Part 7 out of 7
These gases became liquids under different influences, and the solid
mass was formed afterwards. But it is certain that our globe was gas or
liquid still when the moon, already solidified by cooling, became
"I believe that," said Nicholl.
"Then," resumed Barbicane, "it was surrounded by atmosphere. The water
held in by the gassy element could not evaporate. Under the influence of
air, water, light, and heat, solar and central, vegetation took
possession of these continents prepared for its reception, and certainly
life manifested itself about that epoch, for Nature does not spend
itself in inutilities, and a world so marvellously habitable must have
"Still," answered Nicholl, "many phenomena inherent to the movements of
our satellite must have prevented the expansion of the vegetable and
animal kingdoms. The days and nights 354 hours long, for example."
"At the terrestrial poles," said Michel, "they last six months."
"That is not a valuable argument, as the poles are not inhabited."
"In the actual state of the moon," resumed Barbicane, "the long nights
and days create differences of temperature insupportable to the
constitution, but it was not so at that epoch of historical times. The
atmosphere enveloped the disc with a fluid mantle. Vapour deposited
itself in the form of clouds. This natural screen tempered the ardour of
the solar lays, and retained the nocturnal radiation. Both light and
heat could diffuse themselves in the air. Hence there was equilibrium
between the influences which no longer exists now that the atmosphere
has almost entirely disappeared. Besides, I shall astonish you--"
"Astonish us?" said Michel Ardan.
"But I believe that at the epoch when the moon was inhabited the nights
and days did not last 354 hours!"
"Why so?" asked Nicholl quickly.
"Because it is very probable that then the moon's movement of rotation
on her axis was not equal to her movement of revolution, an equality
which puts every point of the lunar disc under the action of the solar
rays for fifteen days."
"Agreed," answered Nicholl; "but why should not these movements have
been equal, since they are so actually?"
"Because that equality has only been determined by terrestrial
attraction. Now, how do we know that this attraction was powerful enough
to influence the movements of the moon at the epoch the earth was still
"True," replied Nicholl; "and who can say that the moon has always been
the earth's satellite?"
"And who can say," exclaimed Michel Ardan, "that the moon did not exist
before the earth?"
Imagination began to wander in the indefinite field of hypotheses.
Barbicane wished to hold them in.
"Those," said he, "are speculations too high, problems really insoluble.
Do not let us enter into them. Let us only admit the insufficiency of
primordial attraction, and then by the inequality of rotation and
revolution days and nights could succeed each other upon the moon as
they do upon the earth. Besides, even under those conditions life was
"Then," asked Michel Ardan, "humanity has quite disappeared from the
"Yes," answered Barbicane, "after having, doubtless, existed for
thousands of centuries. Then gradually the atmosphere becoming rarefied,
the disc will again be uninhabitable like the terrestrial globe will one
day become by cooling."
"Certainly," answered Barbicane. "As the interior fires became
extinguished the incandescent matter was concentrated and the lunar disc
became cool. By degrees the consequences of this phenomenon came
about--the disappearance of organic beings and the disappearance of
vegetation. Soon the atmosphere became rarefied, and was probably drawn
away by terrestrial attraction; the breathable air disappeared, and so
did water by evaporation. At that epoch the moon became uninhabitable,
and was no longer inhabited. It was a dead world like it is to-day."
"And you say that the like fate is reserved for the earth?"
"When the cooling of its crust will have made it uninhabitable."
"Has the time it will take our unfortunate globe to melt been
"And you know the reason?"
"Then tell us, sulky _savant_--you make me boil with impatience."
"Well, my worthy Michel," answered Barbicane tranquilly, "it is well
known what diminution of temperature the earth suffers in the lapse of a
century. Now, according to certain calculations, that average
temperature will be brought down to zero after a period of 400,000
"Four hundred thousand years!" exclaimed Michel. "Ah! I breathe again! I
was really frightened. I imagined from listening to you that we had only
fifty thousand years to live!"
Barbicane and Nicholl could not help laughing at their companion's
uneasiness. Then Nicholl, who wanted to have done with it, reminded them
of the second question to be settled.
"Has the moon been inhabited?" he asked.
The answer was unanimously in the affirmative.
During this discussion, fruitful in somewhat hazardous theories,
although it resumed the general ideas of science on the subject, the
projectile had run rapidly towards the lunar equator, at the same time
that it went farther away from the lunar disc. It had passed the circle
of Willem, and the 40th parallel, at a distance of 400 miles. Then
leaving Pitatus to the right, on the 30th degree, it went along the
south of the Sea of Clouds, of which it had already approached the
north. Different amphitheatres appeared confusedly under the white light
of the full moon--Bouillaud, Purbach, almost square with a central
crater, then Arzachel, whose interior mountain shone with indefinable
At last, as the projectile went farther and farther away, the details
faded from the travellers' eyes, the mountains were confounded in the
distance, and all that remained of the marvellous, fantastical, and
wonderful satellite of the earth was the imperishable remembrance.
A STRUGGLE WITH THE IMPOSSIBLE.
For some time Barbicane and his companions, mute and pensive, looked at
this world, which they had only seen from a distance, like Moses saw
Canaan, and from which they were going away for ever. The position of
the projectile relatively to the moon was modified, and now its lower
end was turned towards the earth.
This change, verified by Barbicane, surprised him greatly. If the bullet
was going to gravitate round the satellite in an elliptical orbit, why
was not its heaviest part turned towards it like the moon to the earth?
There again was an obscure point.
By watching the progress of the projectile they could see that it was
following away from the moon an analogous curve to that by which it
approached her. It was, therefore, describing a very long ellipsis which
would probably extend to the point of equal attraction, where the
influences of the earth and her satellite are neutralised.
Such was the conclusion which Barbicane correctly drew from the facts
observed, a conviction which his two friends shared with him.
Questions immediately began to shower upon him.
"What will become of us after we have reached the neutral point?" asked
"That is unknown!" answered Barbicane.
"But we can make suppositions, I suppose?"
"We can make two," answered Barbicane. "Either the velocity of the
projectile will then be insufficient, and it will remain entirely
motionless on that line of double attraction--"
"I would rather have the other supposition, whatever it is," replied
"Or the velocity will be sufficient," resumed Barbicane, "and it will
continue its elliptical orbit, and gravitate eternally round the orb of
"Not very consoling that revolution," said Michel, "to become the humble
servants of a moon whom we are in the habit of considering our servant.
And is that the future that awaits us?"
Neither Barbicane nor Nicholl answered.
"Why do you not answer?" asked the impatient Michel.
"There is nothing to answer," said Nicholl.
"Can nothing be done?"
"No," answered Barbicane. "Do you pretend to struggle with the
"Why not? Ought a Frenchman and two Americans to recoil at such a word?"
"But what do you want to do?"
"Command the motion that is carrying us along!"
"Yes," resumed Michel, getting animated, "stop it or modify it; use it
for the accomplishment of our plans."
"And how, pray?"
"That is your business! If artillerymen are not masters of their bullets
they are no longer artillerymen. If the projectile commands the gunner,
the gunner ought to be rammed instead into the cannon! Fine _savants_,
truly! who don't know now what to do after having induced me--"
"Induced!" cried Barbicane and Nicholl. "Induced! What do you mean by
"No recriminations!" said Michel. "I do not complain. The journey
pleases me. The bullet suits me. But let us do all that is humanly
possible to fall somewhere, if only upon the moon."
"We should only be too glad, my worthy Michel," answered Barbicane, "but
we have no means of doing it."
"Can we not modify the motion of the projectile?"
"Nor diminish its speed?"
"Not even by lightening it like they lighten an overloaded ship?"
"What can we throw out?" answered Nicholl. "We have no ballast on board.
And besides, it seems to me that a lightened projectile would go on more
"Less quickly," said Michel.
"More quickly," replied Nicholl.
"Neither more nor less quickly," answered Barbicane, wishing to make his
two friends agree, "for we are moving in the void where we cannot take
specific weight into account."
"Very well," exclaimed Michel Ardan in a determined tone; "there is only
one thing to do."
"What is that?" asked Nicholl.
"Have breakfast," imperturbably answered the audacious Frenchman, who
always brought that solution to the greatest difficulties.
In fact, though that operation would have no influence on the direction
of the projectile, it might be attempted without risk, and even
successfully from the point of view of the stomach. Decidedly the
amiable Michel had only good ideas.
They breakfasted, therefore, at 2 a.m., but the hour was not of much
consequence. Michel served up his habitual _menu_, crowned by an amiable
bottle out of his secret cellar. If ideas did not come into their heads
the Chambertin of 1863 must be despaired of.
The meal over, observations began again.
The objects they had thrown out of the projectile still followed it at
the same invariable distance. It was evident that the bullet in its
movement of translation round the moon had not passed through any
atmosphere, for the specific weight of these objects would have modified
their respective distances.
There was nothing to see on the side of the terrestrial globe. The earth
was only a day old, having been new at midnight the day before, and two
days having to go by before her crescent, disengaged from the solar
rays, could serve as a clock to the Selenites, as in her movement of
rotation each of her points always passes the same meridian of the moon
every twenty-four hours.
The spectacle was a different one on the side of the moon; the orb was
shining in all its splendour amidst innumerable constellations, the rays
of which could not trouble its purity. Upon the disc the plains again
wore the sombre tint which is seen from the earth. The rest of the
nimbus was shining, and amidst the general blaze Tycho stood out like a
Barbicane could not manage any way to appreciate the velocity of the
projectile, but reasoning demonstrated that this speed must be uniformly
diminishing in conformity with the laws of rational mechanics.
In fact, it being admitted that the bullet would describe an orbit round
the moon, that orbit must necessarily be elliptical. Science proves that
it must be thus. No mobile circulation round any body is an exception to
that law. All the orbits described in space are elliptical, those of
satellites round their planets, those of planets around their sun, that
of the sun round the unknown orb that serves as its central pivot. Why
should the projectile of the Gun Club escape that natural arrangement?
Now in elliptical orbits attracting bodies always occupy one of the foci
of the ellipsis. The satellite is, therefore, nearer the body round
which it gravitates at one moment than it is at another. When the earth
is nearest the sun she is at her perihelion, and at her aphelion when
most distant. The moon is nearest the earth at her perigee, and most
distant at her apogee. To employ analogous expressions which enrich the
language of astronomers, if the projectile remained a satellite of the
moon, it ought to be said that it is in its "aposelene" at its most
distant point, and at its "periselene" at its nearest.
In the latter case the projectile ought to attain its maximum of speed,
in the latter its minimum. Now it was evidently going towards its
"aposelene," and Barbicane was right in thinking its speed would
decrease up to that point, and gradually increase when it would again
draw near the moon. That speed even would be absolutely _nil_ if the
point was coexistent with that of attraction.
Barbicane studied the consequences of these different situations; he was
trying what he could make of them when he was suddenly interrupted by a
cry from Michel Ardan.
"I'faith!" cried Michel, "what fools we are!"
"I don't say we are not," answered Barbicane; "but why?"
"Because we have some very simple means of slackening the speed that is
taking us away from the moon, and we do not use them."
"And what are those means?"
"That of utilising the force of recoil in our rockets."
"Ah, why not?" said Nicholl.
"We have not yet utilised that force, it is true," said Barbicane, "but
we shall do so."
"When?" asked Michel.
"When the time comes. Remark, my friends, that in the position now
occupied by the projectile, a position still oblique to the lunar disc,
our rockets, by altering its direction, might take it farther away
instead of nearer to the moon. Now I suppose it is the moon you want to
"Essentially," answered Michel.
"Wait, then. Through some inexplicable influence the projectile has a
tendency to let its lower end fall towards the earth. It is probable
that at the point of equal attraction its conical summit will be
rigorously directed towards the moon. At that moment it may be hoped
that its speed will be _nil_. That will be the time to act, and under
the effort of our rockets we can, perhaps, provoke a direct fall upon
the surface of the lunar disc."
"Bravo!" said Michel.
"We have not done it yet, and we could not do it as we passed the
neutral point, because the projectile was still animated with too much
"Well reasoned out," said Nicholl.
"We must wait patiently," said Barbicane, "and put every chance on our
side; then, after having despaired so long, I again begin to think we
shall reach our goal."
This conclusion provoked hurrahs from Michel Ardan. No one of these
daring madmen remembered the question they had all answered in the
negative--No, the moon is not inhabited! No, the moon is probably not
inhabitable! And yet they were going to do all they could to reach it.
One question only now remained to be solved: at what precise moment
would the projectile reach that point of equal attraction where the
travellers would play their last card?
In order to calculate that moment to within some seconds Barbicane had
only to have recourse to his travelling notes, and to take the different
altitudes from lunar parallels. Thus the time employed in going over the
distance between the neutral point and the South Pole must be equal to
the distance which separates the South Pole from the neutral point. The
hours representing the time it took were carefully noted down, and the
calculation became easy.
Barbicane found that this point would be reached by the projectile at 1
a.m. on the 8th of December. It was then 3 a.m. on the 7th of December.
Therefore, if nothing intervened, the projectile would reach the neutral
point in twenty-two hours.
The rockets had been put in their places to slacken the fall of the
bullet upon the moon, and now the bold fellows were going to use them to
provoke an exactly contrary effect. However that may be, they were
ready, and there was nothing to do but await the moment for setting fire
"As there is nothing to do," said Nicholl, "I have a proposition to
"What is that?" asked Barbicane.
"I propose we go to sleep."
"That is a nice idea!" exclaimed Michel Ardan.
"It is forty hours since we have closed our eyes," said Nicholl. "A few
hours' sleep would set us up again."
"Never!" replied Michel.
"Good," said Nicholl; "every man to his humour--mine is to sleep."
And lying down on a divan, Nicholl was soon snoring like a forty-eight
"Nicholl is a sensible man," said Barbicane soon. "I shall imitate him."
A few minutes after he was joining his bass to the captain's baritone.
"Decidedly," said Michel Ardan, when he found himself alone, "these
practical people sometimes do have opportune ideas."
And stretching out his long legs, and folding his long arms under his
head, Michel went to sleep too.
But this slumber could neither be durable nor peaceful. Too many
preoccupations filled the minds of these three men, and a few hours
after, at about 7 a.m., they all three awoke at once.
The projectile was still moving away from the moon, inclining its
conical summit more and more towards her. This phenomenon was
inexplicable at present, but it fortunately aided the designs of
Another seventeen hours and the time for action would have come.
That day seemed long. However bold they might be, the travellers felt
much anxiety at the approach of the minute that was to decide
everything, either their fall upon the moon or their imprisonment in an
immutable orbit. They therefore counted the hours, which went too slowly
for them, Barbicane and Nicholl obstinately plunged in calculations,
Michel walking up and down the narrow space between the walls
contemplating with longing eye the impassible moon.
Sometimes thoughts of the earth passed through their minds. They saw
again their friends of the Gun Club, and the dearest of them all, J.T.
Maston. At that moment the honourable secretary must have been occupying
his post on the Rocky Mountains. If he should perceive the projectile
upon the mirror of his gigantic telescope what would he think? After
having seen it disappear behind the south pole of the moon, they would
see it reappear at the north! It was, therefore, the satellite of a
satellite! Had J.T. Maston sent that unexpected announcement into the
world? Was this to be the _denouement_ of the great enterprise?
Meanwhile the day passed without incident. Terrestrial midnight came.
The 8th of December was about to commence. Another hour and the point of
equal attraction would be reached. What velocity then animated the
projectile? They could form no estimate; but no error could vitiate
Barbicane's calculations. At 1 a.m. that velocity ought to be and would
Besides, another phenomenon would mark the stopping point of the
projectile on the neutral line. In that spot the two attractions,
terrestrial and lunar, would be annihilated. Objects would not weigh
anything. This singular fact, which had so curiously surprised Barbicane
and his companions before, must again come about under identical
circumstances. It was at that precise moment they must act.
The conical summit of the bullet had already sensibly turned towards the
lunar disc. The projectile was just right for utilising all the recoil
produced by setting fire to the apparatus. Chance was therefore in the
travellers' favour. If the velocity of the projectile were to be
absolutely annihilated upon the neutral point, a given motion, however
slight, towards the moon would determine its fall.
"Five minutes to one," said Nicholl.
"Everything is ready," answered Michel Ardan, directing his match
towards the flame of the gas.
"Wait!" said Barbicane, chronometer in hand.
At that moment weight had no effect. The travellers felt its complete
disappearance in themselves. They were near the neutral point if they
had not reached it.
"One o'clock!" said Barbicane.
Michel Ardan put his match to a contrivance that put all the fuses into
instantaneous communication. No detonation was heard outside, where air
was wanting, but through the port-lights Barbicane saw the prolonged
flame, which was immediately extinguished.
The projectile had a slight shock which was very sensibly felt in the
The three friends looked, listened, without speaking, hardly breathing.
The beating of their hearts might have been heard in the absolute
"Are we falling?" asked Michel Ardan at last.
"No," answered Nicholl; "for the bottom of the projectile has not turned
towards the lunar disc!"
At that moment Barbicane left his window and turned towards his two
companions. He was frightfully pale, his forehead wrinkled, his lips
"We are falling!" said he.
"Ah!" cried Michel Ardan, "upon the moon?"
"Upon the earth!" answered Barbicane.
"The devil!" cried Michel Ardan; and he added philosophically, "when we
entered the bullet we did not think it would be so difficult to get out
of it again."
In fact, the frightful fall had begun. The velocity kept by the
projectile had sent it beyond the neutral point. The explosion of the
fuses had not stopped it. That velocity which had carried the projectile
beyond the neutral line as it went was destined to do the same upon its
return. The law of physics condemned it, in its elliptical orbit, _to
pass by every point it had already passed_.
It was a terrible fall from a height of 78,000 leagues, and which no
springs could deaden. According to the laws of ballistics the projectile
would strike the earth with a velocity equal to that which animated it
as it left the Columbiad--a velocity of "16,000 metres in the last
And in order to give some figures for comparison it has been calculated
that an object thrown from the towers of Notre Dame, the altitude of
which is only 200 feet, would reach the pavement with a velocity of 120
leagues an hour. Here the projectile would strike the earth with a
velocity of 57,600 _leagues an hour_.
"We are lost men," said Nicholl coldly.
"Well, if we die," answered Barbicane, with a sort of religious
enthusiasm, "the result of our journey will be magnificently enlarged!
God will tell us His own secret! In the other life the soul will need
neither machines nor engines in order to know! It will be identified
with eternal wisdom!"
"True," replied Michel Ardan: "the other world may well console us for
that trifling orb called the moon!"
Barbicane crossed his arms upon his chest with a movement of sublime
"God's will be done!" he said.
THE SOUNDINGS OF THE SUSQUEHANNA.
Well, lieutenant, and what about those soundings?"
"I think the operation is almost over, sir. But who would have expected
to find such a depth so near land, at 100 leagues only from the American
"Yes, Bronsfield, there is a great depression," said Captain Blomsberry.
"There exists a submarine valley here, hollowed out by Humboldt's
current, which runs along the coasts of America to the Straits of
"Those great depths," said the lieutenant, "are not favourable for the
laying of telegraph cables. A smooth plateau is the best, like the one
the American cable lies on between Valentia and Newfoundland."
"I agree with you, Bronsfield. And, may it please you, lieutenant, where
are we now?"
"Sir," answered Bronsfield, "we have at this moment 21,500 feet of line
out, and the bullet at the end of the line has not yet touched the
bottom, for the sounding-lead would have come up again."
"Brook's apparatus is an ingenious one," said Captain Blomsberry. "It
allows us to obtain very correct soundings."
"Touched!" cried at that moment one of the forecastle-men who was
superintending the operation.
The captain and lieutenant went on to the forecastle-deck.
"What depth are we in?" asked the captain.
"Twenty-one thousand seven hundred and sixty-two feet," answered the
lieutenant, writing it down in his pocket-book.
"Very well, Bronsfield," said the captain, "I will go and mark the
result on my chart. Now have the sounding-line brought in--that is a
work of several hours. Meanwhile the engineer shall have his fires
lighted, and we shall be ready to start as soon as you have done. It is
10 p.m., and with your permission, lieutenant, I shall turn in."
"Certainly, sir, certainly!" answered Lieutenant Bronsfield amiably.
The captain of the Susquehanna, a worthy man if ever there was one, the
very humble servant of his officers, went to his cabin, took his
brandy-and-water with many expressions of satisfaction to the steward,
got into bed, not before complimenting his servant on the way he made
beds, and sank into peaceful slumber.
It was then 10 p.m. The eleventh day of the month of December was going
to end in a magnificent night.
The Susquehanna, a corvette of 500 horse power, of the United States
Navy, was taking soundings in the Pacific at about a hundred leagues
from the American coast, abreast of that long peninsula on the coast of
The wind had gradually fallen. There was not the slightest movement in
the air. The colours of the corvette hung from the mast motionless and
The captain, Jonathan Blomsberry, cousin-german to Colonel Blomsberry,
one of the Gun Club members who had married a Horschbidden, the
captain's aunt and daughter of an honourable Kentucky merchant--Captain
Blomsberry could not have wished for better weather to execute the
delicate operation of sounding. His corvette had felt nothing of that
great tempest which swept away the clouds heaped up on the Rocky
Mountains, and allowed the course of the famous projectile to be
observed. All was going on well, and he did not forget to thank Heaven
with all the fervour of a Presbyterian.
The series of soundings executed by the Susquehanna were intended for
finding out the most favourable bottoms for the establishment of a
submarine cable between the Hawaiian Islands and the American coast.
It was a vast project set on foot by a powerful company. Its director,
the intelligent Cyrus Field, meant even to cover all the islands of
Oceania with a vast electric network--an immense enterprise worthy of
It was to the corvette Susquehanna that the first operations of sounding
had been entrusted. During the night from the 11th to the 12th of
December she was exactly in north lat. 27 deg. 7' and 41 deg. 37' long., west
from the Washington meridian.
The moon, then in her last quarter, began to show herself above the
After Captain Blomsberry's departure, Lieutenant Bronsfield and a few
officers were together on the poop. As the moon appeared their thoughts
turned towards that orb which the eyes of a whole hemisphere were then
contemplating. The best marine glasses could not have discovered the
projectile wandering round the demi-globe, and yet they were all pointed
at the shining disc which millions of eyes were looking at in the same
"They started ten days ago," then said Lieutenant Bronsfield. "What can
have become of them?"
"They have arrived, sir," exclaimed a young midshipman, "and they are
doing what all travellers do in a new country, they are looking about
"I am certain of it as you say so, my young friend," answered Lieutenant
"Still," said another officer, "their arrival cannot be doubted. The
projectile must have reached the moon at the moment she was full, at
midnight on the 5th. We are now at the 11th of December; that makes six
days. Now in six times twenty-four hours, with no darkness, they have
had time to get comfortably settled. It seems to me that I see our brave
countrymen encamped at the bottom of a valley, on the borders of a
Selenite stream, near the projectile, half buried by its fall, amidst
volcanic remains, Captain Nicholl beginning his levelling operations,
President Barbicane putting his travelling notes in order, Michel Ardan
performing the lunar solitudes with his Londres cigar--"
"Oh, it must be so; it is so!" exclaimed the young midshipman,
enthusiastic at the ideal description of his superior.
"I should like to believe it," answered Lieutenant Bronsfield, who was
seldom carried away. "Unfortunately direct news from the lunar world
will always be wanting."
"Excuse me, sir," said the midshipman, "but cannot President Barbicane
A roar of laughter greeted this answer.
"Not letters," answered the young man quickly. "The post-office has
nothing to do with that."
"Perhaps you mean the telegraph-office?" said one of the officers
"Nor that either," answered the midshipman, who would not give in. "But
it is very easy to establish graphic communication with the earth."
"And how, pray?"
"By means of the telescope on Long's Peak. You know that it brings the
moon to within two leagues only of the Rocky Mountains, and that it
allows them to see objects having nine feet of diameter on her surface.
Well, our industrious friends will construct a gigantic alphabet! They
will write words 600 feet long, and sentences a league long, and then
they can send up news!"
The young midshipman, who certainly had some imagination was loudly
applauded. Lieutenant Bronsfield himself was convinced that the idea
could have been carried out. He added that by sending luminous rays,
grouped by means of parabolical mirrors, direct communications could
also be established--in fact, these rays would be as visible on the
surface of Venus or Mars as the planet Neptune is from the earth. He
ended by saying that the brilliant points already observed on the
nearest planets might be signals made to the earth. But he said, that
though by these means they could have news from the lunar world, they
could not send any from the terrestrial world unless the Selenites have
at their disposition instruments with which to make distant
"That is evident," answered one of the officers, "but what has become of
the travellers? What have they done? What have they seen? That is what
interests us. Besides, if the experiment has succeeded, which I do not
doubt, it will be done again. The Columbiad is still walled up in the
soil of Florida. It is, therefore, now only a question of powder and
shot, and every time the moon passes the zenith we can send it a cargo
"It is evident," answered Lieutenant Bronsfield, "that J.T. Maston will
go and join his friends one of these days."
"If he will have me," exclaimed the midshipman, "I am ready to go with
"Oh, there will be plenty of amateurs, and if they are allowed to go,
half the inhabitants of the earth will soon have emigrated to the moon!"
This conversation between the officers of the Susquehanna was kept up
till about 1 a.m. It would be impossible to transcribe the overwhelming
systems and theories which were emitted by these audacious minds. Since
Barbicane's attempt it seemed that nothing was impossible to Americans.
They had already formed the project of sending, not another commission
of _savants_, but a whole colony, and a whole army of infantry,
artillery, and cavalry to conquer the lunar world.
At 1 a.m. the sounding-line was not all hauled in. Ten thousand feet
remained out, which would take several more hours to bring in. According
to the commander's orders the fires had been lighted, and the pressure
was going up already. The Susquehanna might have started at once.
At that very moment--it was 1.17 a.m.--Lieutenant Bronsfield was about
to leave his watch to turn in when his attention was attracted by a
distant and quite unexpected hissing sound.
His comrades and he at first thought that the hissing came from an
escape of steam, but upon lifting up his head he found that it was high
up in the air.
They had not time to question each other before the hissing became of
frightful intensity, and suddenly to their dazzled eyes appeared an
enormous bolis, inflamed by the rapidity of its course, by its friction
against the atmospheric strata.
This ignited mass grew huger as it came nearer, and fell with the noise
of thunder upon the bowsprit of the corvette, which it smashed off close
to the stem, and vanished in the waves.
A few feet nearer and the Susquehanna would have gone down with all on
At that moment Captain Blomsberry appeared half-clothed, and rushing in
the forecastle, where his officers had preceded him--
"With your permission, gentlemen, what has happened?" he asked.
And the midshipman, making himself the mouthpiece of them all, cried
"Commander, it is 'they' come back again."
J.T. MASTON CALLED IN.
Emotion was great on board the Susquehanna. Officers and sailors forgot
the terrible danger they had just been in--the danger of being crushed
and sunk. They only thought of the catastrophe which terminated the
journey. Thus, therefore, the moat audacious enterprise of ancient and
modern times lost the life of the bold adventurers who had attempted it.
"It is 'they' come back," the young midshipman had said, and they had
all understood. No one doubted that the bolis was the projectile of the
Gun Club. Opinions were divided about the fate of the travellers.
"They are dead!" said one.
"They are alive," answered the other. "The water is deep here, and the
shock has been deadened."
"But they will have no air, and will die suffocated!"
"Burnt!" answered the other. "Their projectile was only an incandescent
mass as it crossed the atmosphere."
"What does it matter?" was answered unanimously, "living or dead they
must be brought up from there."
Meanwhile Captain Blomsberry had called his officers together, and with
their permission he held a council. Something must be done immediately.
The most immediate was to haul up the projectile--a difficult operation,
but not an impossible one. But the corvette wanted the necessary
engines, which would have to be powerful and precise. It was, therefore,
resolved to put into the nearest port, and to send word to the Gun Club
about the fall of the bullet.
This determination was taken unanimously. The choice of a port was
discussed. The neighbouring coast had no harbour on the 27th degree of
latitude. Higher up, above the peninsula of Monterey, was the important
town which has given its name to it. But, seated on the confines of a
veritable desert, it had no telegraphic communication with the interior,
and electricity alone could spread the important news quickly enough.
Some degrees above lay the bay of San Francisco. Through the capital of
the Gold Country communication with the centre of the Union would be
easy. By putting all steam on, the Susquehanna, in less than two days,
could reach the port of San Francisco. She must, therefore, start at
The fires were heaped up, and they could set sail immediately. Two
thousand fathoms of sounding still remained in the water. Captain
Blomsberry would not lose precious time in hauling it in, and resolved
to cut the line.
"We will fix the end to a buoy," said he, "and the buoy will indicate
the exact point where the projectile fell."
"Besides," answered Lieutenant Bronsfield, "we have our exact bearings:
north lat. 27 deg. 7', and west long. 41 deg. 37'."
"Very well, Mr. Bronsfield," answered the captain; "with your
permission, have the line cut."
A strong buoy, reinforced by a couple of spars, was thrown out on to
the surface of the ocean. The end of the line was solidly struck
beneath, and only submitted to the ebb and flow of the surges, so that
it would not drift much.
At that moment the engineer came to warn the captain that he had put the
pressure on, and they could start. The captain thanked him for his
excellent communication. Then he gave N.N.E. as the route. The corvette
was put about, and made for the bay of San Francisco with all steam on.
It was then 3 a.m.
Two hundred leagues to get over was not much for a quick vessel like the
Susquehanna. It got over that distance in thirty-six hours, and on the
14th of December, at 1.27 p.m., she would enter the bay of San
At the sight of this vessel of the national navy arriving with all speed
on, her bowsprit gone, and her mainmast propped up, public curiosity was
singularly excited. A compact crowd was soon assembled on the quays
awaiting the landing.
After weighing anchor Captain Blomsberry and Lieutenant Bronsfield got
down into an eight-oared boat which carried them rapidly to the land.
They jumped out on the quay.
"The telegraph-office?" they asked, without answering one of the
thousand questions that were showered upon them.
The port inspector guided them himself to the telegraph-office, amidst
an immense crowd of curious people.
Blomsberry and Bronsfield went into the office whilst the crowd crushed
against the door.
A few minutes later one message was sent in four different
directions:--1st, to the Secretary of the Navy, Washington; 2nd, to the
Vice-President of the Gun Club, Baltimore; 3rd, to the Honourable J.T.
Maston, Long's Peak, Rocky Mountains; 4th, to the Sub-Director of the
Cambridge Observatory, Massachusetts.
It ran as follows:--
"In north lat. 20 deg. 7', and west long. 41 deg. 37', the projectile of the
Columbiad fell into the Pacific, on December 12th, at 1.17 am. Send
instructions.--BLOMSBERRY, Commander Susquehanna."
Five minutes afterwards the whole town of San Francisco knew the
tidings. Before 6 p.m. the different States of the Union had
intelligence of the supreme catastrophe. After midnight, through the
cable, the whole of Europe knew the result of the great American
It would be impossible to describe the effect produced throughout the
world by the unexpected news.
On receipt of the telegram the Secretary of the Navy telegraphed to the
Susquehanna to keep under fire, and wait in the bay of San Francisco.
She was to be ready to set sail day or night.
The Observatory of Cambridge had an extraordinary meeting, and, with the
serenity which distinguishes scientific bodies, it peacefully discussed
the scientific part of the question.
At the Gun Club there was an explosion. All the artillerymen were
assembled. The Vice-President, the Honourable Wilcome, was just reading
the premature telegram by which Messrs. Maston and Belfast announced
that the projectile had just been perceived in the gigantic reflector of
Long's Peak. This communication informed them also that the bullet,
retained by the attraction of the moon, was playing the part of
sub-satellite in the solar world.
The truth on this subject is now known.
However, upon the arrival of Blomsberry's message, which so formally
contradicted J.T. Maston's telegram, two parties were formed in the
bosom of the Gun Club. On the one side were members who admitted the
fall of the projectile, and consequently the return of the travellers.
On the other were those who, holding by the observations at Long's Peak,
concluded that the commander of the Susquehanna was mistaken. According
to the latter, the pretended projectile was only a bolis, nothing but a
bolis, a shooting star, which in its fall had fractured the corvette.
Their argument could not very well be answered, because the velocity
with which it was endowed had made its observation very difficult. The
commander of the Susquehanna and his officers might certainly have been
mistaken in good faith. One argument certainly was in their favour: if
the projectile had fallen on the earth it must have touched the
terrestrial spheroid upon the 27th degree of north latitude, and, taking
into account the time that had elapsed, and the earth's movement of
rotation, between the 41st and 42nd degree of west longitude.
However that might be, it was unanimously decided in the Gun Club that
Blomsberry's brother Bilsby and Major Elphinstone should start at once
for San Francisco and give their advice about the means of dragging up
the projectile from the depths of the ocean.
These men started without losing an instant, and the railway which was
soon to cross the whole of Central America took them to St. Louis, where
rapid mail-coaches awaited them.
Almost at the same moment that the Secretary of the Navy, the
Vice-President of the Gun Club, and the Sub-Director of the Observatory
received the telegram from San Francisco, the Honourable J.T. Maston
felt the most violent emotion of his whole existence--an emotion not
even equalled by that he had experienced when his celebrated cannon was
blown up, and which, like it, nearly cost him his life.
It will be remembered that the Secretary of the Gun Club had started
some minutes after the projectile--and almost as quickly--for the
station of Long's Peak in the Rocky Mountains. The learned J. Belfast,
Director of the Cambridge Observatory, accompanied him. Arrived at the
station the two friends had summarily installed themselves, and no
longer left the summit of their enormous telescope.
We know that this gigantic instrument had been set up on the reflecting
system, called "front view" by the English. This arrangement only gave
one reflection of objects, and consequently made the view much clearer.
The result was that J.T. Maston and Belfast, whilst observing, were
stationed in the upper part of the instrument instead of in the lower.
They reached it by a twisted staircase, a masterpiece of lightness, and
below them lay the metal, well terminated by the metallic mirror, 280
Now it was upon the narrow platform placed round the telescope that the
two _savants_ passed their existence, cursing the daylight which hid the
moon from their eyes, and the clouds which obstinately veiled her at
Who can depict their delight when, after waiting several days, during
the night of December 5th they perceived the vehicle that was carrying
their friends through space? To that delight succeeded deep
disappointment when, trusting to incomplete observations, they sent out
with their first telegram to the world the erroneous affirmation that
the projectile had become a satellite of the moon gravitating in an
After that instant the bullet disappeared behind the invisible disc of
the moon. But when it ought to have reappeared on the invisible disc the
impatience of J.T. Maston and his no less impatient companion may be
imagined. At every minute of the night they thought they should see the
projectile again, and they did not see it. Hence between them arose
endless discussions and violent disputes, Belfast affirming that the
projectile was not visible, J.T. Maston affirming that any one but a
blind man could see it.
"It is the bullet!" repeated J.T. Maston.
"No!" answered Belfast, "it is an avalanche falling from a lunar
"Well, then, we shall see it to-morrow."
"No, it will be seen no more. It is carried away into space."
"We shall see it, I tell you."
"No, we shall not."
And while these interjections were being showered like hail, the
well-known irritability of the Secretary of the Gun Club constituted a
permanent danger to the director, Belfast.
Their existence together would soon have become impossible, but an
unexpected event cut short these eternal discussions.
During the night between the 14th and 15th of December the two
irreconcilable friends were occupied in observing the lunar disc. J.T.
Maston was, as usual, saying strong things to the learned Belfast, who
was getting angry too. The Secretary of the Gun Club declared for the
thousandth time that he had just perceived the projectile, adding even
that Michel Ardan's face had appeared at one of the port-lights. He was
emphasising his arguments by a series of gestures which his redoubtable
hook rendered dangerous.
At that moment Belfast's servant appeared upon the platform--it was 10
p.m.--and gave him a telegram. It was the message from the Commander of
Belfast tore the envelope, read the inclosure, and uttered a cry.
"What is it?" said J.T. Maston.
"It's the bullet!"
"What of that?"
"It has fallen upon the earth!"
Another cry; this time a howl answered him.
He turned towards J.T. Maston. The unfortunate fellow, leaning
imprudently over the metal tube, had disappeared down the immense
telescope--a fall of 280 feet! Belfast, distracted, rushed towards the
orifice of the reflector.
He breathed again. J.T. Maston's steel hook had caught in one of the
props which maintained the platform of the telescope. He was uttering
Belfast called. Help came, and the imprudent secretary was hoisted up,
not without trouble.
He reappeared unhurt at the upper orifice.
"Suppose I had broken the mirror?" said he.
"You would have paid for it," answered Belfast severely.
"And where has the infernal bullet fallen?" asked J.T. Maston.
"Into the Pacific."
"Let us start at once."
A quarter of an hour afterwards the two learned friends were descending
the slope of the Rocky Mountains, and two days afterwards they reached
San Francisco at the same time as their friends of the Gun Club, having
killed five horses on the road.
Elphinstone, Blomsberry, and Bilsby rushed up to them upon their
"What is to be done?" they exclaimed.
"The bullet must be fished up," answered J.T. Maston, "and as soon as
The very spot where the projectile had disappeared under the waves was
exactly known. The instruments for seizing it and bringing it to the
surface of the ocean were still wanting. They had to be invented and
then manufactured. American engineers could not be embarrassed by such a
trifle. The grappling-irons once established and steam helping, they
were assured of raising the projectile, notwithstanding its weight,
which diminished the density of the liquid amidst which it was plunged.
But it was not enough to fish up the bullet. It was necessary to act
promptly in the interest of the travellers. No one doubted that they
were still living.
"Yes," repeated J.T. Maston incessantly, whose confidence inspired
everybody, "our friends are clever fellows, and they cannot have fallen
like imbeciles. They are alive, alive and well, but we must make haste
in order to find them so. He had no anxiety about provisions and water.
They had enough for a long time! But air!--air would soon fail them.
Then they must make haste!"
And they did make haste. They prepared the Susquehanna for her new
destination. Her powerful engines were arranged to be used for the
hauling machines. The aluminium projectile only weighed 19,250 lbs., a
much less weight than that of the transatlantic cable, which was picked
up under similar circumstances. The only difficulty lay in the smooth
sides of the cylindro-conical bullet, which made it difficult to
With that end in view the engineer Murchison, summoned to San Francisco,
caused enormous grappling-irons to be fitted upon an automatical system
which would not let the projectile go again if they succeeded in seizing
it with their powerful pincers. He also had some diving-dresses
prepared, which, by their impermeable and resisting texture, allowed
divers to survey the bottom of the sea. He likewise embarked on board
the Susquehanna apparatuses for compressed air, very ingeniously
contrived. They were veritable rooms, with port-lights in them, and
which, by introducing the water into certain compartments, could be sunk
to great depths. These apparatuses were already at San Francisco, where
they had been used in the construction of a submarine dyke. This was
fortunate, for there would not have been time to make them.
Yet notwithstanding the perfection of the apparatus, notwithstanding the
ingenuity of the _savants_ who were to use them, the success of the
operation was anything but assured. Fishing up a bullet from 20,000 feet
under water must be an uncertain operation. And even if the bullet
should again be brought to the surface, how had the travellers borne the
terrible shock that even 20,000 feet of water would not sufficiently
In short, everything must be done quickly. J.T. Maston hurried on his
workmen day and night. He was ready either to buckle on the diver's
dress or to try the air-apparatus in order to find his courageous
Still, notwithstanding the diligence with which the different machines
were got ready, notwithstanding the considerable sums which were placed
at the disposition of the Gun Club by the Government of the Union, five
long days (five centuries) went by before the preparations were
completed. During that time public opinion was excited to the highest
point. Telegrams were incessantly exchanged all over the world through
the electric wires and cables. The saving of Barbicane, Nicholl, and
Michel Ardan became an international business. All the nations that had
subscribed to the enterprise of the Gun Club were equally interested in
the safety of the travellers.
At last the grappling-chains, air-chambers, and automatic
grappling-irons were embarked on board the Susquehanna. J.T. Maston, the
engineer Murchison, and the Gun Club delegates already occupied their
cabins. There was nothing to do but to start.
On the 21st of December, at 8 p.m., the corvette set sail on a calm sea
with a rather cold north-east wind blowing. All the population of San
Francisco crowded on to the quays, mute and anxious, reserving its
hurrahs for the return.
The steam was put on to its maximum of tension, and the screw of the
Susquehanna carried it rapidly out of the bay.
It would be useless to relate the conversations on board amongst the
officers, sailors, and passengers. All these men had but one thought.
Their hearts all beat with the same emotion. What were Barbicane and his
companions doing whilst they were hastening to their succour? What had
become of them? Had they been able to attempt some audacious manoeuvre
to recover their liberty? No one could say. The truth is that any
attempt would have failed. Sunk to nearly two leagues under the ocean,
their metal prison would defy any effort of its prisoners.
On the 23rd of December, at 8 a.m., after a rapid passage, the
Susquehanna ought to be on the scene of the disaster. They were obliged
to wait till twelve o'clock to take their exact bearings. The buoy
fastened on to the sounding-line had not yet been seen.
At noon Captain Blomsberry, helped by his officers, who controlled the
observation, made his point in presence of the delegates of the Gun
Club. That was an anxious moment. The Susquehanna was found to be at
some minutes west of the very spot where the projectile had disappeared
under the waves.
The direction of the corvette was therefore given in view of reaching
the precise spot.
At 12.47 p.m. the buoy was sighted. It was in perfect order, and did not
seem to have drifted far.
"At last!" exclaimed J.T. Maston.
"Shall we begin?" asked Captain Blomsberry.
"Without losing a second," answered J.T. Maston.
Every precaution was taken to keep the corvette perfectly motionless.
Before trying to grapple the projectile, the engineer, Murchison, wished
to find out its exact position on the sea-bottom. The submarine
apparatus destined for this search received their provision of air. The
handling of these engines is not without danger, for at 20,000 feet
below the surface of the water and under such great pressure they are
exposed to ruptures the consequences of which would be terrible.
J.T. Maston, the commander's brother, and the engineer Murchison,
without a thought of these dangers, took their places in the
air-chambers. The commander, on his foot-bridge, presided over the
operation, ready to stop or haul in his chains at the least signal. The
screw had been taken off, and all the force of the machines upon the
windlass would soon have brought up the apparatus on board.
The descent began at 1.25 p.m., and the chamber, dragged down by its
reservoirs filled with water, disappeared under the surface of the
The emotion of the officers and sailors on board was now divided between
the prisoners in the projectile and the prisoners of the submarine
apparatus. These latter forgot themselves, and, glued to the panes of
the port-lights, they attentively observed the liquid masses they were
The descent was rapid. At 2.17 p.m. J.T. Maston and his companions had
reached the bottom of the Pacific; but they saw nothing except the arid
desert which neither marine flora nor fauna any longer animated. By the
light of their lamps, furnished with powerful reflectors, they could
observe the dark layers of water in a rather large radius, but the
projectile remained invisible in their eyes.
The impatience of these bold divers could hardly be described. Their
apparatus being in electric communication with the corvette, they made a
signal agreed upon, and the Susquehanna carried their chamber over a
mile of space at one yard from the soil.
They thus explored all the submarine plain, deceived at every instant by
optical delusions which cut them to the heart. Here a rock, there a
swelling of the ground, looked to them like the much-sought-for
projectile; then they would soon find out their error and despair again.
"Where are they? Where can they be?" cried J.T. Maston.
And the poor man called aloud to Nicholl, Barbicane, and Michel Ardan,
as if his unfortunate friends could have heard him through that
The search went on under those conditions until the vitiated state of
the air in the apparatus forced the divers to go up again.
The hauling in was begun at 6 p.m., and was not terminated before
"We will try again to-morrow," said J.T. Maston as he stepped on to the
deck of the corvette.
"Yes," answered Captain Blomsberry.
"And in another place."
J.T. Maston did not yet doubt of his ultimate success, but his
companions, who were no longer intoxicated with the animation of the
first few hours, already took in all the difficulties of the enterprise.
What seemed easy at San Francisco in open ocean appeared almost
impossible. The chances of success diminished in a large proportion, and
it was to chance alone that the finding of the projectile had to be
The next day, the 24th of December, notwithstanding the fatigues of the
preceding day, operations were resumed. The corvette moved some minutes
farther west, and the apparatus, provisioned with air again, took the
same explorers to the depths of the ocean.
All that day was passed in a fruitless search. The bed of the sea was a
desert. The day of the 25th brought no result, neither did that of the
It was disheartening. They thought of the unfortunate men shut up for
twenty-six days in the projectile. Perhaps they were all feeling the
first symptoms of suffocation, even if they had escaped the dangers of
their fall. The air was getting exhausted, and doubtless with the air
their courage and spirits.
"The air very likely, but their courage never," said J.T. Maston.
On the 28th, after two days' search, all hope was lost. This bullet was
an atom in the immensity of the sea! They must give up the hope of
Still J.T. Maston would not hear about leaving. He would not abandon the
place without having at least found the tomb of his friends. But Captain
Blomsberry could not stay on obstinately, and notwithstanding the
opposition of the worthy secretary, he was obliged to give orders to set
On the 29th of December, at 9 a.m., the Susquehanna, heading north-east,
began to return to the bay of San Francisco.
It was 10 a.m. The corvette was leaving slowly and as if with regret the
scene of the catastrophe, when the sailor at the masthead, who was on
the look-out, called out all at once--
"A buoy on the lee bow!"
The officers looked in the direction indicated. They saw through their
telescopes the object signalled, which did look like one of those buoys
used for marking the openings of bays or rivers; but, unlike them, a
flag floating in the wind surmounted a cone which emerged five or six
feet. This buoy shone in the sunshine as if made of plates of silver.
The commander, Blomsberry, J.T. Maston, and the delegates of the Gun
Club ascended the foot-bridge and examined the object thus drifting on
All looked with feverish anxiety, but in silence. None of them dared
utter the thought that came into all their minds.
The corvette approached to within two cables' length of the object.
A shudder ran through the whole crew.
The flag was an American one!
At that moment a veritable roar was heard. It was the worthy J.T.
Maston, who had fallen in a heap; forgetting on the one hand that he had
only an iron hook for one arm, and on the other that a simple
gutta-percha cap covered his cranium-box, he had given himself a
They rushed towards him and picked him up. They recalled him to life.
And what were his first words?
"Ah! triple brutes! quadruple idiots! quintuple boobies that we are!"
"What is the matter?" every one round him exclaimed.
"What the matter is?"
"Speak, can't you?"
"It is, imbeciles," shouted the terrible secretary, "it is the bullet
only weighs 19,250 lbs!"
"And it displaces 28 tons, or 56,000 lbs., consequently _it floats_!"
Ah! how that worthy man did underline the verb "to float!" And it was
the truth! All, yes! all these _savants_ had forgotten this fundamental
law, that in consequence of its specific lightness the projectile, after
having been dragged by its fall to the greatest depths of the ocean, had
naturally returned to the surface; and now it was floating tranquilly
whichever way the wind carried them.
The boats had been lowered. J.T. Maston and his friends rushed into
them. The excitement was at its highest point. All hearts palpitated
whilst the boats rowed towards the projectile. What did it contain--the
living or the dead? The living. Yes! unless death had struck down
Barbicane and his companions since they had hoisted the flag!
Profound silence reigned in the boats. All hearts stopped beating. Eyes
no longer performed their office. One of the port-lights of the
projectile was opened. Some pieces of glass remaining in the frame
proved that it had been broken. This port-light was situated actually
five feet above water.
A boat drew alongside--that of J.T. Maston. He rushed to the broken
At that moment the joyful and clear voice of Michel Ardan was heard
exclaiming in the accents of victory--"Double blank, Barbicane, double
Barbicane, Michel Ardan, and Nicholl were playing at dominoes.
It will be remembered that immense sympathy accompanied the three
travellers upon their departure. If the beginning of their enterprise
had caused such excitement in the old and new world, what enthusiasm
must welcome their return! Would not those millions of spectators who
had invaded the Floridian peninsula rush to meet the sublime
adventurers? Would those legions of foreigners from all points of the
globe, now in America, leave the Union without seeing Barbicane,
Nicholl, and Michel Ardan once more? No, and the ardent passion of the
public would worthily respond to the grandeur of the enterprise. Human
beings who had left the terrestrial spheroid, who had returned after
their strange journey into celestial space, could not fail to be
received like the prophet Elijah when he returned to the earth. To see
them first, to hear them afterwards, was the general desire.
This desire was to be very promptly realised by almost all the
inhabitants of the Union.
Barbicane, Michel Ardan, Nicholl, and the delegates of the Gun Club
returned without delay to Baltimore, and were there received with
indescribable enthusiasm. The president's travelling notes were ready to
be given up for publicity. The _New York Herald_ bought this manuscript
at a price which is not yet known, but which must have been enormous. In
fact, during the publication of the _Journey to the Moon_ they printed
5,000,000 copies of that newspaper. Three days after the travellers'
return to the earth the least details of their expedition were known.
The only thing remaining to be done was to see the heroes of this
The exploration of Barbicane and his friends around the moon had allowed
them to control the different theories about the terrestrial satellite.
These _savants_ had observed it _de visu_ and under quite peculiar
circumstances. It was now known which systems were to be rejected, which
admitted, upon the formation of this orb, its origin, and its
inhabitability. Its past, present, and future had given up their
secrets. What could be objected to conscientious observations made at
less than forty miles from that curious mountain of Tycho, the strangest
mountain system of lunar orography? What answers could be made to
_savants_ who had looked into the dark depths of the amphitheatre of
Pluto? Who could contradict these audacious men whom the hazards of
their enterprise had carried over the invisible disc of the moon, which
no human eye had ever seen before? It was now their prerogative to
impose the limits of that selenographic science which had built up the
lunar world like Cuvier did the skeleton of a fossil, and to say, "The
moon was this, a world inhabitable and inhabited anterior to the earth!
The moon is this, a world now uninhabitable and uninhabited!"
In order to welcome the return of the most illustrious of its members
and his two companions, the Gun Club thought of giving them a banquet;
but a banquet worthy of them, worthy of the American people, and under
such circumstances that all the inhabitants of the Union could take a
direct part in it.
All the termini of the railroads in the State were joined together by
movable rails. Then, in all the stations hung with the same flags,
decorated with the same ornaments, were spread tables uniformly dressed.
At a certain time, severely calculated upon electric clocks which beat
the seconds at the same instant, the inhabitants were invited to take
their places at the same banquet.
During four days, from the 5th to the 9th of January, the trains were
suspended like they are on Sundays upon the railways of the Union, and
all the lines were free.
One locomotive alone, a very fast engine, dragging a state saloon, had
the right of circulating, during these four days, upon the railways of
the United States.
This locomotive, conducted by a stoker and a mechanic, carried, by a
great favour, the Honourable J.T. Maston, Secretary of the Gun Club.
The saloon was reserved for President Barbicane, Captain Nicholl, and
The train left the station of Baltimore upon the whistle of the
engine-driver amidst the hurrahs and all the admiring interjections of
the American language. It went at the speed of eighty leagues an hour.
But what was that speed compared to the one with which the three heroes
had left the Columbiad?
Thus they went from one town to another, finding the population in
crowds upon their passage saluting them with the same acclamations, and
showering upon them the same "bravoes." They thus travelled over the
east of the Union through Pennsylvania, Connecticut, Massachusetts,
Vermont, Maine, and New Brunswick; north and west through New York,
Ohio, Michigan, and Wisconsin; south through Illinois, Missouri,
Arkansas, Texas, and Louisiana; south-east through Alabama and Florida,
Georgia, and the Carolinas; they visited the centre through Tennessee,
Kentucky, Virginia, and Indiana; then after the station of Washington
they re-entered Baltimore, and during four days they could imagine that
the United States of America, seated at one immense banquet, saluted
them simultaneously with the same hurrahs.
This apotheosis was worthy of these heroes, whom fable would have placed
in the ranks of demigods.
And now would this attempt, without precedent in the annals of travels,
have any practical result? Would direct communication ever be
established with the moon? Would a service of navigation ever be founded
across space for the solar world? Will people ever go from planet to
planet, from Jupiter to Mercury, and later on from one star to another,
from the Polar star to Sirius, would a method of locomotion allow of
visiting the suns which swarm in the firmament?
No answer can be given to these questions, but knowing the audacious
ingenuity of the Anglo-Saxon race, no one will be astonished that the
Americans tried to turn President Barbicane's experiment to account.
Thus some time after the return of the travellers the public received
with marked favour the advertisement of a Joint-Stock Company (Limited),
with a capital of a hundred million dollars, divided into a hundred
thousand shares of a thousand dollars each, under the name of _National
Company for Interstellar Communication_--President, Barbicane;
Vice-President, Captain Nicholl; Secretary, J.T. Maston; Director,
Michel Ardan--and as it is customary in America to foresee everything in
business, even bankruptcy, the Honourable Harry Trollope, Commissary
Judge, and Francis Dayton were appointed beforehand assignees.