confidence; so, full of hope, already sure of
success, they slept peacefully, whilst the projectile under an uniformly
decreasing speed was crossing the sky.



   CHAPTER IV.

   A LITTLE ALGEBRA.


The night passed without incident. The word "night," however, is scarcely
applicable.

The position of the projectile with regard to the sun did not change.
Astronomically, it was daylight on the lower part, and night on the upper;
so when during this narrative these words are used, they represent the
lapse of time between the rising and setting of the sun upon the earth.

The travellers' sleep was rendered more peaceful by the projectile's
excessive speed, for it seemed absolutely motionless. Not a motion
betrayed its onward course through space. The rate of progress, however
rapid it might be, cannot produce any sensible effect on the human frame
when it takes place in a vacuum, or when the mass of air circulates
with the body which is carried with it. What inhabitant of the earth
perceives its speed, which, however, is at the rate of 68,000 miles per
hour? Motion under such conditions is "felt" no more than repose; and
when a body is in repose it will remain so as long as no strange force
displaces it; if moving, it will not stop unless an obstacle comes in
its way. This indifference to motion or repose is called inertia.

Barbicane and his companions might have believed themselves perfectly
stationary, being shut up in the projectile; indeed, the effect would
have been the same if they had been on the outside of it. Had it not been
for the moon, which was increasing above them, they might have sworn that
they were floating in complete stagnation.

That morning, the 3rd of December, the travellers were awakened by a
joyous but unexpected noise; it was the crowing of a cock which sounded
through the car. Michel Ardan, who was the first on his feet, climbed
to the top of the projectile, and shutting a box, the lid of which
was partly open, said in a low voice, "Will you hold your tongue? That
creature will spoil my design!"

But Nicholl and Barbicane were awake.

"A cock!" said Nicholl.

"Why no, my friends," Michel answered quickly; "it was I who wished to
awake you by this rural sound." So saying, he gave vent to a splendid
cock-a-doodledoo, which would have done honour to the proudest of
poultry-yards.

The two Americans could not help laughing.

"Fine talent that," said Nicholl, looking suspiciously at his companion.

"Yes," said Michel; "a joke in my country. It is very Gallic; they play
the cock so in the best society."

Then turning the conversation,—

"Barbicane, do you know what I have been thinking of all night?"

"No," answered the president.

"Of our Cambridge friends. You have already remarked that I am an
ignoramus in mathematical subjects; and it is impossible for me to
find out how the savants of the Observatory were able to calculate what
initiatory speed the projectile ought to have on leaving the Columbiad
in order to attain the moon."

"You mean to say," replied Barbicane, "to attain that neutral point where
the terrestrial and lunar attractions are equal; for, starting from that
point, situated about nine-tenths of the distance travelled over, the
projectile would simply fall upon the moon, on account of its weight."

"So be it," said Michel; "but, once more; how could they calculate the
initiatory speed?"

"Nothing can be easier," replied Barbicane.

"And you knew how to make that calculation?" asked Michel Ardan.

"Perfectly. Nicholl and I would have made it, if the Observatory had not
saved us the trouble."

"Very well, old Barbicane," replied Michel; "they might have cut off my
head, beginning at my feet, before they could have made me solve that
problem."

"Because you do not know algebra," answered Barbicane quietly.

"Ah, there you are, you eaters of _x_¹; you think you have said all when
you have said 'Algebra.'"

"Michel," said Barbicane, "can you use a forge without a hammer, or
plough without a ploughshare?"

"Hardly."

"Well, algebra is a tool, like the plough or the hammer, and a good tool
to those who know how to use it."

"Seriously?"

"Quite seriously."

"And can you use that tool in my presence?"

"If it will interest you."

"And show me how they calculated the initiatory speed of our car?"

"Yes, my worthy friend; taking into consideration all the elements of
the problem, the distance from the centre of the earth to the centre of
the moon, of the radius of the earth, of its bulk, and of the bulk of
the moon, I can tell exactly what ought to be the initiatory speed of
the projectile, and that by a simple formula."

"Let us see."

"You shall see it; only I shall not give you the real course drawn
by the projectile between the moon and the earth in considering their
motion round the sun. No, I shall consider these two orbs as perfectly
motionless, which will answer all our purpose."

"And why?"

"Because it will be trying to solve the problem called 'the problem of
the three bodies,' for which the integral calculus is not yet far enough
advanced."

"Then," said Michel Ardan, in his sly tone, "mathematics have not said
their last word?"

"Certainly not," replied Barbicane.

"Well, perhaps the Selenites have carried the integral calculus farther
than you have; and, by the bye, what is 'integral calculus?'"

"It is a calculation the converse of the differential," replied Barbicane
seriously.

"Much obliged; it is all very clear, no doubt."

"And now," continued Barbicane, "a slip of paper and a bit of pencil,
and before a half-hour is over I will have found the required formula."

Half an hour had not elapsed before Barbicane, raising his head, showed
Michel Ardan a page covered with algebraical signs, in which the general
formula for the solution was contained.

"Well, and does Nicholl understand what that means?"

"Of course, Michel," replied the captain. "All these signs, which seem
cabalistic to you, form the plainest, the clearest, and the most logical
language to those who know how to read it."

"And you pretend, Nicholl," asked Michel, "that by means of these
hieroglyphics, more incomprehensible than the Egyptian Ibis, you can find
what initiatory speed it was necessary to give to the projectile?"

"Incontestably," replied Nicholl; "and even by this same formula I can
always tell you its speed at any point of its transit."

"On your word?"

"On my word."

"Then you are as cunning as our president."

"No, Michel; the difficult part is what Barbicane has done; that is, to
get an equation which shall satisfy all the conditions of the problem.
The remainder is only a question of arithmetic, requiring merely the
knowledge of the four rules."

"That is something!" replied Michel Ardan, who for his life could not
do addition right, and who defined the rule as a Chinese puzzle, which
allowed one to obtain all sorts of totals.

"The expression _v_ zero, which you see in that equation, is the speed
which the projectile will have on leaving the atmosphere."

"Just so," said Nicholl; "it is from that point that we must calculate
the velocity, since we know already that the velocity at departure was
exactly one and a half times more than on leaving the atmosphere."

"I understand no more," said Michel.

"It is a very simple calculation," said Barbicane.

"Not as simple as I am," retorted Michel.

"That means, that when our projectile reached the limits of the terrestrial
atmosphere it had already lost one-third of its initiatory speed."

"As much as that?"

"Yes, my friend; merely by friction against the atmospheric strata. You
understand that the faster it goes the more resistance it meets with from
the air."

"That I admit," answered Michel; "and I understand it, although your x's
and zero's, and algebraic formulæ, are rattling in my head like nails
in a bag."

"First effects of algebra," replied Barbicane; "and now, to finish, we
are going to prove the given number of these different expressions, that
is, work out their value."

"Finish me!" replied Michel.

Barbicane took the paper, and began again to make his calculations with
great rapidity. Nicholl looked over and greedily read the work as it
proceeded.

"That's it! that's it!" at last he cried.

"Is it clear?" asked Barbicane.


Illustration: "DO I UNDERSTAND IT?" CRIED ARDAN;
   "MY HEAD IS SPLITTING WITH IT."


"It is written in letters of fire," said Nicholl.

"Wonderful fellows!" muttered Ardan.

"Do you understand it at last?" asked Barbicane.

"Do I understand it?" cried Ardan; "my head is splitting with it."

"And now," said Nicholl, "to find out the speed of the projectile when
it left the atmosphere, we have only to calculate that."

The captain, as a practical man equal to all difficulties, began to write
with frightful rapidity. Divisions and multiplications grew under his
fingers; the figures were like hail on the white page. Barbicane watched
him, whilst Michel Ardan nursed a growing headache with both hands.

"Very well?" asked Barbicane, after some minutes' silence.

"Well!" replied Nicholl; "every calculation made, _v_ zero, that is to
say, the speed necessary for the projectile on leaving the atmosphere,
to enable it to reach the equal point of attraction, ought to be—"

"Yes?" said Barbicane.

"Twelve thousand yards."

"What!" exclaimed Barbicane, starting; "you say—"

"Twelve thousand yards."

"The devil!" cried the president, making a gesture of despair.

"What is the matter?" asked Michel Ardan, much surprised.

"What is the matter! why, if at this moment our speed had already
diminished one-third by friction, the initiatory speed ought to have
been—"

"Seventeen thousand yards."

"And the Cambridge Observatory declared that 12,000 yards was enough at
starting; and our projectile, which only started with that speed—"

"Well?" asked Nicholl.

"Well, it will not be enough."

"Good."

"We shall not be able to reach the neutral point."

"The deuce!"

"We shall not even get half way."

"In the name of the projectile!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, jumping as if
it was already on the point of striking the terrestrial globe.

"And we shall fall back upon the earth!"



   CHAPTER V.

   THE COLD OF SPACE.


This revelation came like a thunderbolt. Who could have expected such an
error in calculation? Barbicane would not believe it. Nicholl revised
his figures: they were exact. As to the formula which had determined
them, they could not suspect its truth; it was evident that an initiatory
velocity of 17,000 yards in the first second was necessary to enable them
to reach the neutral point.

The three friends looked at each other silently. There was no thought
of breakfast. Barbicane, with clenched teeth, knitted brows, and hands
clasped convulsively, was watching through the window. Nicholl had
crossed his arms, and was examining his calculations. Michel Ardan was
muttering,—

"That is just like those scientific men: they never do anything else. I
would give twenty pistoles if we could fall upon the Cambridge Observatory
and crush it, together with the whole lot of dabblers in figures which
it contains."

Suddenly a thought struck the captain, which he at once communicated to
Barbicane.

"Ah!" said he; "it is seven o'clock in the morning; we have already been
gone thirty-two hours; more than half our passage is over, and we are
not falling that I am aware of."

Barbicane did not answer, but after a rapid glance at the captain,
took a pair of compasses wherewith to measure the angular distance
of the terrestrial globe; then from the lower window he took an exact
observation, and noticed that the projectile was apparently stationary.
Then rising and wiping his forehead, on which large drops of perspiration
were standing, he put some figures on paper. Nicholl understood that the
president was deducting from the terrestrial diameter the projectile's
distance from the earth. He watched him anxiously.

"No," exclaimed Barbicane, after some moments, "no, we are not falling!
no, we are already more than 50,000 leagues from the earth. We have
passed the point at which the projectile would have stopped if its speed
had only been 12,000 yards at starting. We are still going up."

"That is evident," replied Nicholl; "and we must conclude that our
initial speed, under the power of the 400,000 lbs. of gun-cotton, must
have exceeded the required 12,000 yards. Now I can understand how, after
thirteen minutes only, we met the second satellite, which gravitates
round the earth at more than 2000 leagues' distance."

"And this explanation is the more probable," added Barbicane, "because,
in throwing off the water enclosed between its partition-breaks, the
projectile found itself lightened of a considerable weight."

"Just so," said Nicholl.

"Ah, my brave Nicholl, we are saved!"

"Very well then," said Michel Ardan quietly; "as we are safe, let us have
breakfast."

Nicholl was not mistaken. The initial speed had been, very fortunately,
much above that estimated by the Cambridge Observatory; but the Cambridge
Observatory had nevertheless made a mistake.

The travellers, recovered from this false alarm, breakfasted merrily. If
they ate a great deal, they talked more. Their confidence was greater
after than before "the incident of the algebra."

"Why should we not succeed?" said Michel Ardan; "why should we not arrive
safely? We are launched; we have no obstacle before us, no stones in our
way; the road is open, more so than that of a ship battling with the sea;
more open than that of a balloon battling with the wind; and if a ship
can reach its destination, a balloon go where it pleases, why cannot our
projectile attain its end and aim?"

"It _will_ attain it," said Barbicane.

"If only to do honour to the Americans," added Michel Ardan, "the only
people who could bring such an enterprise to a happy termination, and
the only one which could produce a President Barbicane. Ah, now we are
no longer uneasy, I begin to think, What will become of us? We shall get
right royally weary."

Barbicane and Nicholl made a gesture of denial.

"But I have provided for the contingency, my friends," replied Michel;
"you have only to speak, and I have chess, draughts, cards, and dominoes
at your disposal; nothing is wanting but a billiard-table."

"What!" exclaimed Barbicane; "you brought away such trifles?"

"Certainly," replied Michel, "and not only to distract ourselves, but
also with the laudable intention of endowing the Selenite smoking divans
with them."

"My friend," said Barbicane, "if the moon is inhabited, its inhabitants
must have appeared some thousands of years before those of the earth, for
we cannot doubt that their star is much older than ours. If then these
Selenites have existed their hundreds of thousands of years, and if their
brain is of the same organization as the human brain, they have already
invented all that we have invented, and even what we may invent in future
ages. They have nothing to learn from _us_, and we have everything to
learn from _them_."

"What!" said Michel; "you believe that they have artists like Phidias,
Michael Angelo, or Raphael?"

"Yes."

"Poets like Homer, Virgil, Milton, Lamartine, and Hugo?"

"I am sure of it."

"Philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Kant?"

"I have no doubt of it."

"Scientific men like Archimedes, Euclid, Pascal, Newton?"

"I could swear it."

"Comic writers like Arnal, and photographers like—like Nadar?"

"Certain."

"Then, friend Barbicane, if they are as strong as we are, and even
stronger—these Selenites—why have they not tried to communicate
with the earth? why have they not launched a lunar projectile to our
terrestrial regions?"

"Who told you that they have never done so?" said Barbicane seriously.

"Indeed," added Nicholl, "it would be easier for them than for us, for
two reasons; first, because the attraction on the moon's surface is six
times less than on that of the earth, which would allow a projectile to
rise more easily; secondly, because it would be enough to send such a
projectile only at 8000 leagues instead of 80,000, which would require
the force of projection to be ten times less strong."

"Then," continued Michel, "I repeat it, why have they not done it?"

"And I repeat," said Barbicane; "who told you that they have not done
it?"

"When?"

"Thousands of years before man appeared on earth."

"And the projectile—where is the projectile? I demand to see the
projectile."

"My friend," replied Barbicane, "the sea covers five-sixths of our globe.
From that we may draw five good reasons for supposing that the lunar
projectile, if ever launched, is now at the bottom of the Atlantic or
the Pacific, unless it sped into some crevasse at that period when the
crust of the earth was not yet hardened."

"Old Barbicane," said Michel, "you have an answer for everything, and I
bow before your wisdom. But there is one hypothesis that would suit me
better than all the others, which is, that the Selenites, being older
than we, are wiser, and have not invented _gunpowder_."

At this moment Diana joined in the conversation by a sonorous barking.
She was asking for her breakfast.

"Ah!" said Michel Ardan, "in our discussion we have forgotten Diana and
Satellite."

Immediately a good-sized pie was given to the dog, which devoured it
hungrily.

"Do you see, Barbicane," said Michel, "we should have made a second
Noah's Ark of this projectile, and borne with us to the moon a couple of
every kind of domestic animal."

"I dare say; but room would have failed us."

"Oh!" said Michel, "we might have squeezed a little."

"The fact is," replied Nicholl, "that cows, bulls, and horses, and all
ruminants, would have been very useful on the lunar continent, but
unfortunately the car could neither have been made a stable nor a shed."

"Well, we might at least have brought a donkey, only a little donkey;
that courageous beast which old Silenus loved to mount. I love those old
donkeys; they are the least favoured animals in creation; they are not
only beaten while alive, but even after they are dead."

"How do you make that out?" asked Barbicane.

"Why," said Michel, "they make their skins into drums."

Barbicane and Nicholl could not help laughing at this ridiculous remark.
But a cry from their merry companion stopped them. The latter was leaning
over the spot where Satellite lay. He rose, saying,—

"My good Satellite is no longer ill."

"Ah!" said Nicholl.

"No," answered Michel, "he is dead! There," added he, in a piteous tone,
"that is embarrassing. I much fear, my poor Diana, that you will leave
no progeny in the lunar regions!"

Indeed the unfortunate Satellite had not survived its wound.

It was quite dead. Michel Ardan looked at his friends with a rueful
countenance.

"One question presents itself," said Barbicane. "We cannot keep the dead
body of this dog with us for the next forty-eight hours."

"No! certainly not," replied Nicholl; "but our scuttles are fixed on
hinges; they can be let down. We will open one, and throw the body out
into space."

The president thought for some moments, and then said,—

"Yes, we must do so, but at the same time taking very great precautions."

"Why?" asked Michel.

"For two reasons which you will understand," answered Barbicane. "The
first relates to the air shut up in the projectile, and of which we must
lose as little as possible."

"But we manufacture the air?"

"Only in part. We make only the oxygen, my worthy Michel; and with
regard to that, we must watch that the apparatus does not furnish the
oxygen in too great a quantity; for an excess would bring us very serious
physiological troubles. But if we make the oxygen, we do not make the
azote, that medium which the lungs do not absorb, and which ought to
remain intact; and that azote will escape rapidly through the open
scuttles."

"Oh! the time for throwing out poor Satellite?" said Michel.

"Agreed; but we must act quickly."

"And the second reason?" asked Michel.

"The second reason is that we must not let the outer cold, which is
excessive, penetrate the projectile or we shall be frozen to death."

"But the sun?"

"The sun warms our projectile, which absorbs its rays; but it does not
warm the vacuum in which we are floating at this moment. Where there is
no air, there is no more heat than diffused light; and the same with
darkness: it is cold where the sun's rays do not strike direct. This
temperature is only the temperature produced by the radiation of the
stars; that is to say, what the terrestrial globe would undergo if the
sun disappeared one day."

"Which is not to be feared," replied Nicholl.

"Who knows?" said Michel Ardan. "But, in admitting that the sun does not
go out, might it not happen that the earth might move away from it?"

"There!" said Barbicane, "there is Michel with his ideas."

"And," continued Michel, "do we not know that in 1861 the earth passed
through the tail of a comet? Or let us suppose a comet whose power of
attraction is greater than that of the sun. The terrestrial orbit will
bend towards the wandering star, and the earth, becoming its satellite,
will be drawn such a distance that the rays of the sun will have no
action on its surface."

"That _might_ happen, indeed," replied Barbicane, "but the consequences
of such a displacement need not be so formidable as you suppose."

"And why not?"

"Because the heat and the cold would be equalized on our globe. It has
been calculated that, had our earth been carried along in its course by
the comet of 1861, at its perihelion, that is, its nearest approach to
the sun, it would have undergone a heat 28,000 times greater than that
of summer. But this heat, which is sufficient to evaporate the waters,
would have formed a thick ring of cloud, which would have modified that
excessive temperature; hence the compensation between the cold of the
aphelion and the heat of the perihelion."

"At how many degrees," asked Nicholl, "is the temperature of the planetary
spaces estimated?"

"Formerly," replied Barbicane, "it was greatly exaggerated; but now,
after the calculations of Fourier, of the French Academy of Science, it
is not supposed to exceed 60° Centigrade below zero."

"Pooh!" said Michel, "that's nothing!"

"It is very much," replied Barbicane; "the temperature which was observed
in the polar regions, at Melville Island and Fort Reliance, that is 76°
Fahrenheit below zero."

"If I mistake not," said Nicholl, "M. Pouillet, another savant, estimates
the temperature of space at 250° Fahrenheit below zero. We shall,
however, be able to verify these calculations for ourselves."

"Not at present; because the solar rays, beating directly upon our
thermometer, would give, on the contrary, a very high temperature. But,
when we arrive in the moon, during its fifteen days of night at either
face, we shall have leisure to make the experiment, for our satellite
lies in a vacuum."

"What do you mean by a _vacuum?_" asked Michel. "Is it perfectly such?"

"It is absolutely void of air."

"And is the air replaced by nothing whatever?"

"By the ether only," replied Barbicane.

"And pray what is the ether?"

"The ether, my friend, is an agglomeration of imponderable atoms, which,
relatively to their dimensions, are as far removed from each other as
the celestial bodies are in space. It is these atoms which, by their
vibratory motion, produce both light and heat in the universe."

They now proceeded to the burial of Satellite. They had merely to drop
him into space, in the same way that sailors drop a body into the sea;
but, as President Barbicane suggested, they must act quickly, so as to
lose as little as possible of that air whose elasticity would rapidly
have spread it into space. The bolts of the right scuttle, the opening
of which measured about twelve inches across, were carefully drawn,
whilst Michel, quite grieved, prepared to launch his dog into space.
The glass, raised by a powerful lever, which enabled it to overcome the
pressure of the inside air on the walls of the projectile, turned rapidly
on its hinges, and Satellite was thrown out. Scarcely a particle of air
could have escaped, and the operation was so successful, that later on
Barbicane did not fear to dispose of the rubbish which encumbered the
car.


Illustration: SATELLITE WAS THROWN OUT.



   CHAPTER VI.

   QUESTION AND ANSWER.


On the 4th of December, when the travellers awoke after fifty-four
hours' journey, the chronometer marked five o'clock of the terrestrial
morning. In time it was just over five hours and forty minutes, half of
that assigned to their sojourn in the projectile; but they had already
accomplished nearly seven-tenths of the way. This peculiarity was due to
their regularly decreasing speed.

Now when they observed the earth through the lower window, it looked
like nothing more than a dark spot, drowned in the solar rays. No more
crescent, no more cloudy light! The next day, at midnight, the earth
would be _new_, at the very moment when the moon would be full. Above,
the orb of night was nearing the line followed by the projectile, so
as to meet it at the given hour. All around the black vault was studded
with brilliant points, which seemed to move slowly; but, at the great
distance they were from them, their relative size did not seem to change.
The sun and stars appeared exactly as they do to us upon earth. As to
the moon, she was considerably larger; but the travellers' glasses, not
very powerful, did not allow them as yet to make any useful observations
upon her surface, or reconnoitre her topographically or
geologically.

Thus the time passed in never-ending conversations all about the
moon. Each one brought forward his own contingent of particular facts;
Barbicane and Nicholl always serious, Michel Ardan always enthusiastic.
The projectile, its situation, its direction, incidents which might
happen, the precautions necessitated by their fall on to the moon, were
inexhaustible matters of conjecture.

As they were breakfasting, a question of Michel's, relating to the
projectile, provoked rather a curious answer from Barbicane, which is
worth repeating. Michel, supposing it to be roughly stopped, while still
under its formidable initial speed, wished to know what the consequences
of the stoppage would have been.

"But," said Barbicane, "I do not see how it could have been stopped."

"But let us suppose so," said Michel.

"It is an impossible supposition," said the practical Barbicane; "unless
the impulsive force had failed; but even then its speed would diminish
by degrees, and it would not have stopped suddenly."

"Admit that it had struck a body in space."

"What body?"

"Why that enormous meteor which we met."

"Then," said Nicholl, "the projectile would have been broken into a
thousand pieces, and we with it."

"More than that," replied Barbicane; "we should have been burnt to
death."

"Burnt?" exclaimed Michel, "by Jove! I am sorry it did not happen, 'just
to see.'"

"And you would have seen," replied Barbicane. "It is known now that heat
is only a modification of motion. When water is warmed—that is to say,
when heat is added to it—its particles are set in motion."

"Well," said Michel, "that is an ingenious theory!"

"And a true one, my worthy friend; for it explains every phenomenon of
caloric. Heat is but the motion of atoms, a simple oscillation of the
particles of a body. When they apply the brake to a train, the train
comes to a stop; but what becomes of the motion which it had previously
possessed? It is transformed into heat, and the brake becomes hot.
Why do they grease the axles of the wheels? To prevent their heating,
because this heat would be generated by the motion which is thus lost by
transformation."

"Yes, I understand," replied Michel, "perfectly. For example, when I
have run a long time, when I am swimming, when I am perspiring in large
drops, why am I obliged to stop? Simply because my motion is changed into
heat."

Barbicane could not help smiling at Michel's reply; then, returning to
his theory, said,—

"Thus, in case of a shock, it would have been with our projectile as
with a ball which falls in a burning state after having struck the metal
plate; it is its motion which is turned into heat. Consequently I affirm
that, if our projectile had struck the meteor, its speed thus suddenly
checked would have raised a heat great enough to turn it into vapour
instantaneously."

"Then," asked Nicholl, "what would happen if the earth's motion were to
stop suddenly?"

"Her temperature would be raised to such a pitch," said Barbicane, "that
she would be at once reduced to vapour."

"Well," said Michel, "that is a way of ending the earth which will
greatly simplify things."

"And if the earth fell upon the sun?" asked Nicholl.

"According to calculation," replied Barbicane, "the fall would develope
a heat equal to that produced by 16,000 globes of coal, each equal in
bulk to our terrestrial globe."

"Good additional heat for the sun," replied Michel Ardan, "of which the
inhabitants of Uranus or Neptune would doubtless not complain; they must
be perished with cold on their planets."

"Thus, my friends," said Barbicane, "all motion suddenly stopped produces
heat. And this theory allows us to infer that the heat of the solar disc
is fed by a hail of meteors falling incessantly on its surface. They have
even calculated—"

"Oh, dear!" murmured Michel, "the figures are coming."

"They have even calculated," continued the imperturbable Barbicane, "that
the shock of each meteor on the sun ought to produce a heat equal to that
of 4000 masses of coal of an equal bulk."

"And what is the solar heat?" asked Michel.

"It is equal to that produced by the combustion of a stratum of coal
surrounding the sun to a depth of forty-seven miles."

"And that heat—"

"Would be able to boil two billions nine hundred millions of cubic
myriameters* of water."

  *The myriameter is equal to rather more than 10,936 cubic yards
   English.—(Ed.)

"And it does not roast us!" exclaimed Michel.

"No," replied Barbicane, "because the terrestrial atmosphere absorbs
four-tenths of the solar heat; besides, the quantity of heat intercepted
by the earth is but a billionth part of the entire radiation."

"I see that all is for the best," said Michel, "and that this atmosphere
is a useful invention; for it not only allows us to breathe, but it
prevents us from roasting."

"Yes!" said Nicholl, "unfortunately, it will not be the same in the
moon."

"Bah!" said Michel, always hopeful. "If there are inhabitants, they must
breathe. If there are no longer any, they must have left enough oxygen
for three people, if only at the bottom of ravines, where its own weight
will cause it to accumulate, and we will not climb the mountains; that
is all." And Michel, rising, went to look at the lunar disc, which shone
with intolerable brilliancy.

"By Jove!" said he, "it must be hot up there!"

"Without considering," replied Nicholl, "that the day lasts 360 hours!"

"And to compensate that," said Barbicane, "the nights have the same
length; and as heat is restored by radiation, their temperature can only
be that of the planetary space."

"A pretty country, that!" exclaimed Michel. "Never mind! I wish I was
there! Ah! my dear comrades, it will be rather curious to have the earth
for our moon, to see it rise on the horizon, to recognize the shape
of its continents, and to say to oneself, 'There is America, there is
Europe;' then to follow it when it is about to lose itself in the sun's
rays! By-the-bye, Barbicane, have the Selenites eclipses?"

"Yes, eclipses of the sun," replied Barbicane, "when the centres of the
three orbs are on a line, the earth being in the middle. But they are
only partial, during which the earth, cast like a screen upon the solar
disc, allows the greater portion to be seen."

"And why," asked Nicholl, "is there no total eclipse? Does not the cone
of the shadow cast by the earth extend beyond the moon?"

"Yes, if we do not take into consideration the refraction produced by the
terrestrial atmosphere. No, if we take that refraction into consideration.
Thus δ be the horizontal parallel, and _p_ the apparent semidiameter—"

"Oh!" said Michel. "Do speak plainly, you man of algebra!"

"Very well;" replied Barbicane, "in popular language the mean distance
from the moon to the earth being sixty terrestrial radii, the length of
the cone of the shadow, on account of the refraction, is reduced to less
than forty-two radii. The result is that when there are eclipses, the
moon finds itself beyond the cone of pure shadow, and that the sun sends
her its rays, not only from its edges, but also from its centre."

"Then," said Michel, in a merry tone, "why are there eclipses, when there
ought not to be any?"

"Simply because the solar rays are weakened by this refraction, and
the atmosphere through which they pass extinguishes the greater part of
them!"

"That reason satisfies me," replied Michel. "Besides we shall see when
we get there. Now, tell me, Barbicane, do you believe that the moon is
an old comet?"

"There's an idea!"

"Yes," replied Michel, with an amiable swagger, "I have a few ideas of
that sort."

"But that idea does not spring from Michel," answered Nicholl.

"Well, then, I am a plagiarist."

"No doubt about it. According to the ancients, the Arcadians pretend
that their ancestors inhabited the earth before the moon became her
satellite. Starting from this fact, some scientific men have seen in the
moon a comet whose orbit will one day bring it so near to the earth that
it will be held there by its attraction."

"Is there any truth in this hypothesis?" asked Michel.

"None whatever," said Barbicane, "and the proof is, that the moon has
preserved no trace of the gaseous envelope which always accompanies
comets."

"But," continued Nicholl, "before becoming the earth's satellite,
could not the moon, when in her perihelion, pass so near the sun as by
evaporation to get rid of all those gaseous substances?"

"It is possible, friend Nicholl, but not probable."

"Why not?"

"Because—Faith I do not know."

"Ah!" exclaimed Michel, "what hundreds of volumes we might make of all
that we do not know!"

"Ah! indeed. What time is it?" asked Barbicane.

"Three o'clock," answered Nicholl.

"How time goes," said Michel, "in the conversation of scientific men such
as we are! Certainly, I feel I know too much! I feel that I am becoming
a well!"

Saying which, Michel hoisted himself to the roof of the projectile, "to
observe the moon better," he pretended. During this time his companions
were watching through the lower glass. Nothing new to note!

When Michel Ardan came down, he went to the side scuttle; and suddenly
they heard an exclamation of surprise!

"What is it?" asked Barbicane.

The president approached the window, and saw a sort of flattened sack
floating some yards from the projectile. This object seemed as motionless
as the projectile, and was consequently animated with the same ascending
movement.

"What is that machine?" continued Michel Ardan. "Is it one of the bodies
of space which our projectile keeps within its attraction, and which will
accompany it to the moon?"

"What astonishes me," said Nicholl, "is that the specific weight of the
body, which is certainly less than that of the projectile, allows it to
keep so perfectly on a level with it."

"Nicholl," replied Barbicane, after a moment's reflection, "I do not know
what the object is, but I do know why it maintains our level."

"And why?"

"Because we are floating in space, my dear captain, and in space bodies
fall or move (which is the same thing) with equal speed whatever be their
weight or form; it is the air, which by its resistance creates these
differences in weight. When you create a vacuum in a tube, the objects
you send through it, grains of dust or grains of lead, fall with the same
rapidity. Here in space is the same cause and the same effect."

"Just so," said Nicholl, "and everything we throw out of the projectile
will accompany it until it reaches the moon."

"Ah! fools that we are!" exclaimed Michel.

"Why that expletive?" asked Barbicane.

"Because we might have filled the projectile with useful objects, books,
instruments, tools, &c. We could have thrown them all out, and all would
have followed in our train. But happy thought! Why cannot we walk outside
like the meteor? Why cannot we launch into space through the scuttle?
What enjoyment it would be to feel oneself thus suspended in ether, more
favoured than the birds who must use their wings to keep themselves up!"


Illustration: IT WAS THE BODY OF SATELLITE.


"Granted," said Barbicane, "but how to breathe?"

"Hang the air, to fail so inopportunely!"

"But if it did not fail, Michel, your density being less than that of
the projectile, you would soon be left behind."

"Then we must remain in our car?"

"We must!"

"Ah!" exclaimed Michel, in a loud voice.

"What is the matter," asked Nicholl.

"I know, I guess, what this pretended meteor is! It is no asteroid which
is accompanying us! It is not a piece of a planet."

"What is it then?" asked Barbicane.

"It is our unfortunate dog! It is Diana's husband!"

Indeed, this deformed, unrecognizable object, reduced to nothing, was
the body of Satellite, flattened like a bagpipe without wind, and ever
mounting, mounting!



   CHAPTER VII.

   A MOMENT OF INTOXICATION.


Thus a phenomenon, curious but explicable, was happening under these
strange conditions.

Every object thrown from the projectile would follow the same course and
never stop until it did. There was a subject for conversation which the
whole evening could not exhaust.

Besides, the excitement of the three travellers increased as they drew
near the end of their journey. They expected unforeseen incidents, and
new phenomena; and nothing would have astonished them in the frame of
mind they then were in. Their over-excited imagination went faster than
the projectile, whose speed was evidently diminishing, though insensibly
to themselves. But the moon grew larger to their eyes, and they fancied
if they stretched out their hands they could seize it.

The next day, the 5th of November, at five in the morning, all three
were on foot. That day was to be the last of their journey, if all
calculations were true. That very night, at twelve o'clock, in eighteen
hours, exactly at the full moon, they would reach its brilliant disc.
The next midnight would see that journey ended, the most extraordinary
of ancient or modern times. Thus from the first of the morning, through
the scuttles silvered by its rays, they saluted the orb of night with a
confident and joyous hurrah.

The moon was advancing majestically along the starry firmament. A few
more degrees, and she would reach the exact point where her meeting with
the projectile was to take place.

According to his own observations, Barbicane reckoned that they would
land on her northern hemisphere, where stretch immense planes, and where
mountains are rare. A favourable circumstance if, as they thought, the
lunar atmosphere was stored only in its depths.

"Besides," observed Michel Ardan, "a plain is easier to disembark upon
than a mountain. A Selenite, deposited in Europe on the summit of Mont
Blanc, or in Asia on the top of the Himalayas, would not be quite in the
right place."

"And," added Captain Nicholl, "on a flat ground, the projectile will
remain motionless when it has once touched; whereas on a declivity it
would roll like an avalanche, and not being squirrels we should not come
out safe and sound. So it is all for the best."

Indeed, the success of the audacious attempt no longer appeared doubtful.
But Barbicane was preoccupied with one thought; but not wishing to make
his companions uneasy, he kept silence on the subject.

The direction the projectile was taking towards the moon's northern
hemisphere, showed that her course had been slightly altered. The
discharge, mathematically calculated, would carry the projectile to the
very centre of the lunar disc. If it did not land there, there must have
been some deviation. What had caused it? Barbicane could neither imagine
nor determine the importance of the deviation, for there were no points
to go by.

He hoped, however, that it would have no other result than that of
bringing them near the upper border of the moon, a region more suitable
for landing.

Without imparting his uneasiness to his companions, Barbicane contented
himself with constantly observing the moon, in order to see whether the
course of the projectile would not be altered; for the situation would
have been terrible if it failed in its aim, and being carried beyond
the disc should be launched into interplanetary space. At that moment,
the moon, instead of appearing flat like a disc, showed its convexity.
If the sun's rays had struck it obliquely, the shadow thrown would have
brought out the high mountains, which would have been clearly detached.
The eye might have gazed into the crater's gaping abysses, and followed
the capricious fissures which wound through the immense plains. But all
relief was as yet levelled in intense brilliancy. They could scarcely
distinguish those large spots which give to the moon the appearance of
a human face.

"Face, indeed!" said Michel Ardan; "but I am sorry for the amiable sister
of Apollo. A very pitted face!"

But the travellers, now so near the end, were incessantly observing
this new world. They imagined themselves walking through its unknown
countries, climbing its highest peaks, descending into its lowest depths.
Here and there they fancied they saw vast seas, scarcely kept together
under so rarefied an atmosphere, and watercourses emptying the mountain
tributaries. Leaning over the abyss, they hoped to catch some sounds
from that orb for ever mute in the solitude of space. That last day left
them.

They took down the most trifling details. A vague uneasiness took
possession of them as they neared the end. This uneasiness would have
been doubled had they felt how their speed had decreased. It would
have seemed to them quite insufficient to carry them to the end. It was
because the projectile then "weighed" almost nothing. Its weight was
ever decreasing, and would be entirely annihilated on that line where
the lunar and terrestrial attractions would neutralize each other.

But in spite of his preoccupation, Michel Ardan did not forget to prepare
the morning repast with his accustomed punctuality. They ate with a good
appetite. Nothing was so excellent as the soup liquefied by the heat of
the gas; nothing better than the preserved meat. Some glasses of good
French wine crowned the repast, causing Michel Ardan to remark that
the lunar vines, warmed by that ardent sun, ought to distil even more
generous wines; that is, if they existed. In any case, the far-seeing
Frenchman had taken care not to forget in his collection some precious
cuttings of the Médoc and Côte d'Or, upon which he founded his hopes.

Reiset and Regnault's apparatus worked with great regularity. Not an
atom of carbonic acid resisted the potash; and as to the oxygen, Captain
Nicholl said "it was of the first quality." The little watery vapour
enclosed in the projectile mixing with the air tempered the dryness; and
many apartments in London, Paris, or New York, and many theatres, were
certainly not in such a healthy condition.

But that it might act with regularity, the apparatus must be kept in
perfect order; so each morning Michel visited the escape regulators,
tried the taps, and regulated the heat of the gas by the pyrometer.
Everything had gone well up to that time, and the travellers, imitating
the worthy Joseph T. Maston, began to acquire a degree of embonpoint,
which would have rendered them unrecognizable if their imprisonment had
been prolonged to some months. In a word, they behaved like chickens in
a coop; they were getting fat.

In looking through the scuttle Barbicane saw the spectre of the dog,
and other divers objects which had been thrown from the projectile
obstinately following them. Diana howled lugubriously on seeing the
remains of Satellite, which seemed as motionless as if they reposed on
the solid earth.

"Do you know, my friends," said Michel Ardan, "that if one of us had
succumbed to the shock consequent on departure, we should have had a
great deal of trouble to bury him? What am I saying? to _etherize_ him,
as here ether takes the place of earth. You see the accusing body would
have followed us into space like a remorse."

"That would have been sad," said Nicholl.

"Ah!" continued Michel, "what I regret is not being able to take a walk
outside. What voluptuousness to float amid this radiant ether, to bathe
oneself in it, to wrap oneself in the sun's pure rays. If Barbicane had
only thought of furnishing us with a diving apparatus and an air-pump,
I could have ventured out and assumed fanciful attitudes of feigned
monsters on the top of the projectile."

"Well, old Michel," replied Barbicane, "you would not have made a feigned
monster long, for in spite of your diver's dress, swollen by the expansion
of air within you, you would have burst like a shell, or rather like a
balloon which has risen too high. So do not regret it, and do not forget
this—as long as we float in space, all sentimental walks beyond the
projectile are forbidden."

Michel Ardan allowed himself to be convinced to a certain extent. He
admitted that the thing was difficult but not _impossible_, a word which
he never uttered.

The conversation passed from this subject to another, not failing for
an instant. It seemed to the three friends as though, under present
conditions, ideas shot up in their brains as leaves shoot at the first
warmth of spring. They felt bewildered. In the middle of the questions
and answers which crossed each other, Nicholl put one question which did
not find an immediate solution.

"Ah, indeed!" said he; "it is all very well to go to the moon, but how
to get back again?"

His two interlocutors looked surprised. One would have thought that this
possibility now occurred to them for the first time.

"What do you mean by that, Nicholl?" asked Barbicane gravely.

"To ask for means to leave a country," added Michel, "when we have not
yet arrived there, seems to me rather inopportune."

"I do not say that, wishing to draw back," replied Nicholl; "but I repeat
my question, and I ask, 'How shall we return?'"

"I know nothing about it," answered Barbicane.

"And I," said Michel, "if I had known how to return, I would never have
started."


Illustration: "I COULD HAVE VENTURED OUT ON THE TOP OF
   THE PROJECTILE."


"There's an answer!" cried Nicholl.

"I quite approve of Michel's words," said Barbicane; "and add, that the
question has no real interest. Later, when we think it advisable to
return, we will take counsel together. If the Columbiad is not there,
the projectile will be."

"That is a step certainly. A ball without a gun!"

"The gun," replied Barbicane, "can be manufactured. The powder can be
made. Neither metals, saltpetre, nor coal can fail in the depths of
the moon, and we need only go 8000 leagues in order to fall upon the
terrestrial globe by virtue of the mere laws of weight."

"Enough," said Michel with animation. "Let it be no longer a question of
returning: we have already entertained it too long. As to communicating
with our former earthly colleagues, that will not be difficult."

"And how?"

"By means of meteors launched by lunar volcanos."

"Well thought of, Michel," said Barbicane in a convinced tone of voice.
"Laplace has calculated that a force five times greater than that of
our gun would suffice to send a meteor from the moon to the earth, and
there is not one volcano which has not a greater power of propulsion than
that."

"Hurrah!" exclaimed Michel; "these meteors are handy postmen, and
cost nothing. And how we shall be able to laugh at the post-office
administration. But now I think of it—"

"What do you think of?"

"A capital idea. Why did we not fasten a thread to our projectile, and
we could have exchanged telegrams with the earth?"

"The deuce!" answered Nicholl. "Do you consider the weight of a thread
250,000 miles long nothing?"

"As nothing. They could have trebled the Columbiad's charge; they could
have quadrupled or quintupled it!" exclaimed Michel, with whom the verb
took a higher intonation each time.

"There is but one little objection to make to your proposition," replied
Barbicane, "which is that, during the rotary motion of the globe, our
thread would have wound itself round it like a chain on a capstan, and
that it would inevitably have brought us to the ground."

"By the thirty-nine stars of the Union!" said Michel, "I have nothing
but impracticable ideas to-day; ideas worthy of J. T. Maston. But I have
a notion that, if we do not return to earth, J. T. Maston will be able
to come to us."

"Yes, he'll come," replied Barbicane; "he is a worthy and a courageous
comrade. Besides, what is easier? Is not the Columbiad still buried
in the soil of Florida? Is cotton and nitric acid wanted wherewith to
manufacture the pyroxile? Will not the moon again pass to the zenith of
Florida? In eighteen years' time will she not occupy exactly the same
place as to-day?"

"Yes," continued Michel, "yes, Marston will come, and with him our
friends Elphinstone, Blomsberry, all the members of the Gun Club, and they
will be well received. And by and by they will run trains of projectiles
between the earth and the moon! Hurrah for J. T. Maston!"

It is probable that, if the Hon. J. T. Maston did not hear the hurrahs
uttered in his honour, his ears at least tingled. What was he doing then?
Doubtless posted in the Rocky Mountains, at the station of Long's Peak,
he was trying to find the invisible projectile gravitating in space. If
he was thinking of his dear companions, we must allow that they were not
far behind him; and that, under the influence of a strange excitement,
they were devoting to him their best thoughts.

But whence this excitement, which was evidently growing upon the
tenants of the projectile? Their sobriety could not be doubted. This
strange irritation of the brain, must it be attributed to the peculiar
circumstances under which they found themselves, to their proximity to
the orb of night, from which only a few hours separated them, to some
secret influence of the moon acting upon their nervous system? Their
faces were as rosy as if they had been exposed to the roaring flames
of an oven; their voices resounded in loud accents; their words escaped
like a champagne cork driven out by carbonic acid; their gestures became
annoying, they wanted so much room to perform them; and, strange to say,
they none of them noticed this great tension of the mind.

"Now," said Nicholl, in a short tone, "now that I do not know whether we
shall ever return from the moon, I want to know what we are going to do
there?"

"What we are going to do there?" replied Barbicane, stamping with his
foot as if he was in a fencing saloon; "I do not know."

"You do not know!" exclaimed Michel, with a bellow which provoked a
sonorous echo in the projectile.

"No, I have not even thought about it," retorted Barbicane, in the same
loud tone.

"Well, I know," replied Michel.

"Speak, then," cried Nicholl, who could no longer contain the growling
of his voice.

"I shall speak if it suits me," exclaimed Michel, seizing his companions'
arms with violence.

"_It must_ suit you," said Barbicane, with an eye on fire and a threatening
hand. "It was you who drew us into this frightful journey, and we want
to know what for."

"Yes," said the captain, "now that I do not know where I am going, I want
to know _why_ I am going."

"Why?" exclaimed Michel, jumping a yard high, "why? To take possession
of the moon in the name of the United States; to add a fortieth State to
the Union; to colonize the lunar regions; to cultivate them, to people
them, to transport thither all the prodigies of art, of science, and
industry; to civilize the Selenites, unless they are more civilized than
we are; and to constitute them a republic, if they are not already one!"

"And if there are no Selenites?" retorted Nicholl, who, under the
influence of this unaccountable intoxication, was very contradictory.

"Who said that there were no Selenites?" exclaimed Michel in a threatening
tone.

"I do," howled Nicholl.

"Captain," said Michel, "do not repeat that insolence, or I will knock
your teeth down your throat!"

The two adversaries were going to fall upon each other, and the incoherent
discussion threatened to merge into a fight, when Barbicane intervened
with one bound.

"Stop, miserable men," said he, separating his two companions; "if there
are no Selenites, we will do without them."

"Yes," exclaimed Michel, who was not particular; "yes, we will do without
them. We have only to make Selenites. Down with the Selenites!"

"The empire of the moon belongs to us," said Nicholl. "Let us three
constitute the republic."

"I will be the congress," cried Michel.

"And I the senate," retorted Nicholl.

"And Barbicane, the president," howled Michel.

"Not a president elected by the nation," replied Barbicane.

"Very well, a president elected by the congress," cried Michel; "and as
I am the congress, you are unanimously elected!"

"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! for President Barbicane," exclaimed Nicholl.

"Hip! hip! hip!" vociferated Michel Ardan.

Then the President and the Senate struck up in a tremendous voice the
popular song "Yankee Doodle," whilst from the Congress resounded the
masculine tones of the "Marseillaise."

Then they struck up a frantic dance, with maniacal gestures, idiotic
stampings, and somersaults like those of the boneless clowns in the
circus. Diana, joining in the dance, and howling in her turn, jumped to
the top of the projectile. An unaccountable flapping of wings was then
heard amidst most fantastic cock-crows, while five or six hens fluttered
like bats against the walls.


Illustration: THEY STRUCK UP A FRANTIC DANCE.


Then the three travelling companions, acted upon by some unaccountable
influence above that of intoxication, inflamed by the air which had set
their respiratory apparatus on fire, fell motionless to the bottom of
the projectile.



   CHAPTER VIII.

   AT SEVENTY-EIGHT THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED AND
      FOURTEEN LEAGUES.


What had happened? Whence the cause of this singular intoxication, the
consequences of which might have been very disastrous? A simple blunder
of Michel's, which, fortunately, Nicholl was able to correct in time.

After a perfect swoon, which lasted some minutes, the captain, recovering
first, soon collected his scattered senses. Although he had breakfasted
only two hours before, he felt a gnawing hunger, as if he had not eaten
anything for several days. Everything about him, stomach and brain, were
overexcited to the highest degree. He got up and demanded from Michel a
supplementary repast. Michel, utterly done up, did not answer.

Nicholl then tried to prepare some tea destined to help the absorption
of a dozen sandwiches. He first tried to get some fire, and struck a
match sharply. What was his surprise to see the sulphur shine with so
extraordinary a brilliancy as to be almost unbearable to the eye. From
the gas-burner which he lit rose a flame equal to a jet of electric
light.

A revelation dawned on Nicholl's mind. That intensity of light, the
physiological troubles which had arisen in him, the overexcitement of
all his moral and quarrelsome faculties,—he understood all.

"The oxygen!" he exclaimed.

And leaning over the air apparatus, he saw that the tap was allowing
the scentless colourless gas to escape freely, life-giving, but in its
pure state producing the gravest disorders in the system. Michel had
blunderingly opened the tap of the apparatus to the full.


Illustration: "THE OXYGEN!" HE EXCLAIMED.


Nicholl hastened to stop the escape of oxygen with which the atmosphere
was saturated, which would have been the death of the travellers, not by
suffocation, but by combustion. An hour later, the air less charged with
it restored the lungs to their normal condition. By degrees the three
friends recovered from their intoxication; but they were obliged to sleep
themselves sober over their oxygen as a drunkard does over his wine.

When Michel learnt his share of the responsibility of this incident,
he was not much disconcerted. This unexpected drunkenness broke the
monotony of the journey. Many foolish things had been said while under
its influence, but also quickly forgotten.

"And then," added the merry Frenchman, "I am not sorry to have tasted
a little of this heady gas. Do you know, my friends, that a curious
establishment might be founded with rooms of oxygen, where people whose
system is weakened could for a few hours live a more active life. Fancy
parties where the room was saturated with this heroic fluid, theatres
where it should be kept at high pressure; what passion in the souls of
the actors and spectators! what fire, what enthusiasm! And if, instead of
an assembly only a whole people could be saturated, what activity in its
functions, what a supplement to life it would derive. From an exhausted
nation they might make a great and strong one, and I know more than one
state in old Europe which ought to put itself under the regime of oxygen
for the sake of its health!"

Michel spoke with so much animation that one might have fancied that the
tap was still too open. But a few words from Barbicane soon scattered
his enthusiasm.

"That is all very well, friend Michel," said he, "but will you inform
us where these chickens came from which have mixed themselves up in our
concert?"

"Those chickens?"

"Yes."

Indeed, half a dozen chickens and a fine cock were walking about, flapping
their wings and chattering.

"Ah, the awkward things!" exclaimed Michel. "The oxygen has made them
revolt."

"But what do you want to do with these chickens?" asked Barbicane.

"To acclimatize them in the moon, by Jove!"

"Then why did you hide them?"

"A joke, my worthy president, a simple joke, which has proved a miserable
failure. I wanted to set them free on the lunar continent, without
saying anything. Oh, what would have been your amazement on seeing these
earthly-winged animals pecking in the lunar fields!"

"You rascal, you unmitigated rascal," replied Barbicane, "you do not
want oxygen to mount to the head. You are always what _we_ were under
the influence of the gas; you are always foolish!"

"Ah, who says that we were not wise then?" replied Michel Ardan.

After this philosophical reflection, the three friends set about restoring
the order of the projectile. Chickens and cock were reinstated in their
coup. But whilst proceeding with this operation, Barbicane and his two
companions had a most desired perception of a new phenomenon. From the
moment of leaving the earth, their own weight, that of the projectile,
and the objects it enclosed, had been subject to an increasing diminution.
If they could not prove this loss of the projectile, a moment would
arrive when it would be sensibly felt upon themselves and the utensils
and instruments they used.

It is needless to say that a _scale_ would not show this loss; for the
weight destined to weigh the object would have lost exactly as much as
the object itself; but a spring steelyard for example, the tension of
which was independent of the attraction, would have given a just estimate
of this loss.

We know that the attraction, otherwise called the _weight_, is in
proportion to the densities of bodies, and inversely as the squares of
the distances. Hence this effect: If the earth had been alone in space, if
the other celestial bodies had been suddenly annihilated, the projectile,
according to Newton's laws, would weigh less as it got farther from the
earth, but without ever losing its weight _entirely_, for the terrestrial
attraction would always have made itself felt, at whatever distance.

But, in reality, a time must come when the projectile would no longer
be subject to the law of weight, after allowing for the other celestial
bodies whose effect could not be set down as zero. Indeed, the
projectile's course was being traced between the earth and the moon.
As it distanced the earth, the terrestrial attraction diminished: but
the lunar attraction rose in proportion. There must then come a point
where these two attractions would neutralize each other: the projectile
would possess weight no longer. If the moon's and the earth's densities
had been equal, this point would have been at an equal distance between
the two orbs. But taking the different densities into consideration, it
was easy to reckon that this point would be situated at 47-60ths of the
whole journey, i.e. at 78,114 leagues from the earth. At this point, a
body having no principle of speed or displacement in itself, would remain
immovable for ever, being attracted equally by both orbs, and not being
drawn more towards one than towards the other.

Now if the projectile's impulsive force had been correctly calculated, it
would attain this point without speed, having lost all trace of weight,
as well as all the objects within it. What would happen then? Three
hypotheses presented themselves.

1. Either it would retain a certain amount of motion, and pass the point
of equal attraction, and fall upon the moon by virtue of the excess of
the lunar attraction over the terrestrial.

2. Or, its speed failing, and unable to reach the point of equal
attraction, it would fall upon the moon by virtue of the excess of the
lunar attraction over the terrestrial.

3. Or, lastly, animated with sufficient speed to enable it to reach the
neutral point, but not sufficient to pass it, it would remain for ever
suspended in that spot like the pretended tomb of Mahomet, between the
zenith and the nadir.

Such was their situation; and Barbicane clearly explained the consequences
to his travelling companions, which greatly interested them. But how
should they know when the projectile had reached this neutral point
situated at that distance, especially when neither themselves, nor the
objects enclosed in the projectile, would be any longer subject to the
laws of weight?

Up to this time, the travellers, whilst admitting that this action was
constantly decreasing, had not yet become sensible to its total absence.

But that day, about eleven o'clock in the morning, Nicholl having
accidentally let a glass slip from his hand, the glass, instead of
falling, remained suspended in the air.

"Ah!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, "that is rather an amusing piece of natural
philosophy."

And immediately divers other objects, firearms and bottles, abandoned
to themselves, held themselves up as by enchantment. Diana too, placed
in space by Michel, reproduced, but without any trick, the wonderful
suspension practised by Caston and Robert Houdin. Indeed the dog did not
seem to know that she was floating in air.

The three adventurous companions were surprised and stupefied, despite
their scientific reasonings. They felt themselves being carried into the
domain of wonders! they felt that _weight_ was really wanting to their
bodies. If they stretched out their arms, they did not attempt to fall.
Their heads shook on their shoulders. Their feet no longer clung to the
floor of the projectile. They were like drunken men having no stability
in themselves.


Illustration: "AH! IF RAPHAEL HAD SEEN US THUS."


Fancy has depicted men without reflection, others without shadow. But
here _reality,_ by the neutralisation of attractive forces, produced men
in whom nothing had any weight, and who weighed nothing themselves.

Suddenly Michel, taking a spring, left the floor and remained suspended
in the air, like Murillo's monk of the _Cusine des Anges._

The two friends joined him instantly, and all three formed a miraculous
"Ascension" in the centre of the projectile.

"Is it to be believed? is it probable? is it possible?" exclaimed Michel;
"and yet it is so. Ah! if Raphael had seen us thus, what an 'Assumption'
he would have thrown upon canvas!"

"The 'Assumption' cannot last," replied Barbicane. "If the projectile
passes the neutral point, the lunar attraction will draw us to the moon."

"Then our feet will be upon the roof," replied Michel.

"No," said Barbicane, "because the projectile's centre of gravity is very
low; it will only turn by degrees."

"Then all our portables will be upset from top to bottom, that is a
fact."

"Calm yourself, Michel," replied Nicholl; "no upset is to be feared; not
a thing will move, for the projectile's evolution will be imperceptible."

"Just so," continued Barbicane; "and when it has passed the point of equal
attraction, its base, being the heavier, will draw it perpendicularly to
the moon; but, in order that this phenomenon should take place, we must
have passed the neutral line."

"Pass the neutral line!" cried Michel; "then let us do as the sailors do
when they cross the equator."

A slight side movement brought Michel back towards the padded side;
thence he took a bottle and glasses, placed them "in space" before his
companions, and, drinking merrily, they saluted the line with a triple
hurrah. The influence of these attractions scarcely lasted an hour;
the travellers felt themselves insensibly drawn towards the floor, and
Barbicane fancied that the conical end of the projectile was varying a
little from its normal direction towards the moon. By an inverse motion
the base was approaching first; the lunar attraction was prevailing
over the terrestrial; the fall towards the moon was beginning, almost
imperceptibly as yet, but by degrees the attractive force would become
stronger, the fall would be more decided, the projectile, drawn by its
base, would turn its cone to the earth, and fall with ever-increasing
speed on to the surface of the Selenite continent; their destination
would then be attained. Now nothing could prevent the success of their
enterprise, and Nicholl and Michel Ardan shared Barbicane's joy.

Then they chatted of all the phenomena which had astonished them one
after the other, particularly the neutralization of the laws of weight.
Michel Ardan, always enthusiastic, drew conclusions which were purely
fanciful.

"Ah, my worthy friends," he exclaimed, "what progress we should make
if on earth we could throw off some of that weight, some of that chain
which binds us to her; it would be the prisoner set at liberty; no more
fatigue of either arms or legs. Or, if it is true that in order to fly
on the earth's surface, to keep oneself suspended in the air merely by
the play of the muscles, there requires a strength a hundred and fifty
times greater than that which we possess, a simple act of volition, a
caprice, would bear us into space, if attraction did not exist."

"Just so," said Nicholl, smiling; "if we could succeed in suppressing
weight as they suppress pain by anæsthesia, that would change the face
of modern society!"

"Yes," cried Michel, full of his subject, "destroy weight, and no more
burdens!"

"Well said," replied Barbicane; "but if nothing had any weight, nothing
would keep in its place, not even your hat on your head, worthy Michel;
nor your house, whose stones only adhere by weight; not a boat, whose
stability on the water is caused only by weight; not even the ocean,
whose waves would no longer be equalized by terrestrial attraction; and
lastly, not even the _atmosphere,_ whose atoms, being no longer held in
their places, would disperse in space!"

"That is tiresome," retorted Michel; "nothing like these matter-of-fact
people for bringing one back to the bare reality."

"But console yourself, Michel," continued Barbicane, "for if no orb
exists from whence all laws of weight are banished, you are at least
going to visit one where it is much less than on the earth."

"The moon?"

"Yes, the moon, on whose surface objects weigh six times less than on
the earth, a phenomenon easy to prove."

"And we shall feel it?" asked Michel.

"Evidently, as 200 lbs. will only weigh 30 pounds on the surface of the
moon."

"And our muscular strength will not diminish?"

"Not at all; instead of jumping one yard high, you will rise eighteen
feet high."

"But we shall be regular Herculeses in the moon!" exclaimed Michel.

"Yes," replied Nicholl; "for if the height of the Selenites is in
proportion to the density of their globe, they will be scarcely a foot
high."

"Lilliputians!" ejaculated Michel; "I shall play the part of Gulliver.
We are going to realize the fable of the giants. This is the advantage
of leaving one's own planet and overrunning the solar world."

"One moment, Michel," answered Barbicane; "if you wish to play the part
of Gulliver, only visit the inferior planets, such as Mercury, Venus, or
Mars, whose density is a little less than that of the earth; but do not
venture into the great planets, Jupiter, Saturn, Uranus, Neptune; for
there the order will be changed, and you will become Lilliputian."

"And in the sun?"

"In the sun, if its density is thirteen hundred and twenty-four thousand
times greater, and the attraction is twenty-seven times greater than
on the surface of our globe, keeping everything in proportion, the
inhabitants ought to be at least two hundred feet high."

"By Jove!" exclaimed Michel; "I should be nothing more than a pigmy, a
shrimp!"

"Gulliver with the giants," said Nicholl.

"Just so," replied Barbicane.

"And it would not be quite useless to carry some pieces of artillery to
defend oneself."

"Good," replied Nicholl; "your projectiles would have no effect on the
sun; they would fall back on the earth after some minutes."

"That is a strong remark."

"It is certain," replied Barbicane; "the attraction is so great on this
enormous orb, that an object weighing 70,000 lbs. on the earth would
weigh but 1920 lbs. on the surface of the sun. If you were to fall upon
it you would weigh—let me see—about 5000 lbs., a weight which you
would never be able to raise again."

"The devil!" said Michel; "one would want a portable crane. However, we
will be satisfied with the moon for the present; there at least we shall
cut a great figure. We will see about the sun by and by."



   CHAPTER IX.

   THE CONSEQUENCES OF A DEVIATION.


Barbicane had now no fear of the issue of the journey, at least as far
as the projectile's impulsive force was concerned; its own speed would
carry it beyond the neutral line; it would certainly not return to earth;
it would certainly not remain motionless on the line of attraction. One
single hypothesis remained to be realized, the arrival of the projectile
at its destination by the action of the lunar attraction.

It was in reality a fall of 8296 leagues on an orb, it is true, where
weight could only be reckoned at one-sixth of terrestrial weight; a
formidable fall, nevertheless, and one against which every precaution
must be taken without delay.

These precautions were of two sorts, some to deaden the shock when the
projectile should touch the lunar soil, others to delay the fall, and
consequently make it less violent.

To deaden the shock, it was a pity that Barbicane was no longer able to
employ the means which had so ably weakened the shock at departure, that
is to say, by water used as springs and the partition-breaks.

The partitions still existed but water failed, for they could not use
their reserve, which was precious, in case during the first days the
liquid element should be found wanting on lunar soil.

And indeed this reserve would have been quite insufficient for a spring.
The layer of water stored in the projectile at their departure, and on
which the waterproof disc lay, occupied no less than three feet in depth,
and spread over a surface of not less than fifty-four square feet. Besides,
the cistern did not contain one fifth part of it; they must therefore
give up this efficient means of deadening the shock of arrival. Happily,
Barbicane, not content with employing water, had furnished the movable
disc with strong spring plugs, destined to lessen the shock against the
base after the breaking of the horizontal partitions. These plugs still
existed; they had only to readjust them and replace the movable disc;
every piece, easy to handle, as their weight was now scarcely felt, was
quickly mounted.

The different pieces were fitted without trouble, it being only a matter
of bolts and screws; tools were not wanting, and soon the reinstated
disc lay on its steel plugs, like a table on its legs. One inconvenience
resulted from the replacing of the disc, the lower window was blocked
up; thus it was impossible for the travellers to observe the moon from
that opening while they were being precipitated perpendicularly upon
her; but they were obliged to give it up; even by the side openings they
could still see vast lunar regions, as an aeronaut sees the earth from
his car.

This replacing of the disc was at least an hour's work. It was past twelve
when all preparations were finished. Barbicane took fresh observations
on the inclination of the projectile, but to his annoyance it had not
turned over sufficiently for its fall; it seemed to take a curve parallel
to the lunar disc. The orb of night shone splendidly into space, while
opposite, the orb of day blazed with fire.

Their situation began to make them uneasy.

"Are we reaching our destination?" said Nicholl.

"Let us act as if we were about reaching it," replied Barbicane.

"You are sceptical," retorted Michel Ardan. "We shall arrive, and that,
too, quicker than we like."

This answer brought Barbicane back to his preparations, and he occupied
himself with placing the contrivances intended to break their descent.
We may remember the scene of the meeting held at Tampa Town, in Florida,
when Captain Nicholl came forward as Barbicane's enemy and Michel Ardan's
adversary. To Captain Nicholl's maintaining that the projectile would
smash like glass, Michel replied that he would break their fall by means
of rockets properly placed.

Thus, powerful fireworks, taking their starting-point from the base and
bursting outside, could, by producing a recoil, check to a certain degree
the projectile's speed. These rockets were to burn in space, it is true;
but oxygen would not fail them, for they could supply themselves with
it, like the lunar volcanoes, the burning of which has never yet been
stopped by the want of atmosphere round the moon.

Barbicane had accordingly supplied himself with these fireworks, enclosed
in little steel guns, which could be screwed on to the base of the
projectile. Inside, these guns were flush with the bottom; outside, they
protruded about eighteen inches. There were twenty of them. An opening
left in the disc allowed them to light the match with which each was
provided. All the effect was felt outside. The burning mixture had been
already rammed into each gun. They had, then, nothing to do but to raise
the metallic buffers fixed in the base, and replace them by the guns,
which fitted closely in their places.

This new work was finished about three o'clock, and after taking all
these precautions there remained but to wait. But the projectile was
perceptibly nearing the moon, and evidently succumbed to her influence
to a certain degree; though its own velocity also drew it in an oblique
direction. From these conflicting influences resulted a line which might
become a tangent. But it was certain that the projectile would not fall
directly on the moon; for its lower part, by reason of its weight, ought
to be turned towards her.

Barbicane's uneasiness increased as he saw his projectile resist the
influence of gravitation. The Unknown was opening before him, the Unknown
in interplanetary space. The man of science thought he had foreseen the
only three hypotheses possible—the return to the earth, the return to
the moon, or stagnation on the neutral line; and here a fourth hypothesis,
big with all the terrors of the Infinite, surged up inopportunely. To
face it without flinching, one must be a resolute savant like Barbicane,
a phlegmatic being like Nicholl, or an audacious adventurer like Michel
Ardan.

Conversation was started upon this subject. Other men would have
considered the question from a practical point of view; they would have
asked themselves whither their projectile carriage was carrying them.
Not so with these; they sought for the cause which produced this effect.

"So we have become diverted from our route," said Michel; "but why?"

"I very much fear," answered Nicholl, "that, in spite of all precautions
taken, the Columbiad was not fairly pointed. An error, however small,
would be enough to throw us out of the moon's attraction."

"Then they must have aimed badly?" asked Michel.

"I do not think so," replied Barbicane. "The perpendicularity of the gun
was exact, its direction to the zenith of the spot incontestible; and
the moon passing to the zenith of the spot, we ought to reach it at the
full. There is another reason, but it escapes me."

"Are we not arriving too late?" asked Nicholl.

"Too late?" said Barbicane.

"Yes," continued Nicholl. "The Cambridge Observatory's note says that the
transit ought to be accomplished in ninety-seven hours thirteen minutes
and twenty seconds; which means to say, that _sooner_ the moon will _not_
be at the point indicated, and that _later_ it will have passed it."

"True," replied Barbicane. "But we started the 1st of December, at
thirteen minutes and twenty-five seconds to eleven at night; and we
ought to arrive on the 5th at midnight, at the exact moment when the moon
would be full; and we are now at the 5th of December. It is now half past
three in the evening; half past eight ought to see us at the end of our
journey. Why do we not arrive?"

"Might it not be an excess of speed?" answered Nicholl; "for we know now
that its initial velocity was greater than they supposed."

"No! a hundred times, No!" replied Barbicane. "An excess of speed, if the
direction of the projectile had been right, would not have prevented us
reaching the moon. No, there has been a deviation. We have been turned
out of our course."

"By whom? by what?" asked Nicholl.

"I cannot say," replied Barbicane.

"Very well, then, Barbicane," said Michel, "do you wish to know my
opinion on the subject of finding out this deviation?"

"Speak."

"I would not give half a dollar to know it. That we have deviated is a
fact. Where we are going to matters little; we shall soon see. Since we
are being borne along in space we shall end by falling into some centre
of attraction or other."

Michel Ardan's indifference did not content Barbicane. Not that he was
uneasy about the future, but he wanted to know at any cost _why_ his
projectile had deviated.

But the projectile continued its course sideways to the moon, and with
it the mass of things thrown out. Barbicane could even prove, by the
elevations which served as landmarks upon the moon, which was only 2000
leagues distant, that its speed was becoming uniform—fresh proof that
there was no fall. Its impulsive force still prevailed over the lunar
attraction, but the projectile's course was certainly bringing it nearer
to the moon, and they might hope that at a nearer point the weight,
predominating, would cause a decided fall.

The three friends, having nothing better to do, continued their
observations; but they could not yet determine the topographical position
of the satellite; every relief was levelled under the reflection of the
solar rays.

They watched thus through the side windows until eight o'clock at night.
The moon had then grown so large in their eyes that it filled half of
the firmament. The sun on one side, and the orb of night on the other,
flooded the projectile with light.

At that moment Barbicane thought he could estimate the distance which
separated them from their aim at no more than 700 leagues. The speed of
the projectile seemed to him to be more than 200 yards, or about 170
leagues a second. Under the centripetal force, the base of the projectile
tended towards the moon; but the centrifugal still prevailed; and it was
probable that its rectilineal course would be changed to a curve of some
sort, the nature of which they could not at present determine.

Barbicane was still seeking the solution of his insoluble problem. Hours
passed without any result. The projectile was evidently _nearing_ the
moon, but it was also evident that it would never _reach_ her. As to the
nearest distance at which it would pass her, that must be the result of
the two forces, attraction and repulsion, affecting its motion.

"I ask but one thing," said Michel; "that we may pass near enough to
penetrate her secrets."

"Cursed be the thing that has caused our projectile to deviate from its
course," cried Nicholl.

And, as if a light had suddenly broken in upon his mind, Barbicane
answered, "Then cursed be the meteor which crossed our path."

"What?" said Michel Ardan.

"What do you mean?" exclaimed Nicholl.

"I mean," said Barbicane in a decided tone, "I mean that our deviation
is owing solely to our meeting with this erring body."

"But it did not even brush us as it passed," said Michel.

"What does that matter? Its mass, compared to that of our projectile,
was enormous, and its attraction was enough to influence our course."

"So little?" cried Nicholl.

"Yes, Nicholl; but however little it might be," replied Barbicane, "in a
distance of 84,000 leagues, it wanted no more to make us miss the moon."



   CHAPTER X.

   THE OBSERVERS OF THE MOON.


Barbicane had evidently hit upon the only plausible reason of this
deviation. However slight it might have been, it had sufficed to modify
the course of the projectile. It was a fatality. The bold attempt had
miscarried by a fortuitous circumstance; and unless by some exceptional
event, they could now never reach the moon's disc.

Would they pass near enough to be able to solve certain physical and
geological questions until then insoluble? This was the question, and
the only one, which occupied the minds of these bold travellers. As to
the fate in store for themselves, they did not even dream of it.

But what would become of them amid these infinite solitudes, these who
would soon want air? A few more days, and they would fall stifled in
this wandering projectile. But some days to these intrepid fellows was a
century; and they devoted all their time to observe that moon which they
no longer hoped to reach.

The distance which then separated the projectile from the satellite
was estimated at about 200 leagues. Under these conditions, as regards
the visibility of the details of the disc, the travellers were farther
from the moon than are the inhabitants of the earth with their powerful
telescopes.


Illustration: THE TELESCOPE AT PARSONTOWN.


Indeed, we know that the instrument mounted by Lord Rosse at Parsonstown,
which magnifies 6500 times, brings the moon to within an apparent
distance of sixteen leagues. And more than that, with the powerful one
set up at Long's Peak, the orb of night, magnified 48,000 times, is
brought to within less than two leagues, and objects having a diameter
of thirty feet are seen very distinctly. So that, at this distance, the
topographical details of the moon, observed without glasses, could not
be determined with precision. The eye caught the vast outline of those
immense depressions inappropriately called "seas," but they could not
recognize their nature. The prominence of the mountains disappeared
under the splendid irradiation produced by the reflection of the solar
rays. The eye, dazzled as if it was leaning over a bath of molten silver,
turned from it involuntarily; but the oblong form of the orb was quite
clear. It appeared like a gigantic egg, with the small end turned towards
the earth. Indeed the moon, liquid and pliable in the first days of its
formation, was originally a perfect sphere; but being soon drawn within
the attraction of the earth, it became elongated under the influence
of gravitation. In becoming a satellite, she lost her native purity of
form; her centre of gravity was in advance of the centre of her figure;
and from this fact some savants draw the conclusion that the air and
water had taken refuge on the opposite surface of the moon, which is
never seen from the earth. This alteration in the primitive form of the
satellite was only perceptible for a few moments. The distance of the
projectile from the moon diminished very rapidly under its speed, though
that was much less than its initial velocity,—but eight or nine times
greater than that which propels our express trains. The oblique course
of the projectile, from its very obliquity, gave Michel Ardan some hopes
of striking the lunar disc at some point or other. He could not think
that they would never reach it. No! he could not believe it; and this
opinion he often repeated. But Barbicane, who was a better judge, always
answered him with merciless logic.

"No, Michel, no! We can only reach the moon by a fall, and we are not
falling. The centripetal force keeps us under the moon's influence, but
the centrifugal force draws us irresistibly away from it."

This was said in a tone which quenched Michel Ardan's last hope.

The portion of the moon which the projectile was nearing was the northern
hemisphere, that which the Selenographic maps place below; for these
maps are generally drawn after the outline given by the glasses, and we
know that they reverse the objects. Such was the _Mappa Selenographica_
of Bœer and Moedler which Barbicane consulted. This northern hemisphere
presented vast plains, dotted with isolated mountains.

At midnight the moon was full. At that precise moment the travellers
should have alighted upon it, if the mischievous meteor had not diverted
their course. The orb was exactly in the condition determined by the
Cambridge Observatory. It was mathematically at its perigee, and at the
zenith of the twenty-eighth parallel. An observer placed at the bottom
of the enormous Columbiad, pointed perpendicularly to the horizon, would
have framed the moon in the mouth of the gun. A straight line drawn
through the axis of the piece would have passed through the centre of
the orb of night. It is needless to say, that during the night of the
5th—6th of December, the travellers took not an instant's rest. Could
they close their eyes when so near this new world? No! All their feelings
were concentrated in one single thought:—See! Representatives of the
earth, of humanity, past and present, all centred in them! It is through
their eyes that the human race look at these lunar regions, and penetrate
the secrets of their satellite! A strange emotion filled their hearts as
they went from one window to the other.

Their observations, reproduced by Barbicane, were rigidly determined. To
take them, they had glasses; to correct them, maps.

As regards the optical instruments at their disposal, they had excellent
marine glasses specially constructed for this journey.

They possessed magnifying powers of 100. They would thus have brought the
moon to within a distance (apparent) of less than 2000 leagues from the
earth. But then, at a distance which for three hours in the morning did
not exceed sixty-five miles, and in a medium free from all atmospheric
disturbances, these instruments could reduce the lunar surface to within
less than 1500 yards!



   CHAPTER XI.

   FANCY AND REALITY.


"Have you ever seen the moon?" asked a professor, ironically, of one of
his pupils.

"No, sir!" replied the pupil, still more ironically, "but I must say I
have heard it spoken of."

In one sense, the pupil's witty answer might be given by a large majority
of sublunary beings. How many people have heard speak of the moon who
have never seen it—at least through a glass or a telescope! How many
have never examined the map of their satellite!

In looking at a selenographic map, one peculiarity strikes us. Contrary
to the arrangement followed for that of the Earth and Mars, the continents
occupy more particularly the southern hemisphere of the lunar globe.
These continents do not show such decided, clear, and regular boundary
lines as South America, Africa, and the Indian peninsula. Their angular,
capricious, and deeply indented coasts are rich in gulfs and peninsulas.
They remind one of the confusion in the islands of the Sound, where the
land is excessively indented. If navigation ever existed on the surface
of the moon, it must have been wonderfully difficult and dangerous; and
we may well pity the Selenite sailors and hydrographers; the former,
when they came upon these perilous coasts, the latter when they took the
soundings of its stormy banks.


Illustration: HOW MANY PEOPLE HAVE HEARD SPEAK OF THE MOON.


We may also notice that, on the lunar sphere, the south pole is much more
continental than the north pole. On the latter, there is but one slight
strip of land separated from other continents by vast seas. Towards the
south, continents clothe almost the whole of the hemisphere. It is even
possible that the Selenites have already planted the flag on one of
their poles, whilst Franklin, Ross, Kane, Dumont d'Urville, and Lambert
have never yet been able to attain that unknown point of the terrestrial
globe.

As to islands, they are numerous on the surface of the moon. Nearly
all oblong or circular, and as if traced with the compass, they seem to
form one vast Archipelago, equal to that charming group lying between
Greece and Asia Minor, and which mythology in ancient times adorned with
most graceful legends. Involuntarily the names of Naxos, Tenedos, and
Carpathos, rise before the mind, and we seek vainly for Ulysses' vessel
or the "clipper" of the Argonauts. So at least it was in Michel Ardan's
eyes. To him it was a Grecian Archipelago that he saw on the map. To
the eyes of his matter-of-fact companions, the aspect of these coasts
recalled rather the parcelled-out land of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia;
and where the Frenchman discovered traces of the heroes of fable, these
Americans were marking the most favourable points for the establishment
of stores in the interests of lunar commerce and industry.

After wandering over these vast continents, the eye is attracted by still
greater seas. Not only their formation, but their situation and aspect
remind one of the terrestrial oceans; but again, as on earth, these seas
occupy the greater portion of the globe. But in point of fact, these
are not liquid spaces, but plains, the nature of which the travellers
hoped soon to determine. Astronomers, we must allow, have graced these
pretended seas with at least odd names, which science has respected up to
the present time. Michel Ardan was right when he compared this map to a
"Tendre card," got up by a Scudary or a Cyrano de Bergerac. "Only," said
he, "it is no longer the sentimental card of the seventeenth century, it
is the card of life, very neatly divided into two parts, one feminine,
the other masculine; the right hemisphere for woman, the left for man."

In speaking thus, Michel made his prosaic companions shrug their
shoulders. Barbicane and Nicholl looked upon the lunar map from a very
different point of view to that of their fantastic friend. Nevertheless,
their fantastic friend was a little in the right. Judge for yourselves.

In the left hemisphere stretches the "Sea of Clouds," where human reason
is so often shipwrecked. Not far off lies the "Sea of Rains," fed by all
the fever of existence. Near this is the "Sea of Storms," where man is
ever fighting against his passions, which too often gain the victory.
Then, worn out by deceit, treasons, infidelity, and the whole body of
terrestrial misery, what does he find at the end of his career? that vast
"Sea of Humours," barely softened by some drops of the waters from the
"Gulf of Dew!" Clouds, rain, storms, and humours,—does the life of man
contain aught but these? and is it not summed up in these four words?

The right hemisphere, "dedicated to the ladies," encloses smaller seas,
whose significant names contain every incident of a feminine existence.
There is the "Sea of Serenity," over which the young girl bends; "The
Lake of Dreams," reflecting a joyous future; "the Sea of Nectar," with its
waves of tenderness and breezes of love; "The Sea of Fruitfulness;" "The
Sea of Crises;" then the "Sea of Vapours," whose dimensions are perhaps
a little too confined; and lastly, that vast "Sea of Tranquillity," in
which every false passion, every useless dream, every unsatisfied desire
is at length absorbed, and whose waves emerge peaceably into the "Lake
of Death!"

What a strange succession of names! What a singular division of the moon's
two hemispheres, joined to one another like man and woman, and forming
that sphere of life carried into space! And was not the fantastic Michel
right in thus interpreting the fancies of the ancient astronomers? But
whilst his imagination thus roved over "the seas," his grave companions
were considering things more geographically. They were learning this new
world by heart. They were measuring angles and diameters.



   CHAPTER XII.

   OROGRAPHIC DETAILS.


The course taken by the projectile, as we have before remarked, was
bearing it towards the moon's northern hemisphere. The travellers were
far from the central point which they would have struck, had their course
not been subject to an irremediable deviation. It was past midnight; and
Barbicane then estimated the distance at 750 miles, which was a little
greater than the length of the lunar radius, and which would diminish
as it advanced nearer to the North Pole. The projectile was then not
at the altitude of the equator; but across the tenth parallel, and from
that latitude, carefully taken on the map to the pole, Barbicane and his
two companions were able to observe the moon under the most favourable
conditions. Indeed, by means of glasses, the above named distance was
reduced to little more than fourteen miles. The telescope of the Rocky
Mountains brought the moon much nearer; but the terrestrial atmosphere
singularly lessened its power. Thus Barbicane, posted in his projectile,
with the glasses to his eyes, could seize upon details which were almost
imperceptible to earthly observers.

"My friends," said the president, in a serious voice, "I do not know
whither we are going; I do not know if we shall ever see the terrestrial
globe again. Nevertheless, let us proceed as if our work would one day
be useful to our fellow-men. Let us keep our minds free from every other
consideration. We are astronomers; and this projectile is a room in the
Cambridge University, carried into space. Let us make our observations!"

This said, work was begun with great exactness; and they faithfully
reproduced the different aspects of the moon, at the different distances
which the projectile reached.

At the time that the projectile was as high as the tenth parallel,
north latitude, it seemed rigidly to follow the twentieth degree, east
longitude. We must here make one important remark with regard to the map
by which they were taking observations. In the selenographical maps where,
on account of the reversing of the objects by the glasses, the south
is above and the north below, it would seem natural that, on account of
that inversion, the east should be to the left hand, and the west to the
right. But it is not so. If the map were turned upside down, showing the
moon as we see her, the east would be to the _left_, and the west to the
_right_, contrary to that which exists on terrestrial maps. The following
is the reason of this anomaly. Observers in the northern hemisphere
(say in Europe) see the moon in the south,— according to them. When
they take observations, they turn their backs to the north, the reverse
position to that which they occupy when they study a terrestrial map. As
they turn their backs to the north, the east is on their left, and the
west to their right. To observers in the southern hemisphere (Patagonia
for example), the moon's west would be quite to their left, and the east
to their right, as the south is behind them. Such is the reason of the
apparent reversing of these two cardinal points, and we must bear it in
mind in order to be able to follow President Barbicane's
observations.

With the help of Bœer and Moedler's _Mappa Selenographica_, the travellers
were able at once to recognise that portion of the disc enclosed within
the field of their glasses.

"What are we looking at, at this moment?" asked Michel.

"At the northern part of the 'Sea of Clouds,'" answered Barbicane. "We
are too far off to recognize its nature. Are these plains composed of
arid sand, as the first astronomer maintained? Or are they nothing but
immense forests, according to M. Warren de la Rue's opinion, who gives
the moon an atmosphere, though a very low and a very dense one? That we
shall know by and by. We must affirm nothing until we are in a position
to do so."

This "Sea of Clouds" is rather doubtfully marked out upon the maps. It
is supposed that these vast plains are strewn with blocks of lava from
the neighbouring volcanoes on its right, Ptolemy, Purbach, Arzachel.
But the projectile was advancing, and sensibly nearing it. Soon there
appeared the heights which bound this sea at this northern limit. Before
them rose a mountain radiant with beauty, the top of which seemed lost
in an eruption of solar rays.

"That is—?" asked Michel.

"Copernicus," replied Barbicane.

"Let us see Copernicus."

This mount situated in 9° north latitude and 20° east longitude,
rose to a height of 10,600 feet above the surface of the moon. It is
quite visible from the earth; and astronomers can study it with ease,
particularly during the phase between the last quarter and the new
moon, because then the shadows are thrown lengthways from east to west,
allowing them to measure the heights.

This Copernicus forms the most important of the radiating system, situated
in the southern hemisphere, according to Tycho Brahé. It rises isolated
like a gigantic lighthouse on that portion of the Sea of Clouds, which is
bounded by the "Sea of Tempests," thus lighting by its splendid rays two
oceans at a time. It was a sight without an equal, those long luminous
trains, so dazzling in the full moon, and which, passing the boundary
chain on the north, extends to the "Sea of Rains." At one o'clock of the
terrestrial morning, the projectile, like a balloon borne into space,
overlooked the top of this superb mountain. Barbicane could recognize
perfectly its chief features. Copernicus is comprised in the series of
ringed mountains of the first order, in the division of great circles.
Like Kepler and Aristarchus, which overlook the Ocean of Tempests,
sometimes it appeared like a brilliant point through the cloudy light,
and was taken for a volcano in activity. But it is only an extinct
one,—like all on that side of the moon. Its circumference showed a
diameter of about twenty-two leagues. The glasses discovered traces of
stratification produced by successive eruptions, and the neighbourhood
was strewn with volcanic remains which still choked some of the craters.

"There exist," said Barbicane, "several kinds of circles on the surface
of the moon, and it is easy to see that Copernicus belongs to the
radiating class. If we were nearer, we should see the cones bristling on
the inside, which in former times were so many fiery mouths. A curious
arrangement, and one without an exception on the lunar disc, is that
the interior surface of these circles is the reverse of the exterior,
and contrary to the form taken by terrestrial craters. It follows, then,
that the general curve of the bottom of these circles gives a sphere of
a smaller diameter than that of the moon."

"And why this peculiar disposition?" asked Nicholl.

"We do not know," replied Barbicane.

"What splendid radiation!" said Michel. "One could hardly see a finer
spectacle, I think."

"What would you say, then," replied Barbicane, "if chance should bear us
towards the southern hemisphere?"

"Well, I should say that it was still more beautiful," retorted Michel
Ardan.

At this moment the projectile hung perpendicularly over the circle. The
circumference of Copernicus formed almost a perfect circle, and its steep
escarpments were clearly defined. They could even distinguish a second
ringed enclosure. Around spread a greyish plain, of a wild aspect, on
which every relief was marked in yellow. At the bottom of the circle,
as if enclosed in a jewel case, sparkled for one instant two or three
eruptive cones, like enormous dazzling gems. Towards the north the
escarpments were lowered by a depression which would probably have given
access to the interior of the crater.

In passing over the surrounding plains, Barbicane noticed a great number
of less important mountains; and among others a little ringed one called
Guy Lussac, the breadth of which measured twelve miles.

Towards the south, the plain was very flat, without one elevation,
without one projection. Towards the north, on the contrary, till where it
was bounded by the Sea of Storms it resembled a liquid surface agitated
by a storm, of which the hills and hollows formed a succession of waves
suddenly congealed. Over the whole of this, and in all directions, lay
the luminous lines, all converging to the summit of Copernicus.

The travellers discussed the origin of these strange rays; but they could
not determine their nature any more than terrestrial observers.

"But why," said Nicholl, "should not these rays be simply spurs of
mountains which reflect more vividly the light of the sun?"

"No," replied Barbicane; "if it was so, under certain conditions of the
moon, these ridges would cast shadows, and they do not cast any."

And indeed, these rays only appeared when the orb of day was in opposition
to the moon, and disappeared as soon as its rays became oblique.

"But how have they endeavoured to explain these lines of light?" asked
Michel; "for I cannot believe that savants would ever be stranded for
want of an explanation."

"Yes," replied Barbicane; "Herschel has put forward an opinion, but he
did not venture to affirm it."

"Never mind. What was the opinion?"

"He thought that these rays might be streams of cooled lava which shone
when the sun beat straight upon them. It may be so; but nothing can
be less certain. Besides, if we pass nearer to Tycho, we shall be in a
better position to find out the cause of this radiation."


Illustration: "THIS PLAIN WOULD THEN BE NOTHING BUT AN IMMENSE
   CEMETERY."


"Do you know, my friends, what that plain, seen from the height we are
at, resembles?" said Michel.

"No," replied Nicholl.

"Very well; with all those pieces of lava lengthened like rockets, it
resembles an immense game of spelikans thrown pell-mell. There wants but
the hook to pull them out one by one."

"Do be serious," said Barbicane.

"Well, let us be serious," replied Michel quietly; "and instead of
spelikans, let us put bones. This plain would then be nothing but an
immense cemetery, on which would repose the mortal remains of thousands
of extinct generations. Do you prefer that high-flown comparison?"

"One is as good as the other," retorted Barbicane.

"My word, you are difficult to please," answered Michel.

"My worthy friend," continued the matter-of-fact Barbicane, "it matters
but little what it _resembles_, when we do not know what it _is_."

"Well answered," exclaimed Michel. "That will teach me to reason with
savants."

But the projectile continued to advance with almost uniform speed around
the lunar disc. The travellers, we may easily imagine, did not dream of
taking a moment's rest. Every minute changed the landscape which fled
from beneath their gaze. About half-past one o'clock in the morning, they
caught a glimpse of the tops of another mountain. Barbicane, consulting
his map, recognized Eratosthenes.

It was a ringed mountain 9000 feet high, and one of those circles so
numerous on this satellite. With regard to this, Barbicane related
Kepler's singular opinion on the formation of circles. According to that
celebrated mathematician, these crater-like cavities had been dug by the
hand of man.

"For what purpose?" asked Nicholl.

"For a very natural one," replied Barbicane. "The Selenites might have
undertaken these immense works and dug these enormous holes for a refuge
and shield from the solar rays which beat upon them during fifteen
consecutive days."

"The Selenites are not fools," said Michel.

"A singular idea," replied Nicholl; "but it is probable that Kepler did
not know the true dimensions of these circles, for the digging of them
would have been the work of giants quite impossible for the Selenites."

"Why? if weight on the moon's surface is six times less than on the
earth?" said Michel.

"But if the Selenites are six times smaller?" retorted Nicholl.

"And if there are no Selenites?" added Barbicane.

This put an end to the discussion.

Soon Eratosthenes disappeared under the horizon without the projectile
being sufficiently near to allow of close observation. This mountain
separated the Apennines from the Carpathians. In the lunar orography they
have discerned some chains of mountains, which are chiefly distributed
over the northern hemisphere. Some, however, occupy certain portions of
the southern hemisphere also.

About two o'clock in the morning Barbicane found that they were above the
twentieth lunar parallel. The distance of the projectile from the moon
was not more than 600 miles. Barbicane, now perceiving that the projectile
was steadily approaching the lunar disc, did not despair, if of reaching
her, at least of discovering the secrets of her configuration.



   CHAPTER XIII.

   LUNAR LANDSCAPES.


At half-past two in the morning, the projectile was over the thirteenth
lunar parallel and at the effective distance of 500 miles, reduced by
the glasses to five. It still seemed impossible, however, that it could
ever touch any part of the disc. Its motive speed, comparatively so
moderate, was inexplicable to President Barbicane. At that distance from
the moon it must have been considerable, to enable it to bear up against
her attraction. Here was a phenomenon the cause of which escaped them
again. Besides, time failed them to investigate the cause. All lunar
relief was defiling under the eyes of the travellers, and they would not
lose a single detail.

Under the glasses the disc appeared at the distance of five miles. What
would an aeronaut, borne to this distance from the earth, distinguish on
its surface? We cannot say, since the greatest ascension has not been
more than 25,000 feet.

This, however, is an exact description of what Barbicane and his companions
saw at this height. Large patches of different colours appeared on the
disc. Selenographers are not agreed upon the nature of these colours.
There are several, and rather vividly marked. Julius Schmidt pretends
that, if the terrestrial oceans were dried up, a Selenite observer could
not distinguish on the globe a greater diversity of shades between the
oceans and the continental plains than those on the moon present to a
terrestrial observer. According to him, the colour common to the vast
plains known by the name of "seas" is a dark grey mixed with green and
brown. Some of the large craters present the same appearance. Barbicane
knew this opinion of the German selenographer, an opinion shared by Bœer
and Moedler. Observation has proved that right was on their side, and not
on that of some astronomers who admit the existence of only grey on the
moon's surface. In some parts green was very distinct, such as springs,
according to Julius Schmidt, from the seas of Serenity and Humours.
Barbicane also noticed large craters, without any interior cones, which
shed a bluish tint similar to the reflection of a sheet of steel freshly
polished. These colours belonged really to the lunar disc, and did not
result, as some astronomers say, either from the imperfection in the
objective of the glasses or from the interposition of the terrestrial
atmosphere.

Not a doubt existed in Barbicane's mind with regard to it, as he observed
it through space, and so could not commit any optical error. He considered
the establishment of this fact as an acquisition to science. Now, were
these shades of green, belonging to tropical vegetation, kept up by a
low dense atmosphere? He could not yet say.

Farther on, he noticed a reddish tint, quite defined. The same shade had
before been observed at the bottom of an isolated enclosure, known by
the name of Lichtenburg's circle, which is situated near the Hercynian
mountains, on the borders of the moon; but they could not tell the nature
of it.

They were not more fortunate with regard to another peculiarity of the
disc, for they could not decide upon the cause of it.

Michel Ardan was watching near the president, when he noticed long
white lines, vividly lighted up by the direct rays of the sun. It was
a succession of luminous furrows, very different from the radiation of
Copernicus not long before; they ran parallel with each other.

Michel, with his usual readiness, hastened to exclaim,— "Look there!
cultivated fields!"


Illustration: "WHAT GIANT OXEN."


"Cultivated fields!" replied Nicholl, shrugging his shoulders.

"Ploughed, at all events," retorted Michel Ardan; "but what labourers
those Selenites must be, and what giant oxen they must harness to their
plough to cut such furrows!"

"They are not furrows," said Barbicane; "they are _rifts_."

"Rifts? stuff!" replied Michel mildly; "but what do you mean by 'rifts'
in the scientific world?"

Barbicane immediately enlightened his companion as to what he knew about
lunar rifts. He knew that they were a kind of furrow found on every part
of the disc which was not mountainous; that these furrows, generally
isolated, measured from 400 to 500 leagues in length; that their breadth
varied from 1000 to 1500 yards, and that their borders were strictly
parallel; but he knew nothing more either of their formation or their
nature.

Barbicane, through his glasses, observed these rifts with great attention.
He noticed that their borders were formed of steep declivities; they
were long parallel ramparts, and with some small amount of imagination
he might have admitted the existence of long lines of fortifications,
raised by Selenite engineers. Of these different rifts some were perfectly
straight, as if cut by a line; others were slightly curved, though still
keeping their borders parallel; some crossed each other, some cut through
craters; here they wound through ordinary cavities, such as Posidonius or
Petavius; there they wound through the seas, such as the Sea of Serenity.

These natural accidents naturally excited the imaginations of these
terrestrial astronomers. The first observations had not discovered these
rifts. Neither Hevelius, Cassim, La Hire, nor Herschel seemed to have
known them. It was Schroeter who in 1789 first drew attention to them.
Others followed who studied them, as Pastorff, Gruithuysen, Bœer, and
Moedler. At this time their number amounts to seventy; but, if they
have been counted, their nature has not yet been determined; they are
certainly not fortifications, any more than they are the ancient beds of
dried-up rivers; for, on one side, the waters, so slight on the moon's
surface, could never have worn such drains for themselves; and, on the
other, they often cross craters of great elevation.

We must, however, allow that Michel Ardan had "an idea," and that,
without knowing it, he coincided in that respect with Julius Schmidt.

"Why," said he, "should not these unaccountable appearances be simply
phenomena of vegetation?"

"What do you mean?" asked Barbicane quickly.

"Do not excite yourself, my worthy president," replied Michel; "might it
not be possible that the dark lines forming that bastion were rows of
trees regularly placed?"

"You stick to your vegetation, then?" said Barbicane.

"I like," retorted Michel Ardan, "to explain what you savants cannot
explain; at least my hypothesis has the advantage of indicating why these
rifts disappear, or seem to disappear, at certain seasons."

"And for what reason?"

"For the reason that the trees become invisible when they lose their
leaves, and visible when they regain them."

"Your explanation is ingenious, my dear companion," replied Barbicane,
"but inadmissible."

"Why?"

"Because, so to speak, there are no seasons on the moon's surface, and
that, consequently, the phenomena of vegetation of which you speak cannot
occur."

Indeed, the slight obliquity of the lunar axis keeps the sun at an almost
equal height in every latitude. Above the equatorial regions the radiant
orb almost invariably occupies the zenith, and does not pass the limits
of the horizon in the polar regions; thus, according to each region,
there reigns a perpetual winter, spring, summer, or autumn, as in the
planet Jupiter, whose axis is but little inclined upon its orbit.


Illustration: HE COULD DISTINGUISH NOTHING BUT DESERT BEDS.


What origin do they attribute to these rifts? That is a question difficult
to solve. They are certainly anterior to the formation of craters and
circles, for several have introduced themselves by breaking through their
circular ramparts. Thus it may be that, contemporary with the latter
geological epochs, they are due to the expansion of natural forces.

But the projectile had now attained the 40° of lunar lat., at a distance
not exceeding 400 miles. Through the glasses objects appeared to be only
four miles distant.

At this point, under their feet, rose Mount Helicon, 1520 feet high,
and round about the left rose moderate elevations, enclosing a small
portion of the "Sea of Rains," under the name of the Gulf of Iris. The
terrestrial atmosphere would have to be one hundred and seventy times more
transparent than it is, to allow astronomers to make perfect observations
on the moon's surface; but in the void in which the projectile floated
no fluid interposed itself between the eye of the observer and the
object observed. And more, Barbicane found himself carried to a greater
distance than the most powerful telescopes had ever done before, either
that of Lord Rosse or that of the Rocky Mountains. He was, therefore,
under extremely favourable conditions for solving that great question
of the habitability of the moon; but the solution still escaped him; he
could distinguish nothing but desert beds, immense plains, and towards
the north, arid mountains. Not a work betrayed the hand of man; not a
ruin marked his course; not a group of animals was to be seen indicating
life, even in an inferior degree. In no part was there life, in no part
was there an appearance of vegetation. Of the three kingdoms which share
the terrestrial globe between them, one alone was represented on the
lunar and that the mineral.

"Ah, indeed!" said Michel Ardan, a little out of countenance; "then you
see no one?"

"No," answered Nicholl; "up to this time not a man, not an animal, not
a tree! After all, whether the atmosphere has taken refuge at the bottom
of cavities, in the midst of the circles, or even on the opposite face
of the moon, we cannot decide."

"Besides," added Barbicane, "even to the most piercing eye a man cannot
be distinguished farther than three miles and a half off; so that, if
there are any Selenites, they can see our projectile, but we cannot see
them."

Towards four in the morning, at the height of the fiftieth parallel, the
distance was reduced to 300 miles. To the left ran a line of mountains
capriciously shaped, lying in the full light. To the right, on the
contrary, lay a black hollow resembling a vast well, unfathomable and
gloomy, drilled into the lunar soil.

This hole was the "Black Lake;" it was Pluto, a deep circle which can be
conveniently studied from the earth, between the last quarter and the
new moon, when the shadows fall from west to east.

This black colour is rarely met with on the surface of the satellite. As
yet it has only been recognized in the depths of the circle of Endymion,
to the east of the Cold Sea, in the northern hemisphere, and at the
bottom of Grimaldi's circle, on the equator, towards the eastern border
of the orb.

Pluto is an annular mountain, situated in 51° north latitude, and 9°
east longitude. Its circuit is forty-seven miles long and thirty-two
broad.

Barbicane regretted that they were not passing directly above this vast
opening. There was an abyss to fathom, perhaps some mysterious phenomenon
to surprise; but the projectile's course could not be altered. They must
rigidly submit. They could not guide a balloon, still less a projectile,
when once enclosed within its walls. Towards five in the morning the
northern limits of the Sea of Rains was at length passed. The mounts
of Condamine and Fontenelle remained—one on the right, the other on
the left. That part of the disc beginning with 60° was becoming quite
mountainous. The glasses brought them to within two miles, less than
that separating the summit of Mont Blanc from the level of the sea. The
whole region was bristling with spikes and circles. Towards the 60°
Philolaus stood predominant at a height of 5550 feet with its elliptical
crater, and seen from this distance, the disc showed a very fantastical
appearance. Landscapes were presented to the eye under very different
conditions from those on the earth, and also very inferior to
them.

The moon having no atmosphere, the consequences arising from the absence
of this gaseous envelope have already been shown. No twilight on her
surface; night following day and day following night with the suddenness
of a lamp which is extinguished or lighted amidst profound darkness,—no
transition from cold to heat, the temperature falling in an instant from
boiling point to the cold of space.

Another consequence of this want of air is that absolute darkness
reigns where the sun's rays do not penetrate. That which on earth is
called diffusion of light, that luminous matter which the air holds in
suspension, which creates the twilight and the daybreak, which produces
the _umbræ_ and the _penumbræ_, and all the magic of _chiaro-oscuro_,
does not exist on the moon. Hence the harshness of contrasts, which only
admit of two colours, black and white. If a Selenite were to shade his
eyes from the sun's rays, the sky would seem absolutely black, and the
stars would shine to him as on the darkest night. Judge of the impression
produced on Barbicane and his three friends by this strange scene! Their
eyes were confused. They could no longer grasp the respective distances
of the different plains. A lunar landscape without the softening of the
phenomena of _chiaro-oscuro_ could not be rendered by an earthly landscape
painter: it would be spots of ink on a white page—nothing
more.

This aspect was not altered even when the projectile, at the height of
80°, was only separated from the moon by a distance of fifty miles; nor
even when, at five in the morning, it passed at less than twenty-five
miles from the mountain of Gioja, a distance reduced by the glasses to
a quarter of a mile. It seemed as if the moon might be touched by the
hand! It seemed impossible that, before long, the projectile would not
strike her, if only at the north pole, the brilliant arch of which was
so distinctly visible on the black sky.

Michel Ardan wanted to open one of the scuttles and throw himself on to
the moon's surface! A very useless attempt; for if the projectile could
not attain any point whatever of the satellite, Michel, carried along by
its motion, could not attain it either.

At that moment, at six o'clock, the lunar pole appeared. The disc only
presented to the travellers' gaze one half brilliantly lit up, whilst
the other disappeared in the darkness. Suddenly the projectile passed
the line of demarcation between intense light and absolute darkness, and
was plunged in profound night!



   CHAPTER XIV.

   THE NIGHT OF THREE HUNDRED AND FIFTY-FOUR HOURS
      AND A HALF.


At the moment when this phenomenon took place so rapidly, the projectile
was skirting the moon's north pole at less than twenty-five miles
distance. Some seconds had sufficed to plunge it into the absolute
darkness of space. The transition was so sudden, without shade, without
gradation of light, without attenuation of the luminous waves, that the
orb seemed to have been extinguished by a powerful blow.

"Melted, disappeared!" Michel Ardan exclaimed, aghast.

Indeed, there was neither reflection nor shadow. Nothing more was to be
seen of that disc, formerly so dazzling. The darkness was complete, and
rendered even more so by the rays from the stars. It was "that blackness"
in which the lunar nights are insteeped, which last three hundred and
four hours and a half at each point of the disc, a long night resulting
from the equality of the translatory and rotary movements of the moon. The
projectile, immerged in the conical shadow of the satellite, experienced
the action of the solar rays no more than any of its invisible points.

In the interior, the obscurity was complete. They could not see each
other. Hence the necessity of dispelling the darkness. However desirous
Barbicane might be to husband the gas, the reserve of which was small,
he was obliged to ask from it a fictitious light, an expensive brilliancy
which the sun then refused.

"Devil take the radiant orb!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, "which forces us
to expend gas, instead of giving us his rays gratuitously."

"Do not let us accuse the sun," said Nicholl, "it is not his fault, but
that of the moon, which has come and placed herself like a screen between
us and it."

"It is the sun!" continued Michel.

"It is the moon!" retorted Nicholl.

An idle dispute, which Barbicane put an end to by saying,—

"My friends, it is neither the fault of the sun nor of the moon; it is
the fault of the _projectile_, which, instead of rigidly following its
course, has awkwardly missed it. To be more just, it is the fault of that
unfortunate meteor which has so deplorably altered our first direction."

"Well," replied Michel Ardan, "as the matter is settled, let us have
breakfast. After a whole night of watching it is fair to build ourselves
up a little."

This proposal meeting with no contradiction, Michel prepared the repast
in a few minutes. But they ate for eating's sake, they drank without
toasts, without hurrahs. The bold travellers being borne away into gloomy
space, without their accustomed cortège of rays, felt a vague uneasiness
at their hearts. The "strange" shadow so dear to Victor Hugo's pen bound
them on all sides. But they talked over the interminable night of three
hundred and fifty-four hours and a half, nearly fifteen days, which the
law of physics has imposed on the inhabitants of the moon.

Barbicane gave his friends some explanation of the causes and the
consequences of this curious phenomenon.

"Curious indeed," said they; "for, if each hemisphere of the moon is
deprived of solar light for fifteen days, that above which we now float
does not even enjoy during its long night any view of the earth so
beautifully lit up. In a word she has no moon (applying this designation
to our globe) but on one side of her disc. Now if this were the case
with the earth,—if, for example, Europe never saw the moon, and she
was only visible at the Antipodes, imagine to yourself the astonishment
of a European on arriving in Australia."


Illustration: "IT IS THE FAULT OF THE MOON."


"They would make the voyage for nothing but to see the moon!" replied
Michel.

"Very well!" continued Barbicane, "that astonishment is reserved for the
Selenites who inhabit the face of the moon opposite to the earth, a face
which is ever invisible to our countrymen of the terrestrial globe."

"And which we should have seen," added Nicholl, "if we had arrived here
when the moon was new, that is to say fifteen days later."

"I will add, to make amends," continued Barbicane, "that the inhabitants
of the visible face are singularly favoured by nature, to the detriment
of their brethren on the invisible face. The latter, as you see, have
dark nights of 354 hours, without one single ray to break the darkness.
The other, on the contrary, when the sun which has given its light for
fifteen days sinks below the horizon, see a splendid orb rise on the
opposite horizon. It is the earth, which is thirteen times greater than
that diminutive moon that we know;—the earth which develops itself
at a diameter of two degrees, and which sheds a light thirteen times
greater than that qualified by atmospheric strata—the earth which only
disappears at the moment when the sun reappears in its turn!"

"Nicely worded!" said Michel, "slightly academical perhaps."

"It follows, then," continued Barbicane, without knitting his brows,
"that the visible face of the disc must be very agreeable to inhabit,
since it always looks on either the sun when the moon is full, or on the
earth when the moon is new."

"But," said Nicholl, "that advantage must be well compensated by the
insupportable heat which the light brings with it."

"The inconvenience, in that respect, is the same for the two faces, for
the earth's light is evidently deprived of heat. But the invisible face
is still more searched by the heat than the visible face. I say that for
_you_, Nicholl, because Michel will probably not understand."

"Thank you," said Michel.

"Indeed," continued Barbicane, "when the invisible face receives at
the same time light and heat from the sun, it is because the moon is
new; that is to say, she is situated between the sun and the earth. It
follows, then, considering the position which she occupies in opposition
when full, that she is nearer to the sun by twice her distance from the
earth; and that distance may be estimated at the two-hundredth part of
that which separates the sun from the earth, or in round numbers 400,000
miles. So that invisible face is so much nearer to the sun when she
receives its rays."

"Quite right," replied Nicholl.

"On the contrary," continued Barbicane.

"One moment," said Michel, interrupting his grave companion.

"What do you want?"

"I ask to be allowed to continue the explanation."

"And why?"

"To prove that I understand."

"Get along with you," said Barbicane, smiling.

"On the contrary," said Michel, imitating the tone and gestures of the
president, "on the contrary, when the visible face of the moon is lit by
the sun, it is because the moon is full, that is to say, opposite the
sun with regard to the earth. The distance separating it from the radiant
orb is then increased in round numbers to 400,000 miles, and the heat
which she receives must be a little less."

"Very well said!" exclaimed Barbicane. "Do you know, Michel, that, for
an amateur, you are intelligent."

"Yes," replied Michel coolly, "we are all so on the Boulevard des
Italiens."

Barbicane gravely clasped the hand of his amiable companion, and continued
to enumerate the advantages reserved for the inhabitants of the visible
face.

Amongst others, he mentioned eclipses of the sun, which only take place
on this side of the lunar disc; since, in order that they may take place,
it is necessary for the moon to be _in opposition_. These eclipses,
caused by the interposition of the earth between the moon and the sun,
can last _two hours_; during which time, by reason of the rays refracted
by its atmosphere, the terrestrial globe can appear as nothing but a
black point upon the sun.

"So," said Nicholl, "there is a hemisphere, that invisible hemisphere
which is very ill supplied, very ill treated, by nature."

"Never mind," replied Michel; "if we ever become Selenites, we will
inhabit the visible face. I like the light."

"Unless, by any chance," answered Nicholl, "the atmosphere should be
condensed on the other side, as certain astronomers pretend."

"That would be a consideration," said Michel.

Breakfast over, the observers returned to their post. They tried to
see through the darkened scuttles by extinguishing all light in the
projectile; but not a luminous spark made its way through the darkness.

One inexplicable fact preoccupied Barbicane. Why, having passed within
such a short distance of the moon—about twenty-five miles only—why
the projectile had not fallen? If its speed had been enormous, he could
have understood that the fall would not have taken place; but, with
a relatively moderate speed, that resistance to the moon's attraction
could not be explained. Was the projectile under some foreign influence?
Did some kind of body retain it in the ether? It was quite evident that
it could never reach any point of the moon. Whither was it going? Was
it going farther from, or nearing, the disc? Was it being borne in that
profound darkness through the infinity of space? How could they learn,
how calculate, in the midst of this night? All these questions made
Barbicane uneasy, but he could not solve them.

Certainly, the invisible orb was _there_, perhaps only some few miles
off; but neither he nor his companions could see it. If there was any
noise on its surface, they could not hear it. Air, that medium of sound,
was wanting to transmit the groanings of that moon which the Arabic
legends call "a man already half granite, and still breathing."

One must allow that that was enough to aggravate the most patient
observers. It was just that unknown hemisphere which was stealing from
their sight. That face which fifteen days sooner, or fifteen days later,
had been, or would be, splendidly illuminated by the solar rays, was then
being lost in utter darkness. In fifteen days where would the projectile
be? Who could say? Where would the chances of conflicting attractions
have drawn it to? The disappointment of the travellers in the midst of
this utter darkness may be imagined. All observation of the lunar disc
was impossible. The constellations alone claimed all their attention;
and we must allow that the astronomers Faye, Charconac, and Secchi, never
found themselves in circumstances so favourable for their
observation.

Indeed, nothing could equal the splendour of this starry world, bathed
in limpid ether. Its diamonds set in the heavenly vault sparkled
magnificently. The eye took in the firmament from the Southern Cross to
the North Star, those two constellations which in 12,000 years, by reason
of the succession of equinoxes, will resign their part of polar stars,
the one to Canopus in the southern hemisphere, the other to Wega in
the northern. Imagination loses itself in this sublime Infinity, amidst
which the projectile was gravitating, like a new star created by the
hand of man. From a natural cause, these constellations shone with a soft
lustre; they did not _twinkle_, for there was no atmosphere which, by
the intervention of its layers unequally dense and of different degrees
of humidity, produces this scintillation. These stars were soft eyes,
looking out into the dark night, amidst the silence of absolute
space.


Illustration: NOTHING COULD EQUAL THE SPLENDOR OF THIS STARRY WORLD.


Long did the travellers stand mute, watching the constellated firmament,
upon which the moon, like a vast screen, made an enormous black hole.
But at length a painful sensation drew them from their watchings. This
was an intense cold, which soon covered the inside of the glass of the
scuttles with a thick coating of ice. The sun was no longer warming the
projectile with its direct rays, and thus it was losing the heat stored
up in its walls by degrees. This heat was rapidly evaporating into space
by radiation, and a considerably lower temperature was the result. The
humidity of the interior was changed into ice upon contact with the
glass, preventing all observation.

Nicholl consulted the thermometer, and saw that it had fallen to seventeen
degrees (centigrade) below zero.* So that, in spite of the many reasons
for economizing, Barbicane, after having begged light from the gas, was
also obliged to beg for heat. The projectile's low temperature was no
longer endurable. Its tenants would have been frozen to death.

*1° Fahr. (Ed.)

"Well!" observed Michel, "we cannot reasonably complain of the monotony
of our journey! What variety we have had, at least in temperature. Now
we are blinded with light and saturated with heat, like the Indians of
the Pampas! now plunged into profound darkness, amidst the cold like the
Esquimauxs of the north pole. No, indeed! we have no right to complain;
nature does wonders in our honour."

"But," asked Nicholl, "what is the temperature outside?"

"Exactly that of the planetary space," replied Barbicane.

"Then," continued Michel Ardan, "would not this be the time to make the
experiment which we dared not attempt when we were drowned in the sun's
rays?"

"It is now or never," replied Barbicane, "for we are in a good position
to verify the temperature of space, and see if Fourier or Pouillet's
calculations are exact."

"In any case it is cold," said Michel. "See! the steam of the interior
is condensing on the glasses of the scuttles. If the fall continues, the
vapour of our breath will fall in snow around us."

"Let us prepare a thermometer," said Barbicane.

We may imagine that an ordinary thermometer would afford no result under
the circumstances in which this instrument was to be exposed. The mercury
would have been frozen in its ball, as below forty-two degrees below
zero* it is no longer liquid. But Barbicane had furnished himself with
a spirit thermometer on Wafferdin's system, which gives the minima of
excessively low temperatures.

*-44° Fahr.

Before beginning the experiment, this instrument was compared with an
ordinary one, and then Barbicane prepared to use it.

"How shall we set about it?" asked Nicholl.

"Nothing is easier," replied Michel Ardan, who was never at a loss.
"We open the scuttle rapidly; throw out the instrument; it follows the
projectile with exemplary docility; and a quarter of an hour after, draw
it in."

"With the hand?" asked Barbicane.

"With the hand," replied Michel.

"Well then, my friend, do not expose yourself," answered Barbicane, "for
the hand that you draw in again will be nothing but a stump frozen and
deformed by the frightful cold."

"Really!"

"You will feel as if you had had a terrible burn, like that of iron at
a white heat; for whether the heat leaves our bodies briskly or enters
briskly, it is exactly the same thing. Besides, I am not at all certain
that the objects we have thrown out are still following us."

"Why not?" asked Nicholl.

"Because, if we are passing through an atmosphere of the slightest
density, these objects will be retarded. Again, the darkness prevents
our seeing if they still float around us. But in order not to expose
ourselves to the loss of our thermometer, we will fasten it, and we can
then more easily pull it back again."


Illustration: "THE VAPOR OF OUR BREATH WILL FALL IN SNOW
   AROUND US."


Barbicane's advice was followed. Through the scuttle rapidly opened,
Nicholl threw out the instrument which was held by a short cord, so that
it might be more easily drawn up. The scuttle had not been opened more
than a second, but that second had sufficed to let in a most intense
cold.

"The devil!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, "it is cold enough to freeze a white
bear."

Barbicane waited until half an hour had elapsed, which was more than time
enough to allow the instrument to fall to the level of the surrounding
temperature. Then it was rapidly pulled in.

Barbicane calculated the quantity of spirits of wine overflowed into the
little phial soldered to the lower part of the instrument, and said,—

"A hundred and forty degrees centigrade* below zero!"

*-218° Fahr. (Ed.)

M. Pouillet was right and Fourier wrong. That was the undoubted temperature
of the starry space. Such is, perhaps, that of the lunar continents, when
the orb of night has lost by radiation all the heat which fifteen days
of sun have poured into her.



   CHAPTER XV.

   HYPERBOLA OR PARABOLA.


We may, perhaps, be astonished to find Barbicane and his companions so
little occupied with the future reserved for them in their metal prison
which was bearing them through the infinity of space. Instead of asking
where they were going, they passed their time making experiments, as if
they had been quietly installed in their own study.

We might answer that men so strong-minded were above such anxieties—that
they did not trouble themselves about such trifles—and that they had
something else to do than to occupy their minds with the future.

The truth was that they were not masters of their projectile; they could
neither check its course, nor alter its direction.

A sailor can change the head of his ship as he pleases; an aeronaut can
give a vertical motion to his balloon. They, on the contrary, had no power
over their vehicle. Every maneuver was forbidden. Hence the inclination
to let things alone, or as the sailors say, "let her run."

Where did they find themselves at this moment, at eight o'clock in the
morning of the day called upon the earth the 6th of December? Very
certainly in the neighbourhood of the moon, and even near enough for her
to look to them like an enormous black screen upon the firmament. As to
the distance which separated them, it was impossible to estimate it. The
projectile, held by some unaccountable force, had been within four miles
of grazing the satellite's north pole.


Illustration: A DISCUSSION AROSE.


But since entering the cone of shadow these last two hours, had the
distance increased or diminished? Every point of mark was wanting by
which to estimate both the direction and the speed of the projectile.

Perhaps it was rapidly leaving the disc, so that it would soon quit the
pure shadow. Perhaps, again, on the other hand, it might be nearing it
so much that in a short time it might strike some high point on the
invisible hemisphere, which would doubtlessly have ended the journey much
to the detriment of the travellers.

A discussion arose on this subject, and Michel Ardan, always ready with
an explanation, gave it as his opinion that the projectile, held by the
lunar attraction, would end by falling on the surface of the terrestrial
globe like an aërolite.

"First of all, my friend," answered Barbicane, "every aërolite does not
fall to the earth; it is only a small proportion which do so; and if we
had passed into an aërolite, it does not necessarily follow that we
should ever reach the surface of the moon."

"But how if we get near enough?" replied Michel.

"Pure mistake," replied Barbicane. "Have you not seen shooting stars rush
through the sky by thousands at certain seasons?"

"Yes."

"Well, these stars, or rather corpuscules, only shine when they are
heated by gliding over the atmospheric layers. Now, if they enter the
atmosphere, they pass at least within forty miles of the earth, but they
seldom fall upon it. The same with our projectile. It may approach very
near to the moon, and yet not fall upon it."

"But then," asked Michel, "I shall be curious to know how our erring
vehicle will act in space?"

"I see but two hypotheses," replied Barbicane, after some moments'
reflection.

"What are they?"

"The projectile has the choice between two mathematical curves, and it
will follow one or the other according to the speed with which it is
animated, and which at this moment I cannot estimate."

"Yes," said Nicholl, "it will follow either a parabola or a hyperbola."

"Just so," replied Barbicane. "With a certain speed it will assume the
parabola, and with a greater the hyperbola."

"I like those grand words," exclaimed Michel Ardan; "one knows directly
what they mean. And pray what is your parabola, if you please?"

"My friend," answered the captain, "the parabola is a curve of the
second order, the result of the section of a cone intersected by a plane
parallel to one of its sides."

"Ah! ah!" said Michel, in a satisfied tone.

"It is very nearly," continued Nicholl, "the course described by a bomb
launched from a mortar."

"Perfect! And the hyperbola?"

"The hyperbola, Michel, is a curve of the second order, produced by the
intersection of a conic surface and a plane parallel to its axis, and
constitutes two branches separated one from the other, both tending
indefinitely in the two directions."

"Is it possible!" exclaimed Michel Ardan in a serious tone, as if they
had told him of some serious event. "What I particularly like in your
definition of the hyperbola (I was going to say hyperblague) is that it
is still more obscure than the word you pretend to define."

Nicholl and Barbicane cared little for Michel Ardan's fun. They were deep
in a scientific discussion. What curve would the projectile follow? was
their hobby. One maintained the hyperbola, the other the parabola. They
gave each other reasons bristling with _x_. Their arguments were couched
in language which made Michel jump. The discussion was hot, and neither
would give up his chosen curve to his adversary.

This scientific dispute lasted so long that it made Michel very impatient.

"Now, gentlemen cosines, will you cease to throw parabolas and hyperbolas
at each other's heads? I want to understand the only interesting question
in the whole affair. We shall follow one or other of these curves? Good.
But where will they lead us to?"

"Nowhere," replied Nicholl.

"How, nowhere?"

"Evidently," said Barbicane, "they are open curves, which may be prolonged
indefinitely."

"Ah, savants!" cried Michel; "and what are either the one or the other
to us from the moment we know that they equally lead us into infinite
space?"

Barbicane and Nicholl could not forbear smiling. They had just been
creating "art for art's sake." Never had so idle a question been raised
at such an inopportune moment. The sinister truth remained that, whether
hyperbolically or parabolically borne away, the projectile would never
again meet either the earth or the moon.

What would become of these bold travellers in the immediate future? If
they did not die of hunger, if they did not die of thirst, in some days,
when the gas failed, they would die from want of air, unless the cold
had killed them first. Still, important as it was to economize the gas,
the excessive lowness of the surrounding temperature obliged them to
consume a certain quantity. Strictly speaking, they could do without its
_light_, but not without its _heat_. Fortunately the caloric generated by
Reiset's and Regnaut's apparatus raised the temperature of the interior
of the projectile a little, and without much expenditure they were able
to keep it bearable.

But observations had now become very difficult. The dampness of the
projectile was condensed on the windows and congealed immediately. This
cloudiness had to be dispersed continually. In any case they might hope
to be able to discover some phenomena of the highest interest.

But up to this time the disc remained dumb and dark. It did not answer
the multiplicity of questions put by these ardent minds; a matter which
drew this reflection from Michel, apparently a just one,—

"If ever we begin this journey over again, we shall do well to choose
the time when the moon is at the full."

"Certainly," said Nicholl, "that circumstance will be more favourable.
I allow that the moon, immersed in the sun's rays, will not be visible
during the transit, but instead we should see the earth, which would
be full. And what is more, if we were drawn round the moon, as at this
moment, we should at least have the advantage of seeing the invisible
part of her disc magnificently lit."

"Well said, Nicholl," replied Michel Ardan. "What do you think, Barbicane?"

"I think this," answered the grave president: "If ever we begin this
journey again, we shall start at the same time and under the same
conditions. Suppose we had attained our end, would it not have been
better to have found continents in broad daylight than a country plunged
in utter darkness? Would not our first installation have been made under
better circumstances? Yes, evidently. As to the _invisible_ side, we
could have visited it in our exploring expeditions on the lunar globe.
So that the time of the full moon was well chosen. But we ought to have
arrived at the end; and in order to have so arrived, we ought to have
suffered no deviation on the road."

"I have nothing to say to that," answered Michel Ardan. "Here is, however,
a good opportunity lost of observing the other side of the moon."

But the projectile was now describing in the shadow that incalculable
course which no sight-mark would allow them to ascertain. Had its
direction been altered, either by the influence of the lunar attraction,
or by the action of some unknown star? Barbicane could not say. But
a change had taken place in the relative position of the vehicle; and
Barbicane verified it about four in the morning.

The change consisted in this, that the base of the projectile had
turned towards the moon's surface, and was so held by a perpendicular
passing through its axis. The attraction, that is to say the _weight_,
had brought about this alteration. The heaviest part of the projectile
inclined towards the invisible disc as if it would fall upon it.

Was it falling? Were the travellers attaining that much desired end? No.
And the observation of a sign-point, quite inexplicable in itself, showed
Barbicane that his projectile was not nearing the moon, and that it had
shifted by following an almost concentric curve.

This point of mark was a luminous brightness, which Nicholl sighted
suddenly, on the limit of the horizon formed by the black disc. This
point could not be confounded with a star. It was a reddish incandescence
which increased by degrees, a decided proof that the projectile was
shifting towards it and not falling normally on the surface of the moon.

"A volcano! it is a volcano in action!" cried Nicholl; "a disembowelling
of the interior fires of the moon! That world is not quite extinguished."

"Yes, an eruption," replied Barbicane, who was carefully studying the
phenomenon through his night glass. "What should it be, if not a volcano?"

"But, then," said Michel Ardan, "in order to maintain that combustion,
there must be air. So an atmosphere _does_ surround that part of the
moon."

"_Perhaps_ so," replied Barbicane, "but not necessarily. The volcano,
by the decomposition of certain substances, can provide its own oxygen,
and thus throw flames into space. It seems to me that the deflagration,
by the intense brilliancy of the substances in combustion, is produced
in pure oxygen. We must not be in a hurry to proclaim the existence of
a lunar atmosphere."

The fiery mountain must have been situated about the 45° south latitude
on the invisible part of the disc; but, to Barbicane's great displeasure,
the curve which the projectile was describing was taking it far from
the point indicated by the eruption. Thus he could not determine its
nature exactly. Half an hour after being sighted, this luminous point
had disappeared behind the dark horizon; but the verification of this
phenomenon was of considerable consequence in their selenographic studies.
It proved that all heat had not yet disappeared from the bowels of this
globe; and where heat exists, who can affirm that the vegetable kingdom,
nay, even the animal kingdom itself, has not up to this time resisted
all destructive influences? The existence of this volcano in eruption,
unmistakably seen by these earthly savants, would doubtless give rise
to many theories favourable to the grave question of the habitability of
the moon.

Barbicane allowed himself to be carried away by these reflections. He
forgot himself in a deep reverie in which the mysterious destiny of the
lunar world was uppermost. He was seeking to combine together the facts
observed up to that time, when a new incident recalled him briskly to
reality. This incident was more than a cosmical phenomenon; it was a
threatened danger, the consequences of which might be disastrous in the
extreme.

Suddenly, in the midst of the ether, in the profound darkness, an
enormous mass appeared. It was like a moon, but an incandescent moon
whose brilliancy was all the more intolerable as it cut sharply on the
frightful darkness of space. This mass, of a circular form, threw a
light which filled the projectile. The forms of Barbicane, Nicholl, and
Michel Ardan, bathed in its white sheets, assumed that livid spectral
appearance which physicians produce with the fictitious light of alcohol
impregnated with salt.


Illustration: A PREY TO FRIGHTFUL TERROR.


"By Jove!" cried Michel Ardan, "we are hideous. What is that
ill-conditioned moon?"

"A meteor," replied Barbicane.

"A meteor burning in space?"

"Yes."

This shooting globe suddenly appearing in shadow at a distance of at most
200 miles, ought, according to Barbicane, to have a diameter of 2000
yards. It advanced at a speed of about one mile and a half per second.
It cut the projectile's path and must reach it in some minutes. As it
approached it grew to enormous proportions.

Imagine, if possible, the situation of the travellers! It is impossible
to describe it. In spite of their courage, their _sang-froid_, their
carelessness of danger, they were mute, motionless with stiffened limbs,
a prey to frightful terror. Their projectile, the course of which they
could not alter, was rushing straight on this ignited mass, more intense
than the open mouth of an oven. It seemed as though they were being
precipitated towards an abyss of fire.

Barbicane had seized the hands of his two companions, and all three
looked through their half-open eyelids upon that asteroid heated to a
white heat. If thought was not destroyed within them, if their brains
still worked amidst all this awe, they must have given themselves up for
lost.

Two minutes after the sudden appearance of the meteor (to them two
centuries of anguish) the projectile seemed almost about to strike it,
when the globe of fire burst like a bomb, but without making any noise
in that void where sound, which is but the agitation of the layers of
air, could not be generated.

Nicholl uttered a cry, and he and his companions rushed to the scuttle.
What a sight! What pen can describe it? What palette is rich enough in
colours to reproduce so magnificent a spectacle?

It was like the opening of a crater, like the scattering of an immense
conflagration. Thousands of luminous fragments lit up and irradiated
space with their fires. Every size, every colour, was there intermingled.
There were rays of yellow and pale yellow, red, green, grey—a crown
of fireworks of all colours. Of the enormous and much-dreaded globe
there remained nothing but these fragments carried in all directions,
now become asteroids in their turn, some flaming like a sword, some
surrounded by a whitish cloud, and others leaving behind them trains of
brilliant cosmical dust.

These incandescent blocks crossed and struck each other, scattering
still smaller fragments, some of which struck the projectile. Its left
scuttle was even cracked by a violent shock. It seemed to be floating
amidst a hail of howitzer shells, the smallest of which might destroy it
instantly.

The light which saturated the ether was so wonderfully intense, that
Michel, drawing Barbicane and Nicholl to his window, exclaimed, "The
invisible moon, visible at last!"

And through a luminous emanation, which lasted some seconds, the whole
three caught a glimpse of that mysterious disc which the eye of man now
saw for the first time. What could they distinguish at a distance which
they could not estimate? Some lengthened bands along the disc, real clouds
formed in the midst of a very confined atmosphere, from which emerged
not only all the mountains, but also projections of less importance; its
circles, its yawning craters, as capriciously placed as on the visible
surface. Then immense spaces, no longer arid plains, but real seas,
oceans, widely distributed, reflecting on their liquid surface all the
dazzling magic of the fires of space; and, lastly, on the surface of the
continents, large dark masses, looking like immense forests under the
rapid illumination of a brilliance.

Was it an illusion, a mistake, an optical illusion? Could they give a
scientific assent to an observation so superficially obtained? Dared
they pronounce upon the question of its habitability after so slight a
glimpse of the invisible disc?


Illustration: WHAT A SIGHT.


But the lightnings in space subsided by degrees; its accidental
brilliancy died away; the asteroids dispersed in different directions
and were extinguished in the distance. The ether returned to its
accustomed darkness; the stars, eclipsed for a moment, again twinkled in
the firmament, and the disc, so hastily discerned, was again buried in
impenetrable night.



   CHAPTER XVI.

   THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE.


The projectile had just escaped a terrible danger, and a very unforeseen
one. Who would have thought of such a rencontre with meteors? These
erring bodies might create serious perils for the travellers. They were
to them so many sandbanks upon that sea of ether which, less fortunate
than sailors, they could not escape. But did these adventurers complain
of space? No, not since nature had given them the splendid sight of a
cosmical meteor bursting from expansion, since this inimitable firework,
which no Ruggieri could imitate, had lit up for some seconds the invisible
glory of the moon. In that flash, continents, seas, and forests had
become visible to them. Did an atmosphere, then, bring to this unknown
face its life-giving atoms? Questions still insoluble, and for ever
closed against human curiosity!

It was then half past three in the afternoon. The projectile was
following its curvilinear direction round the moon. Had its course been
again altered by the meteor? It was to be feared so. But the projectile
must describe a curve unalterably determined by the laws of mechanical
reasoning. Barbicane was inclined to believe that this curve would be
rather a parabola than a hyperbola. But admitting the parabola, the
projectile must quickly have passed through the cone of shadow projected
into space opposite the sun. This cone, indeed, is very narrow, the
angular diameter of the moon being so little when compared with the
diameter of the orb of day; and up to this time the projectile had
been floating in this deep shadow. Whatever had been its speed (and it
could not have been insignificant) its period of occultation continued.
That was evident, but perhaps that would not have been the case in a
supposed rigidly parabolical trajectory,—a new problem which tormented
Barbicane's brain, imprisoned as he was in a circle of unknowns which he
could not unravel.


Illustration: "THE SUN!"


Neither of the travellers thought of taking an instant's repose. Each
one watched for an unexpected fact, which might throw some new light on
their uranographic studies. About five o'clock, Michel Ardan distributed,
under the name of dinner, some pieces of bread and cold meat, which were
quickly swallowed without either of them abandoning their scuttle, the
glass of which was incessantly encrusted by the condensation of vapour.

About forty-five minutes past five in the evening, Nicholl, armed with
his glass, sighted towards the southern border of the moon, and in the
direction followed by the projectile, some bright points cut upon the
dark shield of the sky. They looked like a succession of sharp points
lengthened into a tremulous line. They were very bright. Such appeared
the terminal line of the moon when in one of her octants.

They could not be mistaken. It was no longer a simple meteor. This
luminous ridge had neither colour nor motion. Nor was it a volcano in
eruption. And Barbicane did not hesitate to pronounce upon it.

"The sun!" he exclaimed.

"What! the sun?" answered Nicholl and Michel Ardan.

"Yes, my friends, it is the radiant orb itself lighting up the summit
of the mountains situated on the southern borders of the moon. We are
evidently nearing the south pole."

"After having passed the north pole," replied Michel. "We have made the
circuit of our satellite, then?"

"Yes, my good Michel."

"Then, no more hyperbolas, no more parabolas, no more open curves to
fear?"

"No, but a _closed_ curve."

"Which is called—"

"An ellipse. Instead of losing itself in interplanetary space, it is
probable that the projectile will describe an elliptical orbit around
the moon."

"Indeed!"

"And that it will become _her_ satellite."

"Moon of the moon!" cried Michel Ardan.

"Only, I would have you observe, my worthy friend," replied Barbicane,
"that we are none the less lost for that."

"Yes, in another manner, and much more pleasantly," answered the careless
Frenchman with his most amiable smile.


Illustration: "LIGHT AND HEAT; ALL LIFE IS CONTAINED IN THEM."



   CHAPTER XVII.

   TYCHO.


At six in the evening the projectile passed the south pole at less than
forty miles off, a distance equal to that already reached at the north
pole. The elliptical curve was being rigidly carried out.

At this moment the travellers once more entered the blessed rays of the
sun. They saw once more those stars which move slowly from east to west.
The radiant orb was saluted by a triple hurrah. With its light it also
sent heat, which soon pierced the metal walls. The glass resumed its
accustomed appearance. The layers of ice melted as if by enchantment; and
immediately, for economy's sake, the gas was put out, the air apparatus
alone consuming its usual quantity.

"Ah!" said Nicholl, "these rays of heat are good. With what impatience
must the Selenites wait the reappearance of the orb of day."

"Yes," replied Michel Ardan, "imbibing as it were the brilliant ether,
light and heat, all life is contained in them."

At this moment the bottom of the projectile deviated somewhat from the
lunar surface, in order to follow the slightly lengthened elliptical
orbit. From this point, had the earth been at the full, Barbicane and
his companions could have seen it, but immersed in the sun's irradiation
she was quite invisible. Another spectacle attracted their attention,
that of the southern part of the moon, brought by the glasses to within
450 yards. They did not again leave the scuttles, and noted every detail
of this fantastical continent.

Mounts Doerfel and Leibnitz formed two separate groups very near the
south pole. The first group extended from the pole to the eighty-fourth
parallel, on the eastern part of the orb; the second occupied the eastern
border, extending from the 65° of latitude to the pole.

On their capriciously formed ridge appeared dazzling sheets, as mentioned
by Pere Secchi. With more certainty than the illustrious Roman astronomer,
Barbicane was enabled to recognize their nature.

"They are snow," he exclaimed.

"Snow?" repeated Nicholl.

"Yes, Nicholl, snow; the surface of which is deeply frozen. See how they
reflect the luminous rays. Cooled lava would never give out such intense
reflection. There must then be water, there must be air on the moon. As
little as you please, but the fact can no longer be contested." No, it
could not be. And if ever Barbicane should see the earth again, his notes
will bear witness to this great fact in his selenographic observations.

These mountains of Doerfel and Leibnitz rose in the midst of plains of a
medium extent, which were bounded by an indefinite succession of circles
and annular ramparts. These two chains are the only ones met with in
this region of circles. Comparatively but slightly marked, they throw up
here and there some sharp points, the highest summit of which attains an
altitude of 24,600 feet.

But the projectile was high above all this landscape, and the projections
disappeared in the intense brilliancy of the disc. And to the eyes of the
travellers there reappeared that original aspect of the lunar landscapes,
raw in tone, without gradation of colours, and without degrees of shadow,
roughly black and white, from the want of diffusion of light.


Illustration: HE DISTINGUISHED ALL THIS.


But the sight of this desolate world did not fail to captivate them by its
very strangeness. They were moving over this region as if they had been
borne on the breath of some storm, watching heights defile under their
feet, piercing the cavities with their eyes, going down into the rifts,
climbing the ramparts, sounding these mysterious holes, and levelling all
cracks. But no trace of vegetation, no appearance of cities; nothing but
stratification, beds of lava, overflowings polished like immense mirrors,
reflecting the sun's rays with overpowering brilliancy. Nothing belonging
to a _living_ world—everything to a dead world, where avalanches,
rolling from the summits of the mountains, would disperse noiselessly at
the bottom of the abyss, retaining the motion, but wanting the sound. In
any case it was the image of death, without its being possible even to
say that life had ever existed there.

Michel Ardan, however, thought he recognized a heap of ruins, to which
he drew Barbicane's attention. It was about the 80th parallel, in 30°
longitude. This heap of stones, rather regularly placed, represented a
vast fortress, overlooking a long rift, which in former days had served
as a bed to the rivers of prehistorical times. Not far from that, rose
to a height of 17,400 feet the annular mountain of Short, equal to the
Asiatic Caucasus. Michel Ardan, with his accustomed ardour, maintained
"the evidences" of his fortress. Beneath it he discerned the dismantled
ramparts of a town; here the still intact arch of a portico, there two
or three columns lying under their base; farther on, a succession of
arches which must have supported the conduit of an aqueduct; in another
part the sunken pillars of a gigantic bridge, run into the thickest parts
of the rift. He distinguished all this, but with so much imagination in
his glance, and through glasses so fantastical, that we must mistrust
his observation. But who could affirm, who would dare to say, that the
amiable fellow did not really see that which his two companions would
not see?

Moments were too precious to be sacrificed in idle discussion. The
Selenite city, whether imaginary or not, had already disappeared afar off.
The distance of the projectile from the lunar disc was on the increase,
and the details of the soil were being lost in a confused jumble. The
reliefs, the circles, the craters and plains alone remained, and still
showed their boundary lines distinctly. At this moment, to the left,
lay extended one of the finest circles of lunar orography, one of the
curiosities of this continent. It was Newton, which Barbicane recognized
without trouble, by referring to the _Mappa Selenographica_.

Newton is situated in exactly 77° south lat., and 16° east long. It
forms an annular crater, the ramparts of which, rising to a height of
21,300 feet, seemed to be impassable.

Barbicane made his companions observe that the height of this mountain
above the surrounding plain was far from equalling the depth of its
crater. This enormous hole was beyond all measurement, and formed a
gloomy abyss, the bottom of which the sun's rays could never reach.
There, according to Humboldt, reigns utter darkness, which the light of
the sun and the earth cannot break. Mythologists could well have made it
the mouth of hell.

"Newton," said Barbicane, "is the most perfect type of these annular
mountains, of which the earth possesses no sample. They prove that
the moon's formation, by means of cooling, is due to violent causes;
for whilst under the pressure of internal fires the reliefs rise to
considerable height, the depths withdraw far below the lunar level."

"I do not dispute the fact," replied Michel Ardan.

Some minutes after passing Newton, the projectile directly overlooked
the annular mountain of Moret. It skirted at some distance the summits
of Blancanus, and at about half-past seven in the evening reached the
circle of Clavius.

This circle, one of the most remarkable of the disc, is situated in 58°
south lat., and 15° east long. Its height is estimated at 22,950 feet.
The travellers, at a distance of twenty-four miles (reduced to four by
their glasses), could admire this vast crater in its entirety.



Illustration: CAN YOU PICTURE TO YOURSELVES?


"Terrestrial volcanoes," said Barbicane, "are but molehills compared
with those of the moon. Measuring the old craters formed by the first
eruptions of Vesuvius and Etna, we find them little more than three miles
in breadth. In France the circle of Cantal measures six miles across; at
Ceyland the circle of the island is forty miles, which is considered the
largest on the globe. What are these diameters against that of Clavius,
which we overlook at this moment?"

"What is its breadth?" asked Nicholl.

"It is 150 miles," replied Barbicane. "This circle is certainly the most
important on the moon, but many others measure 150, 100, or 75 miles."

"Ah! my friends," exclaimed Michel, "can you picture to yourselves what
this now peaceful orb of night must have been when its craters, filled
with thunderings, vomited at the same time smoke and tongues of flame.
What a wonderful spectacle then, and now what decay! This moon is nothing
more than a thin carcase of fireworks, whose squibs, rockets, serpents
and suns, after a superb brilliancy, have left but sadly broken cases.
Who can say the cause, the reason, the motive force of these cataclysms?"

Barbicane was not listening to Michel Ardan; he was contemplating those
ramparts of Clavius, formed by large mountains spread over several
miles. At the bottom of the immense cavity burrowed hundreds of small
extinguished craters, riddling the soil like a colander, and overlooked
by a peak 15,000 feet high.

Around the plain appeared desolate. Nothing so arid as these reliefs,
nothing so sad as these ruins of mountains, and (if we may so express
ourselves) these fragments of peaks and mountains which strewed the soil.
The satellite seemed to have burst at this spot.

The projectile was still advancing, and this movement did not subside.
Circles, craters, and uprooted mountains succeeded each other incessantly.
No more plains; no more seas. A never-ending Switzerland and Norway. And
lastly, in the centre of this region of crevasses, the most splendid
mountain on the lunar disc, the dazzling Tycho, in which posterity will
ever preserve the name of the illustrious Danish astronomer.

In observing the full moon in a cloudless sky no one has failed to remark
this brilliant point of the southern hemisphere. Michel Ardan used every
metaphor that his imagination could supply to designate it by. To him this
Tycho was a focus of light, a centre of irradiation, a crater vomiting
rays. It was the tire of a brilliant wheel, an _asteria_ enclosing the
disc with its silver tentacles, an enormous eye filled with flames, a
glory carved for Pluto's head, a star launched by the Creator's hand,
and crushed against the face of the moon!

Tycho forms such a concentration of light that the inhabitants of the
earth can see it without glasses, though at a distance of 240,000 miles!
Imagine, then, its intensity to the eye of observers placed at a distance
of only fifty miles! Seen through this pure ether, its brilliancy was so
intolerable that Barbicane and his friends were obliged to blacken their
glasses with the gas smoke before they could bear the splendour. Then
silent, scarcely uttering an interjection of admiration, they gazed, they
contemplated. All their feelings, all their impressions, were concentrated
in that look, as under any violent emotion all life is concentrated at
the heart.

Tycho belongs to the system of radiating mountains, like Aristarchus
and Copernicus; but it is of all the most complete and decided, showing
unquestionably the frightful volcanic action to which the formation of
the moon is due. Tycho is situated in 43° south lat., and 12° east
long. Its centre is occupied by a crater fifty miles broad. It assumes
a slightly elliptical form, and is surrounded by an enclosure of annular
ramparts, which on the east and west overlook the outer plain from a
height of 15,000 feet. It is a group of Mont Blancs, placed round one
common centre and crowned by radiating beams.

What this incomparable mountain really is, with all the projections
converging towards it, and the interior excrescences of its crater,
photography itself could never represent. Indeed, it is during the full
moon that Tycho is seen in all its splendour. Then all shadows disappear,
the foreshortening of perspective disappears, and all proofs become
white—a disagreeable fact; for this strange region would have been
marvellous if reproduced with photographic exactness. It is but a group
of hollows, craters, circles, a network of crests; then, as far as the
eye could see, a whole volcanic network cast upon this encrusted soil.
One can then understand that the bubbles of this central eruption have
kept their first form. Crystallized by cooling, they have stereotyped
that aspect which the moon formerly presented when under the Plutonian
forces.

The distance which separated the travellers from the annular summits of
Tycho was not so great but that they could catch the principal details.
Even on the causeway forming the fortifications of Tycho, the mountains
hanging on to the interior and exterior sloping flanks rose in stories
like gigantic terraces. They appeared to be higher by 300 or 400 feet
to the west than to the east. No system of terrestrial encampment could
equal these natural fortifications. A town built at the bottom of this
circular cavity would have been utterly inaccessible.

Inaccessible and wonderfully extended over this soil covered with
picturesque projections! Indeed, nature had not left the bottom of
this crater flat and empty. It possessed its own peculiar orography, a
mountainous system, making it a world in itself. The travellers could
distinguish clearly cones, central hills, remarkable positions of the soil,
naturally placed to receive the chefs-d'œuvre of Selenite architecture.
There was marked out the place for a temple, here the ground of a forum,
on this spot the plan of a palace, in another the plateau for a citadel;
the whole overlooked by a central mountain of 1500 feet. A vast circle,
in which ancient Rome could have been held in its entirety ten times
over.

"Ah!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, enthusiastic at the sight; "what a grand
town might be constructed within that ring of mountains! A quiet city,
a peaceful refuge, beyond all human misery. How calm and isolated those
misanthropes, those haters of humanity might live there, and all who have
a distaste for social life!"

"All! It would be too small for them," replied Barbicane simply.



   CHAPTER XVIII.

   GRAVE QUESTIONS.


But the projectile had passed the enceinte of Tycho, and Barbicane and
his two companions watched with scrupulous attention the brilliant rays
which the celebrated mountain shed so curiously all over the horizon.

What was this radiant glory? What geological phenomenon had designed
these ardent beams? This question occupied Barbicane's mind.

Under his eyes ran in all directions luminous furrows, raised at the edges
and concave in the centre, some twelve miles, others thirty miles broad.
These brilliant trains extended in some places to within 600 miles of
Tycho, and seemed to cover, particularly towards the east, the northeast
and the north, the half of the southern hemisphere. One of these jets
extended as far as the circle of Neander, situated on the 40th meridian.
Another by a slight curve furrowed the Sea of Nectar, breaking against
the chain of Pyrenees, after a circuit of 800 miles. Others, towards the
west, covered the Sea of Clouds and the Sea of Humours with a luminous
network. What was the origin of these sparkling rays, which shone on the
plains as well as on the reliefs, at whatever height they might be? All
started from a common centre, the crater of Tycho. They sprang from him.
Herschel attributed their brilliancy to currents of lava congealed by the
cold; an opinion, however, which has not been generally adopted. Other
astronomers have seen in these inexplicable rays a kind of _moraines_,
rows of erratic blocks, which had been thrown up at the period of Tycho's
formation.

"And why not?" asked Nicholl of Barbicane, who was relating and rejecting
these different opinions.

"Because the regularity of these luminous lines, and the violence
necessary to carry volcanic matter to such distances, is inexplicable."

"Eh! by Jove!" replied Michel Ardan, "it seems easy enough to me to
explain the origin of these rays."

"Indeed?" said Barbicane.

"Indeed," continued Michel. "It is enough to say that it is a vast star,
similar to that produced by a ball or a stone thrown at a square of
glass!"

"Well!" replied Barbicane, smiling. "And what hand would be powerful
enough to throw a ball to give such a shock as that?"

"The hand is not necessary," answered Nicholl, not at all confounded;
"and as to the stone, let us suppose it to be a comet."

"Ah! those much-abused comets!" exclaimed Barbicane. "My brave Michel,
your explanation is not bad; but your comet is useless. The shock which
produced that rent must have come from the inside of the star. A violent
contraction of the lunar crust, while cooling, might suffice to imprint
this gigantic star."

"A contraction! something like a lunar stomach-ache," said Michel Ardan.

"Besides," added Barbicane, "this opinion is that of an English savant,
Nasmyth, and it seems to me to sufficiently explain the radiation of
these mountains."

"That Nasmyth was no fool!" replied Michel.

Long did the travellers, whom such a sight could never weary, admire
the splendours of Tycho. Their projectile, saturated with luminous
gleams in the double irradiation of sun and moon, must have appeared
like an incandescent globe. They had passed suddenly from excessive cold
to intense heat. Nature was thus preparing them to become Selenites.
Become Selenites! That idea brought up once more the question of the
habitability of the moon. After what they had seen, could the travellers
solve it? Would they decide for or against it? Michel Ardan persuaded his
two friends to form an opinion, and asked them directly if they thought
that men and animals were represented in the lunar world.


Illustration: A VIOLENT CONTRACTION OF THE LUNAR CRUST.


"I think that we can answer," said Barbicane; "but according to my
idea the question ought not to be put in that form. I ask it to be put
differently."

"Put it your own way," replied Michel.

"Here it is," continued Barbicane. "The problem is a double one, and
requires a double solution. Is the moon _habitable?_ Has the moon ever
been _inhabitable?_"

"Good!" replied Nicholl. "First let us see whether the moon is habitable."

"To tell the truth, I know nothing about it," answered Michel.

"And I answer in the negative," continued Barbicane. "In her actual
state, with her surrounding atmosphere certainly very much reduced,
her seas for the most part dried up, her insufficient supply of water
restricted, vegetation, sudden alterations of cold and heat, her days
and nights of 354 hours; the moon does not seem habitable to me, nor does
she seem propitious to animal development, nor sufficient for the wants
of existence as we understand it."

"Agreed," replied Nicholl. "But is not the moon habitable for creatures
differently organized from ourselves?"

"That question is more difficult to answer, but I will try; and I ask
Nicholl if _motion_ appears to him to be a necessary result of _life_,
whatever be its organization?"

"Without a doubt!" answered Nicholl.

"Then, my worthy companion, I would answer that we have observed the
lunar continent at a distance of 500 yards at most, and that nothing
seemed to us to move on the moon's surface. The presence of any kind
of life would have been betrayed by its attendant marks, such as divers
buildings, and even by ruins. And what have we seen? Everywhere and always
the geological works of nature, never the work of man. If, then, there
exist representatives of the animal kingdom on the moon, they must have
fled to those unfathomable cavities which the eye cannot reach; which
I cannot admit, for they must have left traces of their passage on those
plains which the atmosphere must cover, however slightly raised it may be.
These traces are nowhere visible. There remains but one hypothesis, that
of a living race to which motion, which is life, is foreign."

"One might as well say, living creatures which do not live," replied
Michel.

"Just so," said Barbicane, "which for us has no meaning."

"Then we may form our opinion?" said Michel.

"Yes," replied Nicholl.

"Very well," continued Michel Ardan, "the Scientific Commission assembled
in the projectile of the Gun Club, after having founded their argument
on facts recently observed, decide unanimously upon the question of the
habitability of the moon—_'No!_ the moon is not habitable.'"

This decision was consigned by President Barbicane to his notebook, where
the process of the sitting of the 6th of December may be seen.

"Now," said Nicholl, "let us attack the second question, an indispensable
complement of the first. I ask the honourable Commission, if the moon is
not habitable, has she ever been inhabited, Citizen Barbicane?"

"My friends," replied Barbicane, "I did not undertake this journey in
order to form an opinion on the past habitability of our satellite; but I
will add that our personal observations only confirm me in this opinion.
I believe, indeed I affirm, that the moon has been inhabited by a human
race organized like our own; that she has produced animals anatomically
formed like the terrestrial animals; but I add that these races, human
or animal, have had their day, and are now for ever extinct!"

"Then," asked Michel, "the moon must be older than the earth?"

"No!" said Barbicane decidedly, "but a world which has grown old quicker,
and whose formation and deformation have been more rapid. Relatively,
the organizing force of matter has been much more violent in the interior
of the moon than in the interior of the terrestrial globe. The actual
state of this cracked twisted, and burst disc abundantly proves this.
The moon and the earth were nothing but gaseous masses originally. These
gases have passed into a liquid state under different influences, and
the solid masses have been formed later. But most certainly our sphere
was still gaseous or liquid, when the moon was solidified by cooling,
and had become habitable."

"I believe it," said Nicholl.

"Then," continued Barbicane, "an atmosphere surrounded it, the waters
contained within this gaseous envelope could not evaporate. Under the
influence of air, water, light, solar heat, and central heat, vegetation
took possession of the continents prepared to receive it, and certainly
life showed itself about this period, for nature does not expend herself
in vain; and a world so wonderfully formed for habitation must necessarily
be inhabited.

"But," said Nicholl, "many phenomena inherent in our satellite might
cramp the expansion of the animal and vegetable kingdom. For example,
its days and nights of 354 hours?"

"At the terrestrial poles they last six months," said Michel.

"An argument of little value, since the poles are not inhabited."

"Let us observe, my friends," continued Barbicane, "that if in the actual
state of the moon its long nights and long days created differences
of temperature insupportable to organization, it was not so at the
historical period of time. The atmosphere enveloped the disc with a
fluid mantle; vapour deposited itself in the shape of clouds; this
natural screen tempered the ardour of the solar rays, and retained the
nocturnal radiation. Light, like heat, can diffuse itself in the air;
hence an equality between the influences which no longer exists, now that
that atmosphere has almost entirely disappeared. And now I am going to
astonish you."

"Astonish us?" said Michel Ardan.

"I firmly believe that at the period when the moon was inhabited, the
nights and days did not last 354 hours!"

"And why?" asked Nicholl quickly.

"Because most probably then the rotary motion of the moon upon her axis
was not equal to her revolution, an equality which presents each part of
her disc during fifteen days to the action of the solar rays."

"Granted," replied Nicholl, "but why should not these two motions have
been equal, as they are really so?"

"Because that equality has only been determined by terrestrial attraction.
And who can say that this attraction was powerful enough to alter the
motion of the moon at that period when the earth was still fluid?"

"Just so," replied Nicholl; "and who can say that the moon has always
been a satellite of the earth?"

"And who can say," exclaimed Michel Ardan, "that the moon did not exist
before the earth?"

Their imaginations carried them away into an indefinite field of
hypothesis. Barbicane sought to restrain them.

"Those speculations are too high," said he; "problems utterly insoluble.
Do not let us enter upon them. Let us only admit the insufficiency of the
primordial attraction; and then by the inequality of the two motions of
rotation and revolution, the days and nights could have succeeded each
other on the moon as they succeed each other on the earth. Besides, even
without these conditions, life was possible."

"And so," asked Michel Ardan, "humanity has disappeared from the moon?"

"Yes," replied Barbicane, "after having doubtless remained persistently
for millions of centuries; by degrees the atmosphere becoming rarefied,
the disc became uninhabitable, as the terrestrial globe will one day
become by cooling."

"By cooling?"

"Certainly," replied Barbicane; "as the internal fires became extinguished,
and the incandescent matter concentrated itself, the lunar crust cooled.
By degrees the consequences of these phenomena showed themselves in the
disappearance of organized beings, and by the disappearance of vegetation.
Soon the atmosphere was rarefied, probably withdrawn by terrestrial
attraction; then aerial departure of respirable air, and disappearance
of water by means of evaporation. At this period the moon becoming
uninhabitable, was no longer inhabited. It was a dead world, such as we
see it to-day."

"And you say that the same fate is in store for the earth?"

"Most probably."

"But when?"

"When the cooling of its crust shall have made it uninhabitable."

"And have they calculated the time which our unfortunate sphere will take
to cool?"

"Certainly."

"And you know these calculations?"

"Perfectly."

"But speak, then, my clumsy savant," exclaimed Michel Ardan, "for you
make me boil with impatience!"

"Very well, my good Michel," replied Barbicane quietly, "we know what
diminution of temperature the earth undergoes in the lapse of a century.
And according to certain calculations, this mean temperature will, after
a period of 400,000 years, be brought down to zero!"

"Four hundred thousand years!" exclaimed Michel. "Ah! I breathe again.
Really I was frightened to hear you; I imagined that we had not more than
50,000 years to live."

Barbicane and Nicholl could not help laughing at their companion's
uneasiness. Then Nicholl, who wished to end the discussion, put the
second question, which had just been considered again.

"Has the moon been inhabited?" he asked.

The answer was unanimously in the affirmative. But during this discussion,
fruitful in somewhat hazardous theories, the projectile was rapidly
leaving the moon; the lineaments faded away from the travellers' eyes,
mountains were confused in the distance; and of all the wonderful,
strange, and fantastical form of the earth's satellite, there soon
remained nothing but the imperishable remembrance.



   CHAPTER XIX.

   A STRUGGLE AGAINST THE IMPOSSIBLE.


For a long time Barbicane and his companions looked silently and sadly
upon that world which they had only seen from a distance, as Moses saw
the land of Canaan, and which they were leaving without a possibility of
ever returning to it. The projectile's position with regard to the moon
had altered, and the base was now turned to the earth.

This change, which Barbicane verified, did not fail to surprise them.
If the projectile was to gravitate round the satellite in an elliptical
orbit, why was not its heaviest part turned towards it, as the moon turns
hers to the earth? That was a difficult point.

In watching the course of the projectile they could see that on leaving
the moon it followed a course analogous to that traced in approaching
her. It was describing a very long ellipse, which would most likely
extend to the point of equal attraction, where the influences of the
earth and its satellite are neutralized.

Such was the conclusion which Barbicane very justly drew from facts
already observed, a conviction which his two friends shared with him.

"And when arrived at this dead point, what will become of us?" asked
Michel Ardan.

"We don't know," replied Barbicane.

"But one can draw some hypotheses, I suppose?"

"Two," answered Barbicane; "either the projectile's speed will be
insufficient, and it will remain for immovable on this line of double
attraction—"

"I prefer the other hypothesis, whatever it may be," interrupted Michel.

"Or," continued Barbicane, "its speed will be sufficient, and it will
continue its elliptical course, to gravitate for ever around the orb of
night."

"A revolution not at all consoling," said Michel, "to pass to the state
of humble servants to a moon whom we are accustomed to look upon as our
own handmaid. So that is the fate in store for us?"

Neither Barbicane nor Nicholl answered.

"You do not answer," continued Michel impatiently.

"There is nothing to answer," said Nicholl.

"Is there nothing to try?"

"No," answered Barbicane. "Do you pretend to fight against the impossible?"

"Why not? Do one Frenchman and two Americans shrink from such a word?"

"But what would you do?"

"Subdue this motion which is bearing us away."

"Subdue it?"

"Yes," continued Michel, getting animated, "or else alter it, and employ
it to the accomplishment of our own ends."

"And how?"

"That is your affair. If artillerymen are not masters of their projectile
they are not artillerymen. If the projectile is to command the gunner,
we had better ram the gunner into the gun. My faith! fine savants! who
do not know what is to become of us after inducing me—"

"Inducing you!" cried Barbicane and Nicholl. "Inducing you! What do you
mean by that?"

"No recrimination," said Michel. "I do not complain; the trip has pleased
me, the projectile agrees with me; but let us do all that is humanly
possible to do to fall somewhere, even if only on the moon."


Illustration: AROUND THE PROJECTILE WERE THE OBJECTS WHICH
   HAD BEEN THROWN OUT.


"We ask no better, my worthy Michel," replied Barbicane, "but means fail
us."

"We cannot alter the motion of the projectile?"

"No."

"Nor diminish its speed?"

"No."

"Not even by lightening it, as they lighten an overloaded vessel?"

"What would you throw out?" said Nicholl. "We have no ballast on board;
and indeed it seems to me that if lightened it would go much quicker."

"Slower."

"Quicker."

"Neither slower nor quicker," said Barbicane, wishing to make his two
friends agree; "for we float in space, and must no longer consider
specific weight."

"Very well," cried Michel Ardan in a decided voice; "then there remains
but one thing to do."

"What is it?" said Nicholl.

"Breakfast," answered the cool, audacious Frenchman, who always brought
up this solution at the most difficult juncture.

In any case, if this operation had no influence on the projectile's
course, it could at least be tried without inconvenience, and even with
success from a stomachic point of view. Certainly Michel had none but
good ideas.

They breakfasted then at two in the morning; the hour mattered little.
Michel served his usual repast, crowned by a glorious bottle drawn from
his private cellar. If ideas did not crowd on their brains, we must
despair of the Chambertin of 1853. The repast finished, observations
began again. Around the projectile, at an invariable distance, were
the objects which had been thrown out. Evidently, in its translatory
motion round the moon, it had not passed through any atmosphere, for
the specific weight of these different objects would have checked their
relative speed.

On the side of the terrestrial sphere nothing was to be seen. The earth
was but a day old, having been new the night before at twelve; and two
days must elapse before its crescent, freed from the solar rays, would
serve as a clock to the Selenites, as in its rotary movement each of its
points after twenty-four hours repasses the same lunar meridian.

On the moon's side the sight was different; the orb shone in all her
splendour amidst innumerable constellations, whose purity could not be
troubled by her rays. On the disc, the plains were already returning to
the dark tint which is seen from the earth. The other part of the nimbus
remained brilliant, and in the midst of this general brilliancy Tycho
shone prominently like a sun.

Barbicane had no means of estimating the projectile's speed, but
reasoning showed that it must uniformly decrease, according to the laws of
mechanical reasoning. Having admitted that the projectile was describing
an orbit round the moon, this orbit must necessarily be elliptical;
science proves that it must be so. No motive body circulating round an
attracting body fails in this law. Every orbit described in space is
elliptical. And why should the projectile of the Gun Club escape this
natural arrangement? In elliptical orbits, the attracting body always
occupies one of the foci; so that at one moment the satellite is nearer,
and at another farther from the orb around which it gravitates. When the
earth is nearest the sun she is in her perihelion; and in her aphelion
at the farthest point. Speaking of the moon, she is nearest to the earth
in her perigee, and farthest from it in her apogee. To use analogous
expressions, with which the astronomers' language is enriched, if the
projectile remains as a satellite of the moon, we must say that it is
in its "aposelene" at its farthest point, and in its "periselene" at its
nearest. In the latter case, the projectile would attain its maximum of
speed; and in the former its minimum. It was evidently moving towards
its aposelenitical point; and Barbicane had reason to think that its
speed would decrease up to this point, and then increase by degrees as
it neared the moon. This speed would even become _nil_, if this point
joined that of equal attraction. Barbicane studied the consequences of
these different situations, and thinking what inference he could draw
from them, when he was roughly disturbed by a cry from Michel Ardan.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed, "I must admit we are downright simpletons!"

"I do not say we are not," replied Barbicane; "but why?"

"Because we have a very simple means of checking this speed which is
bearing us from the moon, and we do not use it!"

"And what is the means?"

"To use the recoil contained in our rockets."

"Done!" said Nicholl.

"We have not used this force yet," said Barbicane, "it is true, but we
will do so."

"When?" asked Michel.

"When the time comes. Observe, my friends, that in the position occupied
by the projectile, an oblique position with regard to the lunar disc,
our rockets, in slightly altering its direction, might turn it from the
moon instead of drawing it nearer?"

"Just so," replied Michel.

"Let us wait, then. By some inexplicable influence, the projectile is
turning its base towards the earth. It is probable that at the point
of equal attraction, its conical cap will be directed rigidly towards
the moon; at that moment we may hope that its speed will be _nil_; then
will be the moment to act, and with the influence of our rockets we may
perhaps provoke a fall directly on the surface of the lunar disc."

"Bravo!" said Michel. "What we did not do, what we could not do on our
first passage at the dead point, because the projectile was then endowed
with too great a speed."

"Very well reasoned," said Nicholl.

"Let us wait patiently," continued Barbicane. "Putting every chance on
our side, and after having so much despaired, I may say I think that we
shall gain our end."

This conclusion was a signal for Michel Ardan's hips and hurrahs. And
none of the audacious boobies remembered the question that they themselves
had solved in the negative. No! the moon is not inhabited; no! the moon
is probably not habitable. And yet they were going to try every thing to
reach her.

One single question remained to be solved. At what precise moment the
projectile would reach the point of equal attraction, on which the
travellers must play their last card. In order to calculate this to
within a few seconds, Barbicane had only to refer to his notes, and
to reckon the different heights taken on the lunar parallels. Thus the
time necessary to travel over the distance between the dead point and
the south pole would be equal to the distance separating the north pole
from the dead point. The hours representing the time travelled over
were carefully noted, and the calculation was easy. Barbicane found that
this point would be reached at one in the morning on the night of the
7th—8th of December. So that, if nothing interfered with its course,
it would reach the given point in twenty-two hours.

The rockets had primarily been placed to check the fall of the projectile
upon the moon, and now they were going to employ them for a directly
contrary purpose. In any case they were ready, and they had only to wait
for the moment to set fire to them.

"Since there is nothing else to be done," said Nicholl, "I make a
proposition."

"What is it?" asked Barbicane.

"I propose to go to sleep."

"What a motion!" exclaimed Michel Ardan.

"It is forty hours since we closed our eyes," said Nicholl. "Some hours
of sleep will restore our strength."


Illustration: "THESE PRACTICAL PEOPLE HAVE SOMETIMES MOST
   OPPORTUNE IDEAS."


"Never," interrupted Michel.

"Well," continued Nicholl, "every one to his taste; I shall go to sleep."
And stretching himself on the divan, he soon snored like a forty-eight
pounder.

"That Nicholl has a good deal of sense," said Barbicane, "presently I
shall follow his example." Some moments after his continued base supported
the captain's barytone.

"Certainly," said Michel Ardan, finding himself alone, "these practical
people have sometimes most opportune ideas."

And with his long legs stretched out, and his great arms folded under
his head, Michel slept in his turn.

But this sleep could be neither peaceful nor lasting, the minds of these
three men were too much occupied, and some hours after, about seven in
the morning, all three were on foot at the same instant.

The projectile was still leaving the moon, and turning its conical part
more and more towards her.

An explicable phenomenon, but one which happily served Barbicane's ends.

Seventeen hours more, and the moment for action would have arrived.

The day seemed long. However bold the travellers might be, they were
greatly impressed by the approach of that moment which would decide
all—either precipitate their fall on to the moon, or for ever chain
them in an immutable orbit. They counted the hours as they passed too
slow for their wish; Barbicane and Nicholl were obstinately plunged in
their calculations, Michel going and coming between the narrow walls,
and watching that impassive moon with a longing eye.

At times recollections of the earth crossed their minds. They saw once
more their friends of the Gun Club, and the dearest of all, J. T. Maston.
At that moment, the honourable secretary must be filling his post on
the Rocky Mountains. If he could see the projectile through the glass of
his gigantic telescope, what would he think? After seeing it disappear
behind the moon's south pole, he would see them reappear by the north
pole! They must therefore be a satellite of a satellite! Had J. T. Maston
given this unexpected news to the world? Was this the dénouement of this
great enterprise?

But the day passed without incident. The terrestrial midnight arrived.
The 8th of December was beginning. One hour more, and the point of equal
attraction would be reached. What speed would then animate the projectile?
They could not estimate it. But no error could vitiate Barbicane's
calculations. At one in the morning this speed ought to be and would be
_nil._

Besides, another phenomenon would mark the projectile's stopping-point on
the neutral line. At that spot the two attractions, lunar and terrestrial,
would be annulled. Objects would "weigh" no more. This singular fact,
which had surprised Barbicane and his companions so much in going, would
be repeated on their return under the very same conditions. At this
precise moment they must act.

Already the projectile's conical top was sensibly turned towards the
lunar disc, presented in such a way as to utilize the whole of the recoil
produced by the pressure of the rocket apparatus. The chances were in
favour of the travellers. If its speed was utterly annulled on this dead
point, a decided movement towards the moon would suffice, however slight,
to determine its fall.

"Five minutes to one," said Nicholl.

"All is ready," replied Michel Ardan, directing a lighted match to the
flame of the gas.

"Wait!" said Barbicane, holding his chronometer in his hand.

At that moment weight had no effect. The travellers felt in themselves
the entire disappearance of it. They were very near the neutral point,
if they did not touch it.

"One o'clock," said Barbicane.

Michel Ardan applied the lighted match to a train in communication with
the rockets. No detonation was heard in the inside, for there was no air.
But, through the scuttles Barbicane saw a prolonged smoke, the flames of
which were immediately extinguished.


Illustration: ARDEN APPLIED THE LIGHTED MATCH.


The projectile sustained a certain shock, which was sensibly felt in the
interior.

The three friends looked and listened without speaking, and scarcely
breathing. One might have heard the beating of their hearts amidst this
perfect silence.

"Are we falling?" asked Michel Ardan, at length.

"No," said Nicholl, "since the bottom of the projectile is not turning
to the lunar disc!"

At this moment, Barbicane, quitting the scuttle, turned to his two
companions. He was frightfully pale, his forehead wrinkled, and his lips
contracted.

"We are falling!" said he.

"Ah!" cried Michel Ardan, "on to the moon?"

"On to the earth!"

"The devil!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, adding philosophically, "well, when
we came into this projectile we were very doubtful as to the ease with
which we should get out of it!"

And now this fearful fall had begun. The speed retained had borne the
projectile beyond the dead point. The explosion of the rockets could not
divert its course. This speed in going had carried it over the neutral
line, and in returning had done the same thing. The laws of physics
condemned _it to pass through every point which it had already gone
through_. It was a terrible fall, from a height of 160,000 miles, and no
springs to break it. According to the laws of gunnery, the projectile
must strike the earth with a speed equal to that with which it left the
mouth of the Columbiad, a speed of 16,000 yards in the last second.

But to give some figures of comparison, it has been reckoned that an
object thrown from the top of the towers of Notre Dame, the height of
which is only 200 feet, will arrive on the pavement at a speed of 240
miles per hour. Here the projectile must strike the earth with a speed
of 115,200 miles per hour.

"We are lost!" said Michel coolly.

"Very well! if we die," answered Barbicane, with a sort of religious
enthusiasm, "the result of our travels will be magnificently spread.
It is His own secret that God will tell us! In the other life the soul
will want to know nothing, either of machines or engines! It will be
identified with eternal wisdom!"

"In fact," interrupted Michel Ardan, "the whole of the other world may
well console us for the loss of that inferior orb called the moon!"

Barbicane crossed his arms on his breast, with a motion of sublime
resignation, saying at the same time,—

"The will of heaven be done!"



   CHAPTER XX.

   THE SOUNDINGS OF THE "SUSQUEHANNA."


"Well, lieutenant, and our soundings?"

"I think, sir, that the operation is nearing its completion," replied
Lieutenant Bronsfield. "But who would have thought of finding such a
depth so near in shore, and only 200 miles from the American coast?"

"Certainly, Bronsfield, there is a great depression," said Captain
Blomsberry. "In this spot there is a submarine valley worn by Humboldt's
current, which skirts the coast of America as far as the Straits of
Magellan."

"These great depths," continued the lieutenant, "are not favourable for
laying telegraphic cables. A level bottom, like that supporting the
American cable between Valentia and Newfoundland, is much better."

"I agree with you, Bronsfield. With your permission, lieutenant, where
are we now?"

"Sir, at this moment we have 3508 fathoms of line out, and the ball which
draws the sounding lead has not yet touched the bottom; for if so, it
would have come up of itself."

"Brook's apparatus is very ingenious," said Captain Blomsberry; "it gives
us very exact soundings."

"Touch!" cried at this moment one of the men at the fore-wheel, who was
superintending the operation.

The captain and the lieutenant mounted the quarter-deck. "What depth have
we?" asked the captain.

"Three thousand six hundred and twenty-seven fathoms," replied the
lieutenant, entering it in his note-book.

"Well, Bronsfield," said the captain, "I will take down the result. Now
haul in the sounding line. It will be the work of some hours. In that time
the engineer can light the furnaces, and we shall be ready to start as
soon as you have finished. It is ten o'clock, and with your permission,
lieutenant, I will turn in."

"Do so, sir; do so!" replied the lieutenant obligingly.

The captain of the "Susquehanna," as brave a man as need be, and the
humble servant of his officers, returned to his cabin, took a brandy-grog,
which earned for the steward no end of praise, and turned in, not without
having complimented his servant upon his making beds, and slept a peaceful
sleep.

It was then ten at night. The eleventh day of the month of December was
drawing to a close in a magnificent night.

The "Susquehanna," a corvette of 500 horse-power, of the United States'
navy, was occupied in taking soundings in the Pacific Ocean about
200 miles off the American coast, following that long peninsula which
stretches down the coast of New Mexico.

The wind had dropped by degrees. There was no disturbance in the air.
Their pennant hung motionless from the maintop-gallant-mast truck.

Captain Jonathan Blomsberry (cousin-german of Colonel Blomsberry, one of
the most ardent supporters of the Gun Club, who had married an aunt of
the captain and daughter of an honourable Kentucky merchant,)—Captain
Blomsberry could not have wished for finer weather in which to bring to
a close his delicate operations of sounding. His corvette had not even
felt the great tempest, which by sweeping away the groups of clouds on
the Rocky Mountains, had allowed them to observe the course of the famous
projectile.

Everything went well, and with all the fervour of a Presbyterian, he did
not forget to thank heaven for it. The series of soundings taken by the
"Susquehanna," had for its aim the finding of a favourable spot for the
laying of a submarine cable to connect the Hawaiian Islands with the
coast of America.


Illustration: "I FANCY I SEE THEM."


It was a great undertaking, due to the instigation of a powerful company.
Its managing director, the intelligent Cyrus Field, purposed even covering
all the islands of Oceania with a vast electrical network, an immense
enterprise, and one worthy of American genius.

To the corvette Susquehanna had been confided the first operations of
sounding. It was on the night of the 11th—12th of December, she was in
exactly 27° 7' north lat., and 41° 37' west long., on the meridian of
Washington.

The moon, then in her last quarter, was beginning to rise above the
horizon.

After the departure of Captain Blomsberry, the lieutenant and some
officers were standing together on the poop. On the appearance of
the moon, their thoughts turned to that orb which the eyes of a whole
hemisphere were contemplating. The best naval glasses could not have
discovered the projectile wandering around its hemisphere, and yet all
were pointed towards that brilliant disc which millions of eyes were
looking at at the same moment.

"They have been gone ten days," said Lieutenant Bronsfield at last. "What
has become of them?"

"They have arrived, lieutenant," exclaimed a young midshipman, "and
they are doing what all travellers do when they arrive in a new country,
taking a walk!"

"Oh! I am sure of that, if you tell me so, my young friend," said
Lieutenant Bronsfield, smiling.

"But," continued another officer, "their arrival cannot be doubted.
The projectile was to reach the moon when full on the 5th at midnight.
We are now at the 11th of December, which makes six days. And in six
times twenty-four hours, without darkness, one would have time to settle
comfortably. I fancy I see my brave countrymen encamped at the bottom of
some valley, on the borders of a Selenite stream, near a projectile half
buried by its fall amidst volcanic rubbish, Captain Nicholl beginning
his levelling operations, President Barbicane writing out his notes, and
Michel Ardan embalming the lunar solitudes with the perfume of his—"

"Yes! it must be so, it is so!" exclaimed the young midshipman, worked
up to a pitch of enthusiasm by this ideal description of his superior
officer.

"I should like to believe it," replied the lieutenant, who was quite
unmoved. "Unfortunately direct news from the lunar world is still
wanting."

"Beg pardon, lieutenant," said the midshipman, "but cannot President
Barbicane write?"

A burst of laughter greeted this answer.

"No letters!" continued the young man quickly. "The postal administration
has something to see to there."

"Might it not be the telegraphic service that is at fault?" asked one of
the officers ironically.

"Not necessarily," replied the midshipman, not at all confused. "But it
is very easy to set up a graphic communication with the earth."

"And how?"

"By means of the telescope at Long's Peak. You know it brings the moon
to within four miles of the Rocky Mountains, and that it shows objects on
its surface of only nine feet in diameter. Very well; let our industrious
friends construct a gigantic alphabet; let them write words three fathoms
long, and sentences three miles long, and then they can send us news of
themselves?"

The young midshipman, who had a certain amount of imagination, was loudly
applauded; Lieutenant Bronsfield allowing that the idea was possible,
but observing that if by these means they could _receive_ news from the
lunar world they could not send any from the terrestrial, unless the
Selenites had instruments fit for taking distant observations at their
disposal.

"Evidently," said one of the officers; "but what has become of the
travellers? what they have done, what they have seen, that above all
must interest us. Besides, if the experiment has succeeded (which I do
not doubt), they will try it again. The Columbiad is still sunk in the
soil of Florida. It is now only a question of powder and shot; and every
time the moon is at her zenith a cargo of visitors may be sent to her."

"It is clear," replied Lieutenant Bronsfield, "that J. T. Maston will
one day join his friends."

"If he will have me," cried the midshipman, "I am ready!"

"Oh! volunteers will not be wanting," answered Bronsfield; "and if it
were allowed, half of the earth's inhabitants would emigrate to the
moon!"

This conversation between the officers of the Susquehanna was kept up
until nearly one in the morning. We cannot say what blundering systems
were broached, what inconsistent theories advanced by these bold spirits.
Since Barbicane's attempt, nothing seemed impossible to the Americans.
They had already designed an expedition, not only of savants, but of a
whole colony towards the Selenite borders, and a complete army, consisting
of infantry, artillery, and cavalry, to conquer the lunar world.

At one in the morning, the hauling in of the sounding-line was not yet
completed; 1670 fathoms were still out, which would entail some hours'
work. According to the commander's orders, the fires had been lighted,
and steam was being got up. The Susquehanna could have started that very
instant.

At that moment (it was seventeen minutes past one in the morning)
Lieutenant Bronsfield was preparing to leave the watch and return to his
cabin, when his attention was attracted by a distant hissing noise. His
comrades and himself first thought that this hissing was caused by the
letting off of steam; but lifting their heads, they found that the noise
was produced in the highest regions of the air. They had not time to
question each other before the hissing became frightfully intense, and
suddenly there appeared to their dazzled eyes an enormous meteor, ignited
by the rapidity of its course and its friction through the atmospheric
strata.

This fiery mass grew larger to their eyes, and fell, with the noise
of thunder, upon the bowsprit, which it smashed close to the stem, and
buried itself in the waves with a deafening roar!

A few feet nearer, and the Susquehanna would have foundered with all on
board!

At this instant Captain Blomsberry appeared, half dressed, and rushing on
to the forecastle-deck, whither all the officers had hurried, exclaimed,
"With your permission, gentlemen, what has happened?"

And the midshipman, making himself as it were the echo of the body,
cried, "Commander, it is 'they' come back again!"


Illustration: A FEW FEET NEARER.



   CHAPTER XXI.

   J. T. MASTON RECALLED.


"It is 'they' come back again!" the young midshipman had said; and
every one had understood him. No one doubted but that that meteor was
the projectile of the Gun Club. As to the travellers which it enclosed,
opinions were divided regarding their fate.

"They are dead!" said one.

"They are alive!" said another; "the crater is deep, and the shock was
deadened."

"But they must have wanted air," continued a third speaker; "they must
have died of suffocation."

"Burnt!" replied a fourth; "the projectile was nothing but an incandescent
mass as it crossed the atmosphere."

"What does it matter!" they exclaimed unanimously; "living or dead, we
must pull them out!"

But Captain Blomsberry had assembled his officers, and "with their
permission," was holding a council. They must decide upon something
to be done immediately. The more hasty ones were for fishing up the
projectile. A difficult operation, though not an impossible one. But the
corvette had no proper machinery, which must be both fixed and powerful;
so it was resolved that they should put in at the nearest port, and give
information to the Gun Club of the projectile's fall.

This determination was unanimous. The choice of the port had to be
discussed. The neighbouring coast had no anchorage on 27° lat. Higher
up, above the peninsula of Monterey, stands the important town from which
it takes its name; but, seated on the borders of a perfect desert, it
was not connected with the interior by a network of telegraphic wires,
and electricity alone could spread these important news fast enough.

Some degrees above opened the bay of San Francisco. Through the capital
of the gold country communication would be easy with the heart of the
Union. And in less than two days the "Susquehanna," by putting on high
pressure, could arrive in that port. She must therefore start at once.

The fires were made up; they could set off immediately. Two thousand
fathoms of line were still out, which Captain Blomsberry, not wishing to
lose precious time in hauling in, resolved to cut.

"We will fasten the end to a buoy," said he, "and that buoy will show us
the exact spot where the projectile fell."

"Besides," replied Lieutenant Bronsfield, "we have our situation
exact—27° 7' north lat. and 41° 37' west long."

"Well, Mr. Bronsfield," replied the captain, "now, with your permission,
we will have the line cut."

A strong buoy, strengthened by a couple of spars, was thrown into the
ocean. The end of the rope was carefully lashed to it; and, left solely
to the rise and fall of the billows, the buoy would not sensibly deviate
from the spot.

At this moment the engineer sent to inform the captain that steam was
up and they could start, for which agreeable communication the captain
thanked him. The course was then given north-north-east, and the corvette,
wearing, steered at full steam direct for San Francisco. It was three in
the morning.

Four hundred and fifty miles to cross; it was nothing for a good vessel
like the "Susquehanna." In thirty-six hours she had covered that distance;
and on the 14th of December, at twenty-seven minutes past one at night,
she entered the bay of San Francisco.

At the sight of a ship of the national navy arriving at full speed, with
her bowsprit broken, public curiosity was greatly roused. A dense crowd
soon assembled on the quay, waiting for them to disembark.

After casting anchor, Captain Blomsberry and Lieutenant Bronsfield
entered an eight-oared cutter, which soon brought them to land.

They jumped on to the quay.

"The telegraph?" they asked, without answering one of the thousand
questions addressed to them.

The officer of the port conducted them to the telegraph-office through
a concourse of spectators. Blomsberry and Bronsfield entered, while the
crowd crushed each other at the door.

Some minutes later a fourfold telegram was sent out—the first to the
Naval Secretary at Washington; the second to the Vice-President of the Gun
Club, Baltimore; the third to the Hon. J. T. Maston, Long's Peak, Rocky
Mountains; the fourth to the Sub-Director of the Cambridge Observatory,
Massachusetts.

It was worded as follows:—


   "In 20° 7' north lat., and 41° 37' west long., on the 12th of December,
    at 17 past one in the morning, the projectile of the Columbiad fell
        into the Pacific. Send instructions.—Blomsberry, Commander
        'Susquehanna.'"


Five minutes afterwards the whole town of San Francisco learned the news.
Before six in the evening the different States of the Union had heard
the great catastrophe; and after midnight, by the cable, the whole of
Europe knew the result of the great American experiment.

We will not attempt to picture the effect produced on the entire world
by that unexpected denouement.

On receipt of the telegram the Naval Secretary telegraphed to the
Susquehanna to wait in the bay of San Francisco without extinguishing
her fires. Day and night she must be ready to put to sea.

The Cambridge Observatory called a special meeting; and, with that
composure which distinguishes learned bodies in general, peacefully
discussed the scientific bearings of the question. At the Gun Club there
was an explosion. All the gunners were assembled. Vice-President the
Hon. Wilcome was in the act of reading the premature despatch, in which
J. T. Maston and Belfast announced that the projectile had just been
seen in the gigantic reflector of Long's Peak, and also that it was held
by lunar attraction, and was playing the part of under satellite to the
lunar world.

We know the truth on that point.

But on the arrival of Blomsberry's despatch, so decidedly contradicting
J. T. Maston's telegram, two parties were formed in the bosom of the Gun
Club. On one side were those who admitted the fall of the projectile, and
consequently the return of the travellers; on the other, those who believed
in the observations of Long's Peak, concluded that the commander of the
Susquehanna had made a mistake. To the latter the pretended projectile
was nothing but a meteor! nothing but a meteor, a shooting globe, which
in its fall had smashed the bows of the corvette. It was difficult to
answer this argument, for the speed with which it was animated must have
made observation very difficult. The commander of the Susquehanna and
her officers might have made a mistake in all good faith; one argument
however, was in their favour, namely, that if the projectile had fallen
on the earth, its place of meeting with the terrestrial globe could only
take place on this 27° north lat., and (taking into consideration the
time that had elapsed, and the rotary motion of the earth) between the
forty-first and the forty-second degree of west longitude. In any case,
it was decided in the Gun Club that Blomsberry brothers, Bilsby, and
Major Elphinstone should go straight to San Francisco, and consult as to
the means of raising the projectile from the depths of the ocean.

These devoted men set off at once; and the railroad, which will soon
cross the whole of central America, took them as far as St. Louis, where
the swift mail-coaches awaited them. Almost at the same moment in which
the Secretary of Marine, the Vice-President of the Gun Club, and the
Sub-Director of the Observatory received the despatch from San Francisco,
the Honourable J. T. Maston was undergoing the greatest excitement he
had ever experienced in his life, an excitement which even the bursting
of his pet gun, which had more than once nearly cost him his life, had
not caused him. We may remember that the Secretary of the Gun Club had
started soon after the projectile (and almost as quickly) for the station
in Long's Peak, in the Rocky Mountains, J. Belfast, Director of the
Cambridge Observatory, accompanying him. Arrived there, the two friends
had installed themselves at once, never quitting the summit of their
enormous telescope. We know that this gigantic instrument had been set up
according to the reflecting system, called by the English "front view."
This arrangement subjected all objects to but one reflection, making
the view consequently much clearer; the result was that, when they were
taking observations, J. T. Maston and Belfast were placed in the upper
part of the instrument and not in the lower, which they reached by a
circular staircase, a masterpiece of lightness, while below them opened
a metal well terminated by the metallic mirror, which measured 280 feet
in depth.

It was on a narrow platform placed above the telescope that the two
savants passed their existence, execrating the day which hid the moon
from their eyes, and the clouds which obstinately veiled her during the
night.

What, then, was their delight when, after some days of waiting, on the
night of the 5th of December, they saw the vehicle which was bearing their
friends into space! To this delight succeeded a great deception, when,
trusting to a cursory observation, they launched their first telegram
to the world, erroneously affirming that the projectile had become a
satellite of the moon, gravitating in an immutable orbit.

From that moment it had never shown itself to their eyes—a disappearance
all the more easily explained, as it was then passing behind the moon's
invisible disc; but when it was time for it to reappear on the visible
disc, one may imagine the impatience of the fuming J. T. Maston and his
not less impatient companion. Each minute of the night they thought they
saw the projectile once more, and they did not see it. Hence constant
discussions and violent disputes between them, Belfast affirming that
the projectile could not be seen, J. T. Maston maintaining that "it had
put his eyes out."

"It is the projectile!" repeated J. T. Maston.

"No," answered Belfast; "it is an avalanche detached from a lunar
mountain."

"Well, we shall see it to-morrow."

"No, we shall not see it any more. It is carried into space."

"Yes!"

"No!"

And at these moments, when contradictions rained like hail, the well-known
irritability of the Secretary of the Gun Club constituted a permanent
danger for the Honorable Belfast. The existence of these two together
would soon have become impossible; but an unforeseen event cut short
their everlasting discussions.

During the night, from the 14th to the 15th of December, the two
irreconcilable friends were busy observing the lunar disc, J. T. Maston
abusing the learned Belfast as usual, who was by his side; the Secretary
of the Gun Club maintaining for the thousandth time that he had just seen
the projectile, and adding that he could see Michel Ardan's face looking
through one of the scuttles, at the same time enforcing his argument by
a series of gestures which his formidable hook rendered very unpleasant.

At this moment Belfast's servant appeared on the platform (it was
ten at night) and gave him a despatch. It was the commander of the
"Susquehanna's" telegram.

Belfast tore the envelope and read, and uttered a cry.

"What!" said J. T. Maston.


Illustration: THE UNFORTUNATE MAN HAD DISAPPEARED.


"The projectile!"

"Well!"

"Has fallen to the earth!"

Another cry, this time a perfect howl, answered him. He turned towards J.
T. Maston. The unfortunate man, imprudently leaning over the metal tube,
had disappeared in the immense telescope. A fall of 280 feet! Belfast,
dismayed, rushed to the orifice of the reflector.

He breathed. J. T. Maston, caught by his metal hook was holding on by
one of the rings which bound the telescope together, uttering fearful
cries.

Belfast called. Help was brought, tackle was let down, and they hoisted
up, not without some trouble, the imprudent Secretary of the Gun Club.

He reappeared at the upper orifice without hurt.

"Ah!" said he, "if I had broken the mirror?"

"You would have paid for it," replied Belfast severely.

"And that cursed projectile has fallen?" asked J. T. Maston.

"Into the Pacific!"

"Let us go!"

A quarter of an hour after the two savants were descending the declivity
of the Rocky Mountains; and two days after, at the same time as their
friends of the Gun Club, they arrived at San Francisco, having killed
five horses on the road.

Elphinstone, the brothers Blomsberry, and Bilsby rushed towards them on
their arrival.

"What shall we do?" they exclaimed.

"Fish up the projectile," replied J. T. Maston, "and the sooner the
better."



   CHAPTER XXII.

   RECOVERED FROM THE SEA.


The spot where the projectile sank under the waves was exactly known;
but machinery to grasp it and bring it to the surface of the ocean was
still wanting. It must first be invented, then made. American engineers
could not be troubled with such trifles. The grappling-irons once fixed,
by their help they were sure to raise it in spite of its weight, which
was lessened by the density of the liquid in which it was plunged.

But fishing-up the projectile was not the only thing to be thought of.
They must act promptly in the interest of the travellers. No one doubted
that they were still living.

"Yes," repeated J. T. Maston incessantly, whose confidence gained over
everybody, "our friends are clever people, and they cannot have fallen
like simpletons. They are alive, quite alive; but we must make haste if
we wish to find them so. Food and water do not trouble me; they have
enough for a long while. But air, air, that is what they will soon want;
so quick, quick!"

And they did go quick. They fitted up the Susquehanna for her new
destination. Her powerful machinery was brought to bear upon the
hauling-chains. The aluminium projectile only weighed 19,250 lbs., a
weight very inferior to that of the transatlantic cable which had been
drawn up under similar conditions. The only difficulty was in fishing-up
a cylindro-conical projectile, the walls of which were so smooth as to
offer no hold for the hooks. On that account Engineer Murchison hastened
to San Francisco, and had some enormous grappling-irons fixed on an
automatic system, which would never let the projectile go if it once
succeeded in seizing it in its powerful claws. Diving-dresses were also
prepared, which through this impervious covering allowed the divers to
observe the bottom of the sea. He also had put on board an apparatus
of compressed air very cleverly designed. There were perfect chambers
pierced with scuttles, which, with water let into certain compartments,
could draw it down into great depths. These apparatuses were at San
Francisco, where they had been used in the construction of a submarine
breakwater; and very fortunately it was so, for there was no time to
construct any. But in spite of the perfection of the machinery, in spite
of the ingenuity of the savants entrusted with the use of them, the
success of the operation was far from being certain. How great were the
chances against them, the projectile being 20,000 feet under the water!
And if even it was brought to the surface, how would the travellers
have borne the terrible shock which 20,000 feet of water had perhaps
not sufficiently broken? At any rate they must act quickly. J. T. Maston
hurried the workmen day and night. He was ready to don the diving-dress
himself, or try the air apparatus, in order to reconnoitre the situation
of his courageous friends.

But in spite of all diligence displayed in preparing the different
engines, in spite of the considerable sum placed at the disposal of
the Gun Club by the Government of the Union, five long days (five
centuries!) elapsed before the preparations were complete. During this
time public opinion was excited to the highest pitch. Telegrams were
exchanged incessantly throughout the entire world by means of wires and
electric cables. The saving of Barbicane, Nicholl, and Michel Ardan was
an international affair. Every one who had subscribed to the Gun Club
was directly interested in the welfare of the travellers.

At length the hauling-chains, the air-chambers, and the automatic
grappling-irons were put on board. J. T. Maston, Engineer Murchison, and
the delegates of the Gun Club, were already in their cabins. They had
but to start, which they did on the 21st of December, at eight o'clock
at night, the corvette meeting with a beautiful sea, a north-easterly
wind, and rather sharp cold. The whole population of San Francisco was
gathered on the quay, greatly excited but silent, reserving their hurrahs
for the return. Steam was fully up, and the screw of the Susquehanna
carried them briskly out of the bay.

It is needless to relate the conversations on board between the officers,
sailors, and passengers. All these men had but one thought. All these
hearts beat under the same emotion. Whilst they were hastening to help
them, what were Barbicane and his companions doing? What had become
of them? Were they able to attempt any bold maneuver to regain their
liberty? None could say. The truth is that every attempt must have
failed! Immersed nearly four miles under the ocean, this metal prison
defied every effort of its prisoners.

On the 23rd inst., at eight in the morning, after a rapid passage, the
Susquehanna was due at the fatal spot. They must wait till twelve to
take the reckoning exactly. The buoy to which the sounding line had been
lashed had not yet been recognized.

At twelve, Captain Blomsberry, assisted by his officers who superintended
the observations, took the reckoning in the presence of the delegates of
the Gun Club. Then there was a moment of anxiety. Her position decided,
the Susquehanna was found to be some minutes to westward of the spot
where the projectile had disappeared beneath the waves.

The ship's course was then changed so as to reach this exact point.

At forty-seven minutes past twelve they reached the buoy, it was in
perfect condition, and must have shifted but little.

"At last!" exclaimed J. T. Maston.

"Shall we begin?" asked Captain Blomsberry.

"Without losing a second."


Illustration: THE DESCENT BEGAN.


Every precaution was taken to keep the corvette almost completely
motionless. Before trying to seize the projectile, Engineer Murchison
wanted to find its exact position at the bottom of the ocean. The
submarine apparatus destined for this expedition was supplied with air.
The working of these engines was not without danger, for at 20,000 feet
below the surface of the water, and under such great pressure, they were
exposed to fracture, the consequences of which would be dreadful.

J. T. Maston, the Brothers Blomsberry, and Engineer Murchison, without
heeding these dangers, took their places in the air-chamber. The
commander, posted on his bridge, superintended the operation, ready to
stop or haul in the chains on the slightest signal. The screw had been
shipped, and the whole power of the machinery collected on the capstan
would have quickly drawn the apparatus on board. The descent began at
twenty-five minutes past one at night, and the chamber, drawn under by
the reservoirs full of water, disappeared from the surface of the ocean.

The emotion of the officers and sailors on board was now divided between
the prisoners in the projectile and the prisoners in the submarine
apparatus. As to the latter, they forgot themselves, and, glued to the
windows of the scuttles, attentively watched the liquid mass through
which they were passing.

The descent was rapid. At seventeen minutes past two, J. T. Maston
and his companions had reached the bottom of the Pacific; but they saw
nothing but an arid desert, no longer animated by either fauna or flora.
By the light of their lamps, furnished with powerful reflectors, they
could see the dark beds of the ocean for a considerable extent of view,
but the projectile was nowhere to be seen.

The impatience of these bold divers cannot be described, and having an
electrical communication with the corvette, they made a signal already
agreed upon, and for the space of a mile the Susquehanna moved their
chamber along some yards above the bottom.

Thus they explored the whole submarine plain, deceived at every turn by
optical illusions which almost broke their hearts. Here a rock, there a
projection from the ground, seemed to be the much-sought-for projectile;
but their mistake was soon discovered, and then they were in despair.

"But where are they? where are they?" cried J. T. Maston. And the poor
man called loudly upon Nicholl, Barbicane, and Michel Ardan, as if his
unfortunate friends could either hear or answer him through such an
impenetrable medium! The search continued under these conditions until
the vitiated air compelled the divers to ascend.

The hauling in began about six in the evening, and was not ended before
midnight.

"To-morrow," said J. T. Maston, as he set foot on the bridge of the
corvette.

"Yes," answered Captain Blomsberry.

"And on another spot?"

"Yes."

J. T. Maston did not doubt of their final success, but his companions,
no longer upheld by the excitement of the first hours, understood all
the difficulty of the enterprise. What seemed easy at San Francisco,
seemed here in the wide ocean almost impossible. The chances of success
diminished in rapid proportion; and it was from chance alone that the
meeting with the projectile might be expected.

The next day, the 24th, in spite of the fatigue of the previous day, the
operation was renewed. The corvette advanced some minutes to westward,
and the apparatus, provided with air, bore the same explorers to the
depths of the ocean.

The whole day passed in fruitless research; the bed of the sea was a
desert. The 25th brought no other result, nor the 26th.

It was disheartening. They thought of those unfortunates shut up in
the projectile for twenty-six days. Perhaps at that moment they were
experiencing the first approach of suffocation; that is, if they had
escaped the dangers of their fall. The air was spent, and doubtless with
the air all their _morale_.

"The air, possibly," answered J. T. Maston resolutely, "but their _morale_
never!"

On the 28th, after two more days of search, all hope was gone. This
projectile was but an atom in the immensity of the ocean. They must give
up all idea of finding it.

But J. T. Maston would not hear of going away. He would not abandon the
place without at least discovering the tomb of his friends. But Commander
Blomsberry could no longer persist, and in spite of the exclamations of
the worthy Secretary, was obliged to give the order to sail.

On the 29th of December, at nine a.m., the "Susquehanna," heading N.E.,
resumed her course to the bay of San Francisco.

It was ten in the morning; the corvette was under half steam, as if
regretting to leave the spot where the catastrophe had taken place, when
a sailor, perched on the maintop gallant crosstrees, watching the sea,
cried suddenly,—

"A buoy on the lee bow!"

The officers looked in the direction indicated, and by the help of
their glasses saw that the object signalled had the appearance of one
of those buoys which are used to mark the passages of bays or rivers.
But, singularly to say, a flag floating on the wind surmounted its cone,
which emerged five or six feet out of water. This buoy shone under the
rays of the sun as if it had been made of plates of silver. Commander
Blomsberry, J. T. Maston, and the delegates of the Gun Club were mounted
on the bridge, examining this object straying at random on
the waves.

All looked with feverish anxiety, but in silence. None dared give
expression to the thoughts which came to the minds of all.

The corvette approached to within two cables' lengths of the object.

A shudder ran through the whole crew. That flag was the American flag!

At this moment a perfect howling was heard; it was the brave J. T. Maston
who had just fallen all in a heap. Forgetting on the one hand that his
right arm had been replaced by an iron hook, and on the other that a
simple gutta-percha cap covered his brain-box, he had given himself a
formidable blow.

They hurried towards him, picked him up, restored him to life. And what
were his first words?

"Ah! trebly brutes! quadruply idiots! quintuply boobies that we are!"

"What is it?" exclaimed every one around him.

"What is it?"

"Come, speak!"

"It is, simpletons," howled the terrible Secretary, "it is that the
projectile only weighs 19,250 lbs.!"

"Well?"

"And that it displaces twenty-eight tons, or in other words 56,000 lbs.,
and that consequently _it floats!_"

Ah! what stress the worthy man laid on the verb "float!" And it was
true! All, yes! all these savants had forgotten this fundamental law,
namely, that on account of its specific lightness, the projectile, after
having been drawn by its fall to the greatest depths of the ocean, must
naturally return to the surface. And now it was floating quietly at the
mercy of the waves.

The boats were put to sea. J. T. Maston and his friends had rushed into
them! Excitement was at its height! Every heart beat loudly whilst they
advanced to the projectile. What did it contain? Living or dead? Living,
yes! living, at least unless death had struck Barbicane and his two
friends since they had hoisted the flag. Profound silence reigned on
the boats. All were breathless. Eyes no longer saw. One of the scuttles
of the projectile was open. Some pieces of glass remained in the frame,
showing that it had been broken. This scuttle was actually five feet
above the water.

A boat came alongside, that of J. T. Maston, and J. T. Maston rushed to
the broken window.

At that moment they heard a clear and merry voice, the voice of Michel
Ardan, exclaiming in an accent of triumph,—

"White all, Barbicane, white all!"

Barbicane, Michel Ardan, and Nicholl were playing at dominoes!


Illustration: WHITE ALL BARBICANE.



   CHAPTER XXIII.

   THE END


We may remember the intense sympathy which had accompanied the travellers
on their departure. If at the beginning of the enterprise they had excited
such emotion both in the old and new world, with what enthusiasm would
they be received on their return! The millions of spectators which had
beset the peninsula of Florida, would they not rush to meet these sublime
adventurers? Those legions of strangers, hurrying from all parts of the
globe towards the American shores, would they leave the Union without
having seen Barbicane, Nicholl, and Michel Ardan? No! and the ardent
passion of the public was bound to respond worthily to the greatness of
the enterprise. Human creatures who had left the terrestrial sphere, and
returned after this strange voyage into celestial space, could not fail
to be received as the prophet Elias would be if he came back to earth. To
see them first, and then to hear them, such was the universal longing.

Barbicane, Michel Ardan, Nicholl, and the delegates of the Gun Club,
returning without delay to Baltimore, were received with indescribable
enthusiasm. The notes of President Barbicane's voyage were ready to be
given to the public. The _New York Herald_ bought the manuscript at a
price not yet known, but which must have been very high. Indeed, during
the publication of "A Journey to the Moon," the sale of this paper
amounted to five millions of copies. Three days after the return of
the travellers to the earth, the slightest detail of their expedition
was known. There remained nothing more but to see the heroes of this
superhuman enterprise.

The expedition of Barbicane and his friends round the moon had enabled
them to correct the many admitted theories regarding the terrestrial
satellite. These savants had observed _de visu_, and under particular
circumstances. They knew what systems should be rejected, what retained
with regard to the formation of that orb, its origin, its habitability.
Its past, present, and future had even given up their last secrets. Who
could advance objections against conscientious observers, who at less
than twenty-four miles distance had marked that curious mountain of
Tycho, the strangest system of lunar orography? How answer those savants
whose sight had penetrated the abyss of Pluto's circle? How contradict
those bold ones whom the chances of their enterprise had borne over that
invisible face of the disc, which no human eye until then had ever seen?
It was now their turn to impose some limit on that Selenographic science,
which had reconstructed the lunar world as Cuvier did the skeleton of a
fossil, and say, "The moon _was_ this, a habitable world, inhabited before
the earth! The moon _is_ that, a world uninhabitable, and now uninhabited."

To celebrate the return of its most illustrious member and his two
companions, the Gun Club decided upon giving a banquet, but a banquet
worthy of the conquerors, worthy of the American people, and under such
conditions that all the inhabitants of the Union could directly take part
in it.

All the head lines of railroads in the State were joined by flying rails;
and on all the platforms, lined with the same flags, and decorated with
the same ornaments, were tables laid and all served alike. At certain
hours, successively calculated, marked by electric clocks which beat
the seconds at the same time, the population were invited to take their
place at the banquet tables. For four days, from the 5th to the 9th of
January, the trains were stopped as they are on Sundays on the railways
of the United States, and every road was open. One engine only at full
speed, drawing a triumphal carriage, had the right of travelling for
those four days on the railroads of the United States. The engine was
manned by a driver and a stoker, and bore, by special favour, the Hon.
J. T. Maston, Secretary of the Gun Club. The carriage was reserved for
President Barbicane, Colonel Nicholl, and Michel Ardan. At the whistle
of the driver, amid the hurrahs, and all the admiring vociferations
of the American language, the train left the platform of Baltimore. It
travelled at a speed of 160 miles in the hour. But what was this speed
compared with that which had carried the three heroes from the mouth of
the Columbiad?

Thus they sped from one town to the other, finding whole populations
at table on their road, saluting them with the same acclamations,
lavishing the same bravos! They travelled in this way through the east
of the Union, Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, Maine,
and New Hampshire; the north and the west by New York, Ohio, Michigan,
and Wisconsin; returning to the south by Illinois, Missouri, Arkansas,
Texas, and Louisiana; they went to the southeast by Alabama and Florida,
going up by Georgia and the Carolinas, visiting the centre by Tennessee,
Kentucky, Virginia, and Indiana, and, after quitting the Washington
station, re-entered Baltimore, where for four days one would have thought
that the United States of America were seated at one immense banquet,
saluting them simultaneously with the same hurrahs! The apotheosis was
worthy of these three heroes whom fable would have placed in the rank of
demigods.

And now will this attempt, unprecedented in the annals of travels, lead
to any practical result? Will direct communication with the moon ever be
established? Will they ever lay the foundation of a travelling service
through the solar world? Will they go from one planet to another, from
Jupiter to Mercury, and after awhile from one star to another, from the
Polar to Sirius? Will this means of locomotion allow us to visit those
suns which swarm in the firmament?

To such questions no answer can be given. But knowing the bold ingenuity
of the Anglo-Saxon race, no one would be astonished if the Americans seek
to make some use of President Barbicane's attempt.


Illustration: THE APOTHEOSIS WAS WORTHY OF THE THREE HEROES.


Thus, some time after the return of the travellers, the public received
with marked favour the announcement of a company, limited, with a capital
of a hundred million of dollars, divided into a hundred thousand shares
of a thousand dollars each, under the name of the "_National Company
of Interstellary Communication._" President Barbicane; Vice-president,
Captain Nicholl; Secretary, J. T. Maston; Director of Movements, Michel
Ardan.

And as it is part of the American temperament to foresee everything in
business, even failure, the Honourable Harry Trolloppe, judge commissioner,
and Francis Drayton, magistrate, were nominated beforehand!



      *      *      *      *      *      *



Transcriber's note:

Minor inconsistencies in the spelling of character names have been
regularized.

The spelling of the names of historical scientists "Bœer and Moedler"
have been regularized to be consistent as possible with the author's
inconsistent spelling, which today are spelled variously but perhaps
most commonly "Beer and Moedler".

Obvious minor typesetting errors have been silently corrected.





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