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The Moon-Voyage by Jules Verne

Part 3 out of 7

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that's right!"

"Then," said Barbicane, without further preliminary, "you have decided
to go?"

"Quite decided."

"Nothing will stop you?"

"Nothing. Have you altered your projectile as I told you in my message?"

"I waited till you came. But," asked Barbicane, insisting once more,
"you have quite reflected?"

"Reflected! have I any time to lose? I find the occasion to go for a
trip to the moon, I profit by it, and that is all. It seems to me that
does not want so much reflection."

Barbicane looked eagerly at the man who spoke of his project of journey
with so much carelessness, and with such absence of anxiety.

"But at least," he said, "you have some plan, some means of execution?"

"Excellent means. But allow me to tell you one thing. I like to say my
say once and for all, and to everybody, and to hear no more about it.
Then, unless you can think of something better, call together your
friends, your colleagues, all the town, all Florida, all America if you
like, and to-morrow I shall be ready to state my means of execution, and
answer any objections, whatever they may be. Will that do?"

"Yes, that will do," answered Barbicane.

Whereupon the president left the cabin, and told the crowd about Michel
Ardan's proposition. His words were received with great demonstrations
of joy. That cut short all difficulties. The next day every one could
contemplate the European hero at their ease. Still some of the most
obstinate spectators would not leave the deck of the _Atlanta_; they
passed the night on board. Amongst others, J.T. Maston had screwed his
steel hook into the combing of the poop, and it would have taken the
capstan to get it out again.

"He is a hero! a hero!" cried he in every tone, "and we are only old
women compared to that European!"

As to the president, after having requested the spectators to withdraw,
he re-entered the passenger's cabin, and did not leave it till the bell
of the steamer rang out the midnight quarter.

But then the two rivals in popularity shook each other warmly by the
hand, and separated friends.

CHAPTER XIX.

A MEETING.

The next day the sun did not rise early enough to satisfy public
impatience. Barbicane, fearing that indiscreet questions would be put to
Michel Ardan, would like to have reduced his auditors to a small number
of adepts, to his colleagues for instance. But it was as easy as to dam
up the Falls at Niagara. He was, therefore, obliged to renounce his
project, and let his friend run all the risks of a public lecture. The
new Town Hall of Tampa Town, notwithstanding its colossal dimensions,
was considered insufficient for the occasion, which had assumed the
proportions of a public meeting.

The place chosen was a vast plain, situated outside the town. In a few
hours they succeeded in sheltering it from the rays of the sun. The
ships of the port, rich in canvas, furnished the necessary accessories
for a colossal tent. Soon an immense sky of cloth was spread over the
calcined plain, and defended it against the heat of the day. There
300,000 persons stood and braved a stifling temperature for several
hours whilst awaiting the Frenchman's arrival. Of that crowd of
spectators one-third alone could see and hear; a second third saw badly,
and did not hear. As to the remaining third, it neither heard nor saw,
though it was not the least eager to applaud.

At three o'clock Michel Ardan made his appearance, accompanied by the
principal members of the Gun Club. He gave his right arm to President
Barbicane, and his left to J.T. Maston, more radiant than the midday
sun, and nearly as ruddy.

Ardan mounted the platform, from which his eyes extended over a forest
of black hats. He did not seem in the least embarrassed; he did not
pose; he was at home there, gay, familiar, and amiable. To the cheers
that greeted him he answered by a gracious bow; then with his hand asked
for silence, began to speak in English, and expressed himself very
correctly in these terms:--

"Gentlemen," said he, "although it is very warm, I intend to keep you a
few minutes to give you some explanation of the projects which have
appeared to interest you. I am neither an orator nor a _savant_, and I
did not count upon having to speak in public; but my friend Barbicane
tells me it would give you pleasure, so I do it. Then listen to me with
your 600,000 ears, and please to excuse the faults of the orator."

This unceremonious beginning was much admired by the audience, who
expressed their satisfaction by an immense murmur of applause.

"Gentlemen," said he, "no mark of approbation or dissent is prohibited.
That settled, I continue. And, first of all, do not forget that you have
to do with an ignorant man, but his ignorance goes far enough to ignore
difficulties. It has, therefore, appeared a simple, natural, and easy
thing to him to take his passage in a projectile and to start for the
moon. That journey would be made sooner or later, and as to the mode of
locomotion adopted, it simply follows the law of progress. Man began by
travelling on all fours, then one fine day he went on two feet, then in
a cart, then in a coach, then on a railway. Well, the projectile is the
carriage of the future, and, to speak the truth, planets are only
projectiles, simple cannon-balls hurled by the hand of the Creator. But
to return to our vehicle. Some of you, gentlemen, may think that the
speed it will travel at is excessive--nothing of the kind. All the
planets go faster, and the earth itself in its movement round the sun
carries us along three times as fast. Here are some examples. Only I ask
your permission to express myself in leagues, for American measures are
not very familiar to me, and I fear getting muddled in my calculations."

The demand appeared quite simple, and offered no difficulty. The orator
resumed his speech.

"The following, gentlemen, is the speed of the different planets. I am
obliged to acknowledge that, notwithstanding my ignorance, I know this
small astronomical detail exactly, but in two minutes you will be as
learned as I. Learn, then, that Neptune goes at the rate of 5,000
leagues an hour; Uranus, 7,000; Saturn, 8,858; Jupiter, 11,675; Mars,
22,011; the earth, 27,500; Venus, 32,190; Mercury, 52,520; some comets,
14,000 leagues in their perihelion! As to us, veritable idlers, people
in no hurry, our speed does not exceed 9,900 leagues, and it will go on
decreasing! I ask you if there is anything to wonder at, and if it is
not evident that it will be surpassed some day by still greater speeds,
of which light or electricity will probably be the mechanical agents?"

No one seemed to doubt this affirmation.

"Dear hearers," he resumed, "according to certain narrow minds--that is
the best qualification for them--humanity is inclosed in a Popilius
circle which it cannot break open, and is condemned to vegetate upon
this globe without ever flying towards the planetary shores! Nothing of
the kind! We are going to the moon, we shall go to the planets, we shall
go to the stars as we now go from Liverpool to New York, easily,
rapidly, surely, and the atmospheric ocean will be as soon crossed as
the oceans of the earth! Distance is only a relative term, and will end
by being reduced to zero."

The assembly, though greatly in favour of the French hero, was rather
staggered by this audacious theory. Michel Ardan appeared to see it.

"You do not seem convinced, my worthy hosts," he continued with an
amiable smile. "Well, let us reason a little. Do you know how long it
would take an express train to reach the moon? Three hundred days. Not
more. A journey of 86,410 leagues, but what is that? Not even nine times
round the earth, and there are very few sailors who have not done that
during their existence. Think, I shall be only ninety-eight hours on the
road! Ah, you imagine that the moon is a long way from the earth, and
that one must think twice before attempting the adventure! But what
would you say if I were going to Neptune, which gravitates at
1,147,000,000 leagues from the sun? That is a journey that very few
people could go, even if it only cost a farthing a mile! Even Baron
Rothschild would not have enough to take his ticket!"

This argument seemed greatly to please the assembly; besides, Michel
Ardan, full of his subject, grew superbly eloquent; he felt he was
listened to, and resumed with admirable assurance--

"Well, my friends, this distance from Neptune to the sun is nothing
compared to that of the stars, some of which are billions of leagues
from the sun! And yet people speak of the distance that separates the
planets from the sun! Do you know what I think of this universe that
begins with the sun and ends at Neptune? Should you like to know my
theory? It is a very simple one. According to my opinion, the solar
universe is one solid homogeneous mass; the planets that compose it are
close together, crowd one another, and the space between them is only
the space that separates the molecules of the most compact
metal--silver, iron, or platinum! I have, therefore, the right to
affirm, and I will repeat it with a conviction you will all
share--distance is a vain word; distance does not exist!"

"Well said! Bravo! Hurrah!" cried the assembly with one voice,
electrified by the gesture and accent of the orator, and the boldness of
his conceptions.

"No!" cried J.T. Maston, more energetically than the others; "distance
does not exist!"

And, carried away by the violence of his movements and emotions he could
hardly contain, he nearly fell from the top of the platform to the
ground. But he succeeded in recovering his equilibrium, and thus avoided
a fall that would have brutally proved distance not to be a vain word.
Then the speech of the distinguished orator resumed its course.

"My friends," said he, "I think that this question is now solved. If I
have not convinced you all it is because I have been timid in my
demonstrations, feeble in my arguments, and you must set it down to my
theoretic ignorance. However that may be, I repeat, the distance from
the earth to her satellite is really very unimportant and unworthy to
occupy a serious mind. I do not think I am advancing too much in saying
that soon a service of trains will be established by projectiles, in
which the journey from the earth to the moon will be comfortably
accomplished. There will be no shocks nor running off the lines to fear,
and the goal will be reached rapidly, without fatigue, in a straight
line, 'as the crow flies.' Before twenty years are over, half the earth
will have visited the moon!"

"Three cheers for Michel Ardan!" cried the assistants, even those least
convinced.

"Three cheers for Barbicane!" modestly answered the orator.

This act of gratitude towards the promoter of the enterprise was greeted
with unanimous applause.

"Now, my friends," resumed Michel Ardan, "if you have any questions to
ask me you will evidently embarrass me, but still I will endeavour to
answer you."

Until now the president of the Gun Club had reason to be very satisfied
with the discussion. It had rolled upon speculative theories, upon which
Michel Ardan, carried away by his lively imagination, had shown himself
very brilliant. He must, therefore, be prevented from deviating towards
practical questions, which he would doubtless not come out of so well.
Barbicane made haste to speak, and asked his new friend if he thought
that the moon or the planets were inhabited.

"That is a great problem, my worthy president," answered the orator,
smiling; "still, if I am not mistaken, men of great intelligence--Plutarch,
Swedenborg, Bernardin de Saint-Pierre, and many others--answered in the
affirmative. If I answered from a natural philosophy point of view I
should do the same--I should say to myself that nothing useless exists
in this world, and, answering your question by another, friend
Barbicane, I should affirm that if the planets are inhabitable, either
they are inhabited, they have been, or they will be."

"Very well," cried the first ranks of spectators, whose opinion had the
force of law for the others.

"It is impossible to answer with more logic and justice," said the
president of the Gun Club. "The question, therefore, comes to this: 'Are
the planets inhabitable?' I think so, for my part."

"And I--I am certain of it," answered Michel Ardan.

"Still," replied one of the assistants, "there are arguments against the
inhabitability of the worlds. In most of them it is evident that the
principles of life must be modified. Thus, only to speak of the planets,
the people must be burnt up in some and frozen in others according as
they are a long or short distance from the sun."

"I regret," answered Michel Ardan, "not to know my honourable opponent
personally. His objection has its value, but I think it may be combated
with some success, like all those of which the habitability of worlds
has been the object. If I were a physician I should say that if there
were less caloric put in motion in the planets nearest to the sun, and
more, on the contrary, in the distant planets, this simple phenomenon
would suffice to equalise the heat and render the temperature of these
worlds bearable to beings organised like we are. If I were a naturalist
I should tell him, after many illustrious _savants_, that Nature
furnishes us on earth with examples of animals living in very different
conditions of habitability; that fish breathe in a medium mortal to the
other animals; that amphibians have a double existence difficult to
explain; that certain inhabitants of the sea live in the greatest
depths, and support there, without being crushed, pressures of fifty or
sixty atmospheres; that some aquatic insects, insensible to the
temperature, are met with at the same time in springs of boiling water
and in the frozen plains of the Polar Ocean--in short, there are in
nature many means of action, often incomprehensible, but no less real.
If I were a chemist I should say that aerolites--bodies evidently formed
away from our terrestrial globe--have when analysed, revealed
indisputable traces of carbon, a substance that owes its origin solely
to organised beings, and which, according to Reichenbach's experiments,
must necessarily have been 'animalised.' Lastly, if I were a theologian
I should say that Divine Redemption, according to St. Paul, seems
applicable not only to the earth but to all the celestial bodies. But I
am neither a theologian, chemist, naturalist, nor natural philosopher.
So, in my perfect ignorance of the great laws that rule the universe, I
can only answer, 'I do not know if the heavenly bodies are inhabited,
and, as I do not know, I am going to see!'"

Did the adversary of Michel Ardan's theories hazard any further
arguments? It is impossible to say, for the frantic cries of the crowd
would have prevented any opinion from being promulgated. When silence
was again restored, even in the most distant groups, the triumphant
orator contented himself with adding the following considerations:--

"You will think, gentlemen, that I have hardly touched upon this grave
question. I am not here to give you an instructive lecture upon this
vast subject. There is another series of arguments in favour of the
heavenly bodies being inhabited; I do not look upon that. Allow me only
to insist upon one point. To the people who maintain that the planets
are not inhabited you must answer, 'You may be right if it is
demonstrated that the earth is the best of possible worlds; but it is
not so, notwithstanding Voltaire.' It has only one satellite, whilst
Jupiter, Uranus, Saturn, and Neptune have several at their service, an
advantage that is not to be disdained. But that which now renders the
earth an uncomfortable place of abode is the inclination of its axis
upon its orbit. Hence the inequality of day and night; hence the
unfortunate diversity of seasons. Upon our miserable spheroid it is
always either too warm or too cold; we are frozen in winter and roasted
in summer; it is the planet of colds, rheumatism, and consumption,
whilst on the surface of Jupiter, for instance, where the axis has only
a very slight inclination, the inhabitants can enjoy invariable
temperature. There is the perpetual spring, summer, autumn, and winter
zone; each 'Jovian' may choose the climate that suits him, and may
shelter himself all his life from the variations of the temperature. You
will doubtless agree to this superiority of Jupiter over our planet
without speaking of its years, which each lasts twelve years! What is
more, it is evident to me that, under these auspices, and under such
marvellous conditions of existence, the inhabitants of that fortunate
world are superior beings--that _savants_ are more learned, artists more
artistic, the wicked less wicked, and the good are better. Alas! what is
wanting to our spheroid to reach this perfection is very little!--an
axis of rotation less inclined on the plane of its orbit."

"Well!" cried an impetuous voice, "let us unite our efforts, invent
machines, and rectify the earth's axis!"

Thunders of applause greeted this proposition, the author of which could
be no other than J.T. Maston. It is probable that the fiery secretary
had been carried away by his instincts as engineer to venture such a
proposition; but it must be said, for it is the truth, many encouraged
him with their cries, and doubtless, if they had found the resting-point
demanded by Archimedes, the Americans would have constructed a lever
capable of raising the world and redressing its axis. But this point was
wanting to these bold mechanicians.

Nevertheless, this eminently practical idea had enormous success: the
discussion was suspended for a good quarter of an hour, and long, very
long afterwards, they talked in the United States of America of the
proposition so energetically enunciated by the perpetual secretary of
the Gun Club.

CHAPTER XX.

THRUST AND PARRY.

This incident seemed to have terminated the discussion, but when the
agitation had subsided these words were heard uttered in a loud and
severe voice:--

"Now that the orator has allowed his fancy to roam, perhaps he would
kindly go back to his subject, pay less attention to theories, and
discuss the practical part of his expedition."

All eyes were turned towards the person who spoke thus. He was a thin,
dry-looking man, with an energetic face and an American beard. By taking
advantage of the agitation in the assembly from time to time he had
gained, by degrees, the front row of spectators. There, with his arms
crossed, his eyes brilliant and bold, he stared imperturbably at the
hero of the meeting. After having asked his question he kept silence,
and did not seem disturbed by the thousands of eyes directed towards him
nor by the disapproving murmur excited by his words. The answer being
delayed he again put the question with the same clear and precise
accent; then he added--

"We are here to discuss the moon, not the earth."

"You are right, sir," answered Michel Ardan, "the discussion has
wandered from the point; we will return to the moon."

"Sir," resumed the unknown man, "you pretend that our satellite is
inhabited. So far so good; but if Selenites do exist they certainly live
without breathing, for--I tell you the fact for your good--there is not
the least particle of air on the surface of the moon."

At this affirmation Ardan shook his red mane; he understood that a
struggle was coming with this man on the real question. He looked at him
fixedly in his turn, and said--

"Ah! there is no air in the moon! And who says so, pray?"

"The _savants_."

"Indeed?"

"Indeed."

"Sir," resumed Michel, "joking apart, I have a profound respect for
_savants_ who know, but a profound contempt for _savants_ who do not
know."

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

"Yes; in France there is one who maintains that, 'mathematically,' a
bird cannot fly, and another who demonstrates that a fish is not made to
live in water."

"There is no question of those two, sir, and I can quote in support of
my proposition names that you will not object to."

"Then, sir, you would greatly embarrass a poor ignorant man like me!"

"Then why do you meddle with scientific questions which you have never
studied?" asked the unknown brutally.

"Why?" answered Ardan; "because the man who does not suspect danger is
always brave! I know nothing, it is true, but it is precisely my
weakness that makes my strength."

"Your weakness goes as far as madness," exclaimed the unknown in a
bad-tempered tone.

"So much the better," replied the Frenchman, "if my madness takes me to
the moon!"

Barbicane and his colleagues stared at the intruder who had come so
boldly to stand in the way of their enterprise. None of them knew him,
and the president, not reassured upon the upshot of such a discussion,
looked at his new friend with some apprehension. The assembly was
attentive and slightly uneasy, for this struggle called attention to the
dangers and impossibilities of the expedition.

"Sir," resumed Michel Ardan's adversary, "the reasons that prove the
absence of all atmosphere round the moon are numerous and indisputable.
I may say, even, that, _a priori_ if that atmosphere had ever existed,
it must have been drawn away by the earth, but I would rather oppose you
with incontestable facts."

"Oppose, sir," answered Michel Ardan, with perfect gallantry--oppose as
much as you like."

"You know," said the unknown, "that when the sun's rays traverse a
medium like air they are deviated from a straight line, or, in other
words, they are refracted. Well, when stars are occulted by the moon
their rays, on grazing the edge of her disc, do not show the least
deviation nor offer the slightest indication of refraction. It follows,
therefore, that the moon can have no atmosphere."

Every one looked at the Frenchman, for, this once admitted, the
consequences were rigorous.

"In fact," answered Michel Ardan, "that is your best if not only
argument, and a _savant_, perhaps, would be embarrassed to answer it. I
can only tell you that this argument has no absolute value because it
supposes the angular diameter of the moon to be perfectly determined,
which it is not. But let us waive that, and tell me, my dear sir, if
you admit the existence of volcanoes on the surface of the moon."

"Extinct volcanoes, yes; volcanoes in eruption, no."

"For the sake of argument let us suppose that these volcanoes have been
in eruption for a certain period."

"That is certain, but as they can themselves furnish the oxygen
necessary for combustion the fact of their eruption does not in the
least prove the presence of a lunar atmosphere."

"We will pass on, then," answered Michel Ardan, "and leave this series
of argument and arrive at direct observation. But I warn you that I am
going to quote names."

"Very well."

"In 1715 the astronomers Louville and Halley, observing the eclipse of
the 3rd of May, remarked certain fulminations of a remarkable nature.
These jets of light, rapid and frequent, were attributed by them to
storms in the atmosphere of the moon."

"In 1715," replied the unknown, "the astronomers Louville and Halley
took for lunar phenomena phenomena purely terrestrial, such as meteoric
or other bodies which are generated in our own atmosphere. That was the
scientific aspect of these facts, and I go with it."

"Let us pass on again," answered Ardan, without being confused by the
reply. "Did not Herschel, in 1787, observe a great number of luminous
points on the surface of the moon?"

"Certainly; but without explaining the origin of these luminous points.
Herschel himself did not thereby conclude the necessity of a lunar
atmosphere."

"Well answered," said Michel Ardan, complimenting his adversary; "I see
that you are well up in selenography."

"Yes, sir; and I may add that the most skilful observers, MM. Boeer and
Moedler, agree that air is absolutely wanting on the moon's surface."

A movement took place amongst the audience, who appeared struck by the
arguments of this singular personage.

"We will pass on again," answered Michel Ardan, with the greatest
calmness, "and arrive now at an important fact. A skilful French
astronomer, M. Laussedat, whilst observing the eclipse of July 18th,
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 fact authenticated?"

"It is absolutely certain."

An inverse movement brought back the audience to the side of their
favourite hero, whose adversary remained silent.

Ardan went on speaking without showing any vanity about his last
advantage; he said simply--

"You see, therefore, my dear sir, that it cannot be positively affirmed
that there is no atmosphere on the surface of the moon. This atmosphere
is probably not dense, but science now generally admits that it exists."

"Not upon the mountains," replied the unknown, who would not give in.

"No, but in the depths of the valleys, and it is not more than some
hundreds of feet deep."

"Any way you will do well to take your precautions, for the air will be
terribly rarefied."

"Oh, there will always be enough for one man. Besides, once delivered up
there, I shall do my best to economise it and only to breathe it on
great occasions."

A formidable burst of laughter saluted the mysterious interlocutor, who
looked round the assembly daring it proudly.

"Then," resumed Michel Ardan, carelessly, "as we are agreed upon the
presence of some atmosphere, we are forced to admit the presence of some
water--a consequence I am delighted with, for my part. Besides, I have
another observation to make. We only know one side of the moon's disc,
and if there is little air on that side there may be much on the other."

"How so?"

"Because the moon under the action of terrestrial attraction has assumed
the form of an egg, of which we see the small end. Hence the consequence
due to the calculations of Hausen, that its centre of gravity is
situated in the other hemisphere. Hence this conclusion that all the
masses of air and water have been drawn to the other side of our
satellite in the first days of the creation."

"Pure fancies," exclaimed the unknown.

"No, pure theories based upon mechanical laws, and it appears difficult
to me to refute them. I make appeal to this assembly and put it to the
vote to know if life such as it exists upon earth is possible on the
surface of the moon?"

Three hundred thousand hearers applauded this proposition. Michel
Ardan's adversary wished to speak again, but he could not make himself
heard. Cries and threats were hailed upon him.

"Enough, enough!" said some.

"Turn him out!" repeated others.

But he, holding on to the platform, did not move, and let the storm
pass by. It might have assumed formidable proportions if Michel Ardan
had not appeased it by a gesture. He was too chivalrous to abandon his
contradicter in such an extremity.

"You wish to add a few words?" he asked, in the most gracious tone.

"Yes, a hundred! a thousand!" answered the unknown, carried away, "or
rather no, one only! To persevere in your enterprise you must be--"

"Imprudent! How can you call me that when I have asked for a
cylindro-conical bullet from my friend Barbicane so as not to turn round
on the road like a squirrel?"

"But, unfortunate man! the fearful shock will smash you to pieces when
you start."

"You have there put your finger upon the real and only difficulty; but I
have too good an opinion of the industrial genius of the Americans to
believe that they will not overcome that difficulty."

"But the heat developed by the speed of the projectile whilst crossing
the beds of air?"

"Oh, its sides are thick, and I shall so soon pass the atmosphere."

"But provisions? water?"

"I have calculated that I could carry enough for one year, and I shall
only be four days going."

"But air to breathe on the road?"

"I shall make some by chemical processes."

"But your fall upon the moon, supposing you ever get there?"

"It will be six times less rapid than a fall upon the earth, as
attraction is six times less on the surface of the moon."

"But it still will be sufficient to smash you like glass."

"What will prevent me delaying my fall by means of rockets conveniently
placed and lighted at the proper time?"

"But lastly, supposing that all difficulties be solved, all obstacles
cleared away by uniting every chance in your favour, admitting that you
reach the moon safe and well, how shall you come back?"

"I shall not come back."

Upon this answer, which was almost sublime by reason of its simplicity,
the assembly remained silent. But its silence was more eloquent than its
cries of enthusiasm would have been. The unknown profited by it to
protest one last time.

"You will infallibly kill yourself," he cried, "and your death, which
will be only a madman's death, will not even be useful to science."

"Go on, most generous of men, for you prophesy in the most agreeable
manner."

"Ah, it is too much!" exclaimed Michel Ardan's adversary, "and I do not
know why I go on with so childish a discussion. Go on with your mad
enterprise as you like. It is not your fault."

"Fire away."

"No, another must bear the responsibility of your acts."

"Who is that, pray?" asked Michel Ardan in an imperious voice.

"The fool who has organised this attempt, as impossible as it is
ridiculous."

The attack was direct. Barbicane since the intervention of the unknown
had made violent efforts to contain himself and "consume his own smoke,"
but upon seeing himself so outrageously designated he rose directly and
was going to walk towards his adversary, who dared him to his face, when
he felt himself suddenly separated from him.

The platform was lifted up all at once by a hundred vigorous arms, and
the president of the Gun Club was forced to share the honours of triumph
with Michel Ardan. The platform was heavy, but the bearers came in
continuous relays, disputing, struggling, even fighting for the
privilege of lending the support of their shoulders to this
manifestation.

However, the unknown did not take advantage of the tumult to leave the
place. He kept in the front row, his arms folded, still staring at
President Barbicane.

The president did not lose sight of him either, and the eyes of these
two men met like flaming swords.

The cries of the immense crowds kept at their maximum of intensity
during this triumphant march. Michel Ardan allowed himself to be carried
with evident pleasure.

Sometimes the platform pitched and tossed like a ship beaten by the
waves. But the two heroes of the meeting were good sailors, and their
vessel safely arrived in the port of Tampa Town.

Michel Ardan happily succeeded in escaping from his vigorous admirers.
He fled to the Franklin Hotel, quickly reached his room, and glided
rapidly into bed whilst an army of 100,000 men watched under his
windows.

In the meanwhile a short, grave, and decisive scene had taken place
between the mysterious personage and the president of the Gun Club.

Barbicane, liberated at last, went straight to his adversary.

"Come!" said he in a curt voice.

The stranger followed him on to the quay, and they were soon both alone
at the entrance to a wharf opening on to Jones' Fall.

There these enemies, still unknown to one another, looked at each other.

"Who are you?" asked Barbicane.

"Captain Nicholl."

"I thought so. Until now fate has never made you cross my path."

"I crossed it of my own accord."

"You have insulted me."

"Publicly."

"And you shall give me satisfaction for that insult."

"Now, this minute."

"No. I wish everything between us to be kept secret. There is a wood
situated three miles from Tampa--Skersnaw Wood. Do you know it?"

"Yes."

"Will you enter it to-morrow morning at five o'clock by one side?"

"Yes, if you will enter it by the other at the same time."

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

"Not more than you will forget yours," answered Captain Nicholl.

After these words had been coldly pronounced the president of the Gun
Club and the captain separated. Barbicane returned to his dwelling; but,
instead of taking some hours' rest, he passed the night in seeking means
to avoid the shock of the projectile, and to solve the difficult problem
given by Michel Ardan at the meeting.

CHAPTER XXI.

HOW A FRENCHMAN SETTLES AN AFFAIR.

Whilst the duel was being discussed between the president and the
captain--a terrible and savage duel in which each adversary became a
man-hunter--Michel Ardan was resting after the fatigues of his triumph.
Resting is evidently not the right expression, for American beds rival
in hardness tables of marble or granite.

Ardan slept badly, turning over and over between the _serviettes_ that
served him for sheets, and he was thinking of installing a more
comfortable bed in his projectile when a violent noise startled him from
his slumbers. Thundering blows shook his door. They seemed to be
administered with an iron instrument. Shouts were heard in this racket,
rather too early to be agreeable.

"Open!" some one cried. "Open, for Heaven's sake!"

There was no reason why Ardan should acquiesce in so peremptory a
demand. Still he rose and opened his door at the moment it was giving
way under the efforts of the obstinate visitor.

The secretary of the Gun Club bounded into the room. A bomb would not
have entered with less ceremony.

"Yesterday evening," exclaimed J.T. Maston _ex abrupto_, "our president
was publicly insulted during the meeting! He has challenged his
adversary, who is no other than Captain Nicholl! They are going to fight
this morning in Skersnaw Wood! I learnt it all from Barbicane himself!
If he is killed our project will be at an end! This duel must be
prevented! Now one man only can have enough empire over Barbicane to
stop it, and that man is Michel Ardan."

Whilst J.T. Maston was speaking thus, Michel Ardan, giving up
interrupting him, jumped into his vast trousers, and in less than two
minutes after the two friends were rushing as fast as they could go
towards the suburbs of Tampa Town.

It was during this rapid course that Maston told Ardan the state of the
case. He told him the real causes of the enmity between Barbicane and
Nicholl, how that enmity was of old date, why until then, thanks to
mutual friends, the president and the captain had never met; he added
that it was solely a rivalry between iron-plate and bullet; and, lastly,
that the scene of the meeting had only been an occasion long sought by
Nicholl to satisfy an old grudge.

There is nothing more terrible than these private duels in America,
during which the two adversaries seek each other across thickets, and
hunt each other like wild animals. It is then that each must envy those
marvellous qualities so natural to the Indians of the prairies, their
rapid intelligence, their ingenious ruse, their scent of the enemy. An
error, a hesitation, a wrong step, may cause death. In these meetings
the Yankees are often accompanied by their dogs, and both sportsmen and
game go on for hours.

"What demons you are!" exclaimed Michel Ardan, when his companion had
depicted the scene with much energy.

"We are what we are," answered J.T. Maston modestly; "but let us make
haste."

In vain did Michel Ardan and he rush across the plain still wet with
dew, jump the creeks, take the shortest cuts; they could not reach
Skersnaw Wood before half-past five. Barbicane must have entered it
half-an-hour before.

There an old bushman was tying up faggots his axe had cut.

Maston ran to him crying--

"Have you seen a man enter the wood armed with a rifle? Barbicane, the
president--my best friend?"

The worthy secretary of the Gun Club thought naively that all the world
must know his president. But the bushman did not seem to understand.

"A sportsman," then said Ardan.

"A sportsman? Yes," answered the bushman.

"Is it long since?"

"About an hour ago."

"Too late!" exclaimed Maston.

"Have you heard any firing?" asked Michel Ardan.

"No."

"Not one shot?"

"Not one. That sportsman does not seem to bag much game!"

"What shall we do?" said Maston.

"Enter the wood at the risk of catching a bullet not meant for us."

"Ah!" exclaimed Maston, with an unmistakable accent, "I would rather
have ten bullets in my head than one in Barbicane's head."

"Go ahead, then!" said Ardan, pressing his companion's hand.

A few seconds after the two companions disappeared in a copse. It was a
dense thicket made of huge cypresses, sycamores, tulip-trees, olives,
tamarinds, oaks, and magnolias. The different trees intermingled their
branches in inextricable confusion, and quite hid the view. Michel Ardan
and Maston walked on side by side phasing silently through the tall
grass, making a road for themselves through the vigorous creepers,
looking in all the bushes or branches lost in the sombre shade of the
foliage, and expecting to hear a shot at every step. As to the traces
that Barbicane must have left of his passage through the wood, it was
impossible for them to see them, and they marched blindly on in the
hardly-formed paths in which an Indian would have followed his adversary
step by step.

After a vain search of about an hour's length the two companions
stopped. Their anxiety was redoubled.

"It must be all over," said Maston in despair. "A man like Barbicane
would not lay traps or condescend to any manoeuvre! He is too frank, too
courageous. He has gone straight into danger, and doubtless far enough
from the bushman for the wind to carry off the noise of the shot!"

"But we should have heard it!" answered Michel Ardan.

"But what if we came too late?" exclaimed J.T. Maston in an accent of
despair.

Michel Ardan did not find any answer to make. Maston and he resumed
their interrupted walk. From time to time they shouted; they called
either Barbicane or Nicholl; but neither of the two adversaries
answered. Joyful flocks of birds, roused by the noise, disappeared
amongst the branches, and some frightened deer fled through the copses.

They continued their search another hour. The greater part of the wood
had been explored. Nothing revealed the presence of the combatants. They
began to doubt the affirmation of the bushman, and Ardan was going to
renounce the pursuit as useless, when all at once Maston stopped.

"Hush!" said he. "There is some one yonder!"

"Some one?" answered Michel Ardan.

"Yes! a man! He does not seem to move. His rifle is not in his hand.
What can he be doing?"

"But do you recognise him?" asked Michel Ardan.

"Yes, yes! he is turning round," answered Maston.

"Who is it?"

"Captain Nicholl!"

"Nicholl!" cried Michel Ardan, whose heart almost stopped beating.

"Nicholl disarmed! Then he had nothing more to fear from his adversary?"

"Let us go to him," said Michel Ardan; "we shall know how it is."

But his companion and he had not gone fifty steps when they stopped to
examine the captain more attentively. They imagined they should find a
bloodthirsty and revengeful man. Upon seeing him they remained
stupefied.

A net with fine meshes was hung between two gigantic tulip-trees, and in
it a small bird, with its wings entangled, was struggling with plaintive
cries. The bird-catcher who had hung the net was not a human being but a
venomous spider, peculiar to the country, as large as a pigeon's egg,
and furnished with enormous legs. The hideous insect, as he was rushing
on his prey, was forced to turn back and take refuge in the high
branches of a tulip-tree, for a formidable enemy threatened him in his
turn.

In fact, Captain Nicholl, with his gun on the ground, forgetting the
dangers of his situation, was occupied in delivering as delicately as
possible the victim taken in the meshes of the monstrous spider. When he
had finished he let the little bird fly away; it fluttered its wings
joyfully and disappeared.

Nicholl, touched, was watching it fly through the copse when he heard
these words uttered in a voice full of emotion:--

"You are a brave man, you are!"

He turned. Michel Ardan was in front of him, repeating in every tone--

"And a kind one!"

"Michel Ardan!" exclaimed the captain, "what have you come here for,
sir?"

"To shake hands with you, Nicholl, and prevent you killing Barbicane or
being killed by him."

"Barbicane!" cried the captain, "I have been looking for him these two
hours without finding him! Where is he hiding himself?"

"Nicholl!" said Michel Ardan, "this is not polite! You must always
respect your adversary; don't be uneasy; if Barbicane is alive we shall
find him, and so much the more easily that if he has not amused himself
with protecting birds he must be looking for you too. But when you have
found him--and Michel Ardan tells you this--there will be no duel
between you."

"Between President Barbicane and me," answered Nicholl gravely, "there
is such rivalry that the death of one of us--"

"Come, come!" resumed Michel Ardan, "brave men like you may detest one
another, but they respect one another too. You will not fight."

"I shall fight, sir."

"No you won't."

"Captain," then said J.T. Maston heartily, "I am the president's friend,
his _alter ego_; if you must absolutely kill some one kill me; that will
be exactly the same thing."

"Sir," said Nicholl, convulsively seizing his rifle, "this joking--"

"Friend Maston is not joking," answered Michel Ardan, "and I understand
his wanting to be killed for the man he loves; but neither he nor
Barbicane will fall under Captain Nicholl's bullets, for I have so
tempting a proposition to make to the two rivals that they will hasten
to accept it."

"But what is it, pray?" asked Nicholl, with visible incredulity.

"Patience," answered Ardan; "I can only communicate it in Barbicane's
presence."

"Let us look for him, then," cried the captain.

The three men immediately set out; the captain, having discharged his
rifle, threw it on his shoulder and walked on in silence.

During another half-hour the search was in vain. Maston was seized with
a sinister presentiment. He observed Captain Nicholl closely, asking
himself if, once the captain's vengeance satisfied, the unfortunate
Barbicane had not been left lying in some bloody thicket. Michel Ardan
seemed to have the same thought, and they were both looking
questioningly at Captain Nicholl when Maston suddenly stopped.

The motionless bust of a man leaning against a gigantic catalpa appeared
twenty feet off half hidden in the grass.

"It is he!" said Maston.

Barbicane did not move. Ardan stared at the captain, but he did not
wince. Ardan rushed forward, crying--

"Barbicane! Barbicane!"

No answer. Ardan was about to seize his arm; he stopped short, uttering
a cry of surprise.

Barbicane, with a pencil in his hand, was tracing geometrical figures
upon a memorandum-book, whilst his unloaded gun lay on the ground.

Absorbed in his work, the _savant_, forgetting in his turn his duel and
his vengeance, had neither seen nor heard anything.

But when Michel Ardan placed his hand on that of the president, he got
up and looked at him with astonishment.

"Ah!" cried he at last; "you here! I have found it, my friend, I have
found it!"

"What?"

"The way to do it."

"The way to do what?"

"To counteract the effect of the shock at the departure of the
projectile."

"Really?" said Michel, 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 too!"

"Himself," answered Michel Ardan; "and allow me to introduce at the same
time the worthy Captain Nicholl."

"Nicholl!" cried Barbicane, up in a moment. "Excuse me, captain," said
he; "I had forgotten. I am ready."

Michel Ardan interfered before the two enemies had time to recriminate.

"Faith," said he, "it is fortunate that brave fellows like you did not
meet sooner. We should now have to mourn for one or other of you; but,
thanks to God, who has prevented it, there is nothing more to fear. When
one forgets his hatred to plunge into mechanical problems and the other
to play tricks on spiders, their hatred cannot be dangerous to anybody."

And Michel Ardan related the captain's story to the president.

"I ask you now," said he as he concluded, "if two good beings like you
were made to break each other's heads with gunshots?"

There was in this rather ridiculous situation something so unexpected,
that Barbicane and Nicholl did not know how to look at one another.
Michel Ardan felt this, and resolved to try for a reconciliation.

"My brave friends," said he, smiling in his most fascinating manner, "it
has all been a mistake between you, nothing more. Well, to prove that
all is ended between you, and as you are men who risk your lives,
frankly accept the proposition that I am going to make to you."

"Speak," said Nicholl.

"Friend Barbicane believes that his projectile will go straight to the
moon."

"Yes, certainly," replied the president.

"And friend Nicholl is persuaded that it will fall back on the earth."

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

"Good," resumed Michel Ardan. "I do not pretend to make you agree; all I
say to you is, 'Come with me, and see if we shall stop on the road.'"

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

The two rivals at this sudden proposition had raised their eyes and
looked at each other attentively. Barbicane waited for Captain Nicholl's
answer; Nicholl awaited the president's reply.

"Well," said Michel in his most engaging tone, "as there is now no shock
to fear----"

"Accepted!" cried Barbicane.

But although this word was uttered very quickly, Nicholl had finished it
at the same time.

"Hurrah! bravo!" cried Michel Ardan, holding out his hands to the two
adversaries. "And now that the affair is arranged, my friends, allow me
to treat you French fashion. _Allons dejeuner_."

CHAPTER XXII.

THE NEW CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES.

That day all America heard about the duel and its singular termination.
The part played by the chivalrous European, his unexpected proposition
which solved the difficulty, the simultaneous acceptation of the two
rivals, that conquest of the lunar continent to which France and the
United States were going to march in concert--everything tended to
increase Michel Ardan's popularity. It is well known how enthusiastic
the Yankees will get about an individual. In a country where grave
magistrates harness themselves to a dancer's carriage and draw it in
triumph, it may be judged how the bold Frenchman was treated. If they
did not take out his horses it was probably because he had none, but all
other marks of enthusiasm were showered upon him. There was no citizen
who did not join him heart and mind:--_Ex pluribus unam_, according to
the motto of the United States.

From that day Michel Ardan had not a minute's rest. Deputations from all
parts of the Union worried him incessantly. He was forced to receive
them whether he would or no. The hands he shook could not be counted; he
was soon completely worn out, his voice became hoarse in consequence of
his innumerable speeches, and only escaped from his lips in
unintelligible sounds, and he nearly caught a gastro-enterite after the
toasts he proposed to the Union. This success would have intoxicated
another man from the first, but he managed to stay in a _spirituelle_
and charming demi-inebriety.

Amongst the deputations of every sort that assailed him, that of the
"Lunatics" did not forget what they owed to the future conqueror of the
moon. One day some of these poor creatures, numerous enough in America,
went to him and asked to return with him to their native country. Some
of them pretended to speak "Selenite," and wished to teach it to Michel
Ardan, who willingly lent himself to their innocent mania, and promised
to take their messages to their friends in the moon.

"Singular folly!" said he to Barbicane, after having dismissed them;
"and a folly that often takes possession of men of great intelligence.
One of our most illustrious _savants_, Arago, told me that many very
wise and reserved people in their conceptions became much excited and
gave way to incredible singularities every time the moon occupied them.
Do you believe in the influence of the moon upon maladies?"

"Very little," answered the president of the Gun Club.

"I do not either, and yet history has preserved some facts that, to say
the least, are astonishing. Thus in 1693, during an epidemic, people
perished in the greatest numbers on the 21st of January, during an
eclipse. The celebrated Bacon fainted during the moon eclipses, and only
came to himself after its entire emersion. King Charles VI. relapsed six
times into madness during the year 1399, either at the new or full moon.
Physicians have ranked epilepsy amongst the maladies that follow the
phases of the moon. Nervous maladies have often appeared to be
influenced by it. Mead speaks of a child who had convulsions when the
moon was in opposition. Gall remarked that insane persons underwent an
accession of their disorder twice in every month, at the epochs of the
new and full moon. Lastly, a thousand observations of this sort made
upon malignant fevers and somnambulism tend to prove that the Queen of
Night has a mysterious influence upon terrestrial maladies."

"But how? why?" asked Barbicane.

"Why?" answered Ardan. "Why, the only thing I can tell you is what Arago
repeated nineteen centuries after Plutarch. Perhaps it is because it is
not true."

In the height of his triumph Michel Ardan could not escape any of the
annoyances incidental to a celebrated man. Managers of entertainments
wished to exhibit him. Barnum offered him a million dollars to show him
as a curious animal in the different towns of the United States.

Still, though he refused to satisfy public curiosity in that way, his
portraits went all over the world, and occupied the place of honour in
albums; proofs were made of all sizes from life size to medallions.
Every one could possess the hero in all positions--head, bust, standing,
full-face, profile, three-quarters, back. Fifteen hundred thousand
copies were taken, and it would have been a fine occasion to get money
by relics, but he did not profit by it. If he had sold his hairs for a
dollar apiece there would have remained enough to make his fortune!

To tell the truth, this popularity did not displease him. On the
contrary, he put himself at the disposition of the public, and
corresponded with the entire universe. They repeated his witticisms,
especially those he did not perpetrate.

Not only had he all the men for him, but the women too. What an infinite
number of good marriages he might have made if he had taken a fancy to
"settle!" Old maids especially dreamt before his portraits day and
night.

It is certain that he would have found female companions by hundreds,
even if he had imposed the condition of following him up into the air.
Women are intrepid when they are not afraid of everything. But he had no
intention of transplanting a race of Franco-Americans upon the lunar
continent, so he refused.

"I do not mean," said he, "to play the part of Adam with a daughter of
Eve up there. I might meet with serpents!"

As soon as he could withdraw from the joys of triumph, too often
repeated, he went with his friends to pay a visit to the Columbiad. He
owed it that. Besides, he was getting very learned in ballistics since
he had lived with Barbicane, J.T. Maston, and _tutti quanti_. His
greatest pleasure consisted in repeating to these brave artillerymen
that they were only amiable and learned murderers. He was always joking
about it. The day he visited the Columbiad he greatly admired it, and
went down to the bore of the gigantic mortar that was soon to hurl him
towards the Queen of Night.

"At least," said he, "that cannon will not hurt anybody, which is
already very astonishing on the part of a cannon. But as to your engines
that destroy, burn, smash, and kill, don't talk to me about them!"

It is necessary to report here a proposition made by J.T. Maston. When
the secretary of the Gun Club heard Barbicane and Nicholl accept Michel
Ardan's proposition he resolved to join them, and make a party of four.
One day he asked to go. Barbicane, grieved at having to refuse, made him
understand that the projectile could not carry so many passengers. J.T.
Maston, in despair, went to Michel Ardan, who advised him to be
resigned, adding one or two arguments _ad hominem_.

"You see, old fellow," he said to him, "you must not be offended, but
really, between ourselves, you are too incomplete to present yourself in
the moon."

"Incomplete!" cried the valiant cripple.

"Yes, my brave friend. Suppose we should meet with inhabitants up there.
Do you want to give them a sorry idea of what goes on here, teach them
what war is, show them that we employ the best part of our time in
devouring each other and breaking arms and limbs, and that upon a globe
that could feed a hundred thousand millions of inhabitants, and where
there are hardly twelve hundred millions? Why, my worthy friend, you
would have us shown to the door!"

"But if you arrive smashed to pieces," replied J.T. Maston, "you will be
as incomplete as I."

"Certainly," answered Michel Ardan, "but we shall not arrive in pieces."

In fact, a preparatory experiment, tried on the 18th of October, had
been attended with the best results, and given rise to the most
legitimate hopes. Barbicane, wishing to know the effect of the shock at
the moment of the projectile's departure, sent for a 32-inch mortar from
Pensacola Arsenal. It was installed upon the quay of Hillisboro Harbour,
in order that the bomb might fall into the sea, and the shock of its
fall be deadened. He only wished to experiment upon the shock of its
departure, not that of its arrival.

A hollow projectile was prepared with the greatest care for this curious
experiment. A thick wadding put upon a network of springs made of the
best steel lined it inside. It was quite a wadded nest.

"What a pity one can't go in it!" said J.T. Maston, regretting that his
size did not allow him to make the venture.

Into this charming bomb, which was closed by means of a lid, screwed
down, they put first a large cat, then a squirrel belonging to the
perpetual secretary of the Gun Club, which J.T. Maston was very fond of.
But they wished to know how this little animal, not likely to be giddy,
would support this experimental journey.

The mortar was loaded with 160 lbs. of powder and the bomb. It was then
fired.

The projectile immediately rose with rapidity, described a majestic
parabola, attained a height of about a thousand feet, and then with a
graceful curve fell into the waves.

Without losing an instant, a vessel was sent to the spot where it fell;
skilful divers sank under water and fastened cable-chains to the handles
of the bomb, which was rapidly hoisted on board. Five minutes had not
elapsed between the time the animals were shut up and the unscrewing of
their prison lid.

Ardan, Barbicane, Maston, and Nicholl were upon the vessel, and they
assisted at the operation with a sentiment of interest easy to
understand. The bomb was hardly opened before the cat sprang out, rather
bruised but quite lively, and not looking as if it had just returned
from an aerial expedition. But nothing, was seen of the squirrel. The
truth was then discovered. The cat had eaten its travelling companion.

J.T. Maston was very grieved at the loss of his poor squirrel, and
proposed to inscribe it in the martyrology of science.

However that may be, after this experiment all hesitation and fear were
at an end; besides, Barbicane's plans were destined further to perfect
the projectile, and destroy almost entirely the effect of the shock.
There was nothing more to do but to start.

Two days later Michel Ardan received a message from the President of
the Union, an honour which he much appreciated.

After the example of his chivalrous countryman, La Fayette, the
government had bestowed upon him the title of "Citizen of the United
States of America."

CHAPTER XXIII.

THE PROJECTILE COMPARTMENT.

After the celebrated Columbiad was completed public interest immediately
centred upon the projectile, the new vehicle destined to transport the
three bold adventurers across space. No one had forgotten that in his
despatch of September 30th Michel Ardan asked for a modification of the
plans laid out by the members of the committee.

President Barbicane then thought with reason that the form of the
projectile was of slight importance, for, after crossing the atmosphere
in a few seconds, it would meet with vacuum. The committee had therefore
chosen the round form, so that the ball might turn over and over and do
as it liked. But as soon as it had to be made into a vehicle, that was
another thing. Michel Ardan did not want to travel squirrel-fashion; he
wished to go up head up and feet down with as much dignity as in the car
of a balloon, quicker of course, but without unseemly gambols.

New plans were, therefore, sent to the firm of Breadwill and Co., of
Albany, with the recommendation to execute them without delay. The
projectile, thus modified, was cast on the 2nd of November, and sent
immediately to Stony Hill by the Eastern Railway.

On the 10th it arrived without accident at its place of destination.
Michel Ardan, Barbicane, and Nicholl awaited with the most lively
impatience this "projectile compartment" in which they were to take
their passage for the discovery of a new world.

It must be acknowledged that it was a magnificent piece of metal, a
metallurgic production that did the greatest honour to the industrial
genius of the Americans. It was the first time that aluminium had been
obtained in so large a mass, which result might be justly regarded as
prodigious. This precious projectile sparkled in the rays of the sun.
Seeing it in its imposing shape with its conical top, it might easily
have been taken for one of those extinguisher-shaped towers that
architects of the Middle Ages put at the angles of their castles. It
only wanted loopholes and a weathercock.

"I expect," exclaimed Michel Ardan, "to see a man armed _cap-a-pie_ come
out of it. We shall be like feudal lords in there; with a little
artillery we could hold our own against a whole army of Selenites--that
is, if there are any in the moon!"

"Then the vehicle pleases you?" asked Barbicane.

"Yes, yes! certainly," answered Michel Ardan, who was examining it as an
artist. "I only regret that its form is not a little more slender, its
cone more graceful; it ought to be terminated by a metal group, some
Gothic ornament, a salamander escaping from it with outspread wings and
open beak."

"What would be the use?" said Barbicane, whose positive mind was little
sensitive to the beauties of art.

"Ah, friend Barbicane, I am afraid you will never understand the use, or
you would not ask!"

"Well, tell me, at all events, my brave companion."

"Well, my friend, I think we ought always to put a little art in all we
do. Do you know an Indian play called _The Child's Chariot_?"

"Not even by name," answered Barbicane.

"I am not surprised at that," continued Michel Ardan. "Learn, then, that
in that play there is a robber who, when in the act of piercing the wall
of a house, stops to consider whether he shall make his hole in the
shape of a lyre, a flower, or a bird. Well, tell me, friend Barbicane,
if at that epoch you had been his judge would you have condemned that
robber?"

"Without hesitation," answered the president of the Gun Club, "and as a
burglar too."

"Well, I should have acquitted him, friend Barbicane. That is why you
could never understand me."

"I will not even try, my valiant artist."

"But, at least," continued Michel Ardan, "as the exterior of our
projectile compartment leaves much to be desired, I shall be allowed to
furnish the inside as I choose, and with all luxury suitable to
ambassadors from the earth."

"About that, my brave Michel," answered Barbicane, "you can do entirely
as you please."

But before passing to the agreeable the president of the Gun Club had
thought of the useful, and the means he had invented for lessening the
effects of the shock were applied with perfect intelligence.

Barbicane had said to himself, not unreasonably, that no spring would be
sufficiently powerful to deaden the shock, and during his famous
promenade in Skersnaw Wood he had ended by solving this great difficulty
in an ingenious fashion. He depended upon water to render him this
signal service. This is how:--

The projectile was to be filled to the depth of three feet with water
destined to support a water-tight wooden disc, which easily worked
within the walls of the projectile. It was upon this raft that the
travellers were to take their place. As to the liquid mass, it was
divided by horizontal partitions which the departing shock would
successively break; then each sheet of water, from the lowest to the
highest, escaping by valves in the upper part of the projectile, thus
making a spring, and the disc, itself furnished with extremely powerful
buffers, could not strike the bottom until it had successively broken
the different partitions. The travellers would doubtless feel a violent
recoil after the complete escape of the liquid mass, but the first shock
would be almost entirely deadened by so powerful a spring.

It is true that three feet on a surface of 541 square feet would weigh
nearly 11,500 lbs; but the escape of gas accumulated in the Columbiad
would suffice, Barbicane thought to conquer that increase of weight;
besides, the shock would send out all that water in less than a second,
and the projectile would soon regain its normal weight.

This is what the president of the Gun Club had imagined, and how he
thought he had solved the great question of the recoil. This work,
intelligently comprehended by the engineers of the Breadwill firm, was
marvellously executed; the effect once produced and the water gone, the
travellers could easily get rid of the broken partitions and take away
the mobile disc that bore them at the moment of departure.

As to the upper sides of the projectile, they were lined with a thick
wadding of leather, put upon the best steel springs as supple as
watch-springs. The escape-pipes hidden under this wadding were not even
seen.

All imaginable precautions for deadening the first shock having been
taken, Michel Ardan said they must be made of "very bad stuff" to be
crushed.

The projectile outside was nine feet wide and twelve feet high. In order
not to pass the weight assigned the sides had been made a little less
thick and the bottom thicker, as it would have to support all the
violence of the gases developed by the deflagration of the pyroxyle.
Bombs and cylindro-conical howitzers are always made with thicker
bottoms.

The entrance to this tower of metal was a narrow opening in the wall of
the cone, like the "man-hole" of steam boilers. It closed hermetically
by means of an aluminium plate fastened inside by powerful screw
pressure. The travellers could therefore leave their mobile prison at
will as soon as they had reached the Queen of Night.

But going was not everything; it was necessary to see on the road.
Nothing was easier. In fact, under the wadding were four thick
lenticular footlights, two let into the circular wall of the projectile,
the third in its lower part, and the fourth in its cone. The travellers
could, therefore, observe during their journey the earth they were
leaving, the moon they were approaching, and the constellated spaces of
the sky. These skylights were protected against the shocks of departure
by plates let into solid grooves, which it was easy to move by
unscrewing them. By that means the air contained in the projectile could
not escape, and it was possible to make observations.

All these mechanical appliances, admirably set, worked with the greatest
ease, and the engineers had not shown themselves less intelligent in the
arrangement of the projectile compartment.

Lockers solidly fastened were destined to contain the water and
provisions necessary for the three travellers; they could even procure
themselves fire and light by means of gas stored up in a special case
under a pressure of several atmospheres. All they had to do was to turn
a tap, and the gas would light and warm this comfortable vehicle for six
days. It will be seen that none of the things essential to life, or even
to comfort, were wanting. More, thanks to the instincts of Michel Ardan,
the agreeable was joined to the useful under the form of objects of art;
he would have made a veritable artist's studio of his projectile if room
had not been wanting. It would be mistaken to suppose that three persons
would be restricted for space in that metal tower. It had a surface of
54 square feet, and was nearly 10 feet high, and allowed its occupiers a
certain liberty of movement. They would not have been so much at their
ease in the most comfortable railway compartment of the United States.

The question of provisions and lighting having been solved, there
remained the question of air. It was evident that the air confined in
the projectile would not be sufficient for the travellers' respiration
for four days; each man, in fact, consumes in one hour all the oxygen
contained in 100 litres of air. Barbicane, his two companions, and two
dogs that he meant to take, would consume every twenty-four hours 2,400
litres of oxygen, or a weight equal to 7 lbs. The air in the projectile
must, therefore, be renewed. How? By a very simple method, that of
Messrs. Reiset and Regnault, indicated by Michel Ardan during the
discussion of the meeting.

It is known that the air is composed principally of twenty-one parts of
oxygen and seventy-nine parts of azote. Now what happens in the act of
respiration? A very simple phenomenon, Man absorbs the oxygen of the
air, eminently adapted for sustaining life, and throws out the azote
intact. The air breathed out has lost nearly five per cent, of its
oxygen, and then contains a nearly equal volume of carbonic acid, the
definitive product of the combustion of the elements of the blood by the
oxygen breathed in it. It happens, therefore, that in a confined space
and after a certain time all the oxygen of the air is replaced by
carbonic acid, an essentially deleterious gas.

The question was then reduced to this, the azote being conserved
intact--1. To remake the oxygen absorbed; 2. To destroy the carbonic
acid breathed out. Nothing easier to do by means of chlorate of potash
and caustic potash. The former is a salt which appears under the form of
white crystals; when heated to a temperature of 400 deg. it is transformed
into chlorine of potassium, and the oxygen which it contains is given
off freely. Now 18 lbs. of chlorate of potash give 7 lbs of oxygen--that
is to say, the quantity necessary to the travellers for twenty-four
hours.

As to caustic potash, it has a great affinity for carbonic acid mixed in
air, and it is sufficient to shake it in order for it to seize upon the
acid and form bicarbonate of potash. So much for the absorption of
carbonic acid.

By combining these two methods they were certain of giving back to
vitiated air all its life-giving qualities. The two chemists, Messrs.
Reiset and Regnault, had made the experiment with success.

But it must be said the experiment had only been made _in anima vili_.
Whatever its scientific accuracy might be, no one knew how man could
bear it.

Such was the observation made at the meeting where this grave question
was discussed. Michel Ardan meant to leave no doubt about the
possibility of living by means of this artificial air, and he offered to
make the trial before the departure.

But the honour of putting it to the proof was energetically claimed by
J.T. Maston.

"As I am not going with you," said the brave artilleryman, "the least I
can do will be to live in the projectile for a week."

It would have been ungracious to refuse him. His wish was complied with.
A sufficient quantity of chlorate of potash and caustic potash was
placed at his disposition, with provisions for a week; then having
shaken hands with his friends, on the 12th of November at 6 a.m., after
having expressly recommended them not to open his prison before the 20th
at 6 p.m., he crept into the projectile, the iron plate of which was
hermetically shut.

What happened during that week? It was impossible to ascertain. The
thickness of the projectile's walls prevented any interior noise from
reaching the outside.

On the 20th of November, at six o'clock precisely, the plate was
removed; the friends of J.T. Maston were rather uneasy. But they were
promptly reassured by hearing a joyful voice shouting a formidable
hurrah!

The secretary of the Gun Club appeared on the summit of the cone in a
triumphant attitude.

He had grown fat!

CHAPTER XXIV.

THE TELESCOPE OF THE ROCKY MOUNTAINS.

On the 20th of October of the preceding year, after the subscription
list was closed, the president of the Gun Club had credited the
Cambridge Observatory with the sums necessary for the construction of a
vast optical instrument. This telescope was to be powerful enough to
render visible on the surface of the moon an object being at least nine
feet wide.

There is an important difference between a field-glass and a telescope,
which it is well to recall here. A field-glass is composed of a tube
which carries at its upper extremity a convex glass called an
object-glass, and at its lower extremity a second glass called ocular,
to which the eye of the observer is applied. The rays from the luminous
object traverse the first glass, and by refraction form an image upside
down at its focus. This image is looked at with the ocular, which
magnifies it. The tube of the field-glass is, therefore, closed at each
extremity by the object and the ocular glasses.

The telescope, on the contrary, is open at its upper extremity. The rays
from the object observed penetrate freely into it, and strike a concave
metallic mirror--that is to say, they are focussed. From thence their
reflected rays meet with a little mirror, which sends them back to the
ocular in such a way as to magnify the image produced.

Thus in field-glasses refraction plays the principal part, and
reflection does in the telescope. Hence the name of refractors given to
the former, and reflectors given to the latter. All the difficulty in
the execution of these optical instruments lies in the making of the
object-glass, whether they be made of glass or metallic mirrors.

Still at the epoch when the Gun Club made its great experiment these
instruments were singularly perfected and gave magnificent results. The
time was far distant when Galileo observed the stars with his poor
glass, which magnified seven times at the most. Since the 16th century
optical instruments had widened and lengthened in considerable
proportions, and they allowed the stellar spaces to be gauged to a depth
unknown before. Amongst the refracting instruments at work at that
period were the glass of the Poulkowa Observatory in Russia, the
object-glass of which measured 15 inches in width, that of the French
optician Lerebours, furnished with an object-glass equally large, and
lastly that of the Cambridge Observatory, furnished with an object-glass
19 inches in diameter.

Amongst telescopes, two were known of remarkable power and gigantic
dimensions. The first, constructed by Herschel, was 36 feet in length,
and had an object-glass of 4 feet 6 inches; it magnified 6,000 times;
the second, raised in Ireland, at Birrcastle, in Parsonstown Park,
belonged to Lord Rosse; the length of its tube was 48 feet and the width
of its mirror 6 feet; it magnified 6,400 times, and it had required an
immense erection of masonry on which to place the apparatus necessary
for working the instrument, which weighed 12-1/2 tons.

But it will be seen that notwithstanding these colossal dimensions the
magnifying power obtained did not exceed 6,000 times in round numbers;
now that power would only bring the moon within 39 miles, and would only
allow objects 60 feet in diameter to be perceived unless these objects
were very elongated.

Now in space they had to deal with a projectile 9 feet wide and 15 long,
so the moon had to be brought within five miles at least, and for that a
magnifying power of 48,000 times was necessary.

Such was the problem propounded to the Cambridge Observatory. They were
not to be stopped by financial difficulties, so there only remained
material difficulties.

First of all they had to choose between telescopes and field-glasses.
The latter had some advantages. With equal object-glasses they have a
greater magnifying power, because the luminous rays that traverse the
glasses lose less by absorption than the reflection on the metallic
mirror of telescopes; but the thickness that can be given to glass is
limited, for too thick it does not allow the luminous rays to pass.
Besides, the construction of these vast glasses is excessively
difficult, and demands a considerable time, measured by years.

Therefore, although images are better given by glasses, an inappreciable
advantage when the question is to observe the moon, the light of which
is simply reflected they decided to employ the telescope, which is
prompter in execution and is capable of a greater magnifying power; only
as the luminous rays lose much of their intensity by traversing the
atmosphere, the Gun Club resolved to set up the instrument on one of the
highest mountains of the Union, which would diminish the depth of the
aerial strata.

In telescopes it has been seen that the glass placed at the observer's
eye produces the magnifying power, and the object-glass which bears this
power the best is the one that has the largest diameter and the greatest
focal distance. In order to magnify 48,000 times it must be much larger
than those of Herschel and Lord Rosse. There lay the difficulty, for the
casting of these mirrors is a very delicate operation.

Happily, some years before a _savant_ of the _Institut de France_, Leon
Foucault, had just invented means by which the polishing of
object-glasses became very prompt and easy by replacing the metallic
mirror by taking a piece of glass the size required and plating it.

It was to be fixed according to the method invented by Herschel for
telescopes. In the great instrument of the astronomer at Slough, the
image of objects reflected by the mirror inclined at the bottom of the
tube was formed at the other extremity where the eyeglass was placed.
Thus the observer, instead of being placed at the lower end of the tube,
was hoisted to the upper end, and there with his eyeglass he looked down
into the enormous cylinder. This combination had the advantage of doing
away with the little mirror destined to send back the image to the
ocular glass, which thus only reflected once instead of twice; therefore
there were fewer luminous rays extinguished, the image was less feeble,
and more light was obtained, a precious advantage in the observation
that was to be made.

This being resolved upon, the work was begun. According to the
calculations of the Cambridge Observatory staff, the tube of the new
reflector was to be 280 feet long and its mirror 16 feet in diameter.
Although it was so colossal it was not comparable to the telescope
10,000 feet long which the astronomer Hooke proposed to construct some
years ago. Nevertheless the setting up of such an apparatus presented
great difficulties.

The question of its site was promptly settled. It must be upon a high
mountain, and high mountains are not numerous in the States.

In fact, the orographical system of this great country only contains two
chains of average height, amongst which flows the magnificent
Mississippi, which the Americans would call the "king of rivers" if they
admitted any royalty whatever.

On the east rise the Apalachians, the very highest point of which, in
New Hampshire, does not exceed the very moderate altitude of 5,600 feet.

On the west are, however, the Rocky Mountains, that immense chain which
begins at the Straits of Magellan, follows the west coast of South
America under the name of the Andes or Cordilleras, crosses the Isthmus
of Panama, and runs up the whole of North America to the very shores of
the Polar Sea.

These mountains are not very high, and the Alps or Himalayas would look
down upon them with disdain. In fact, their highest summit is only
10,701 feet high, whilst Mont Blanc is 14,439, and the highest summit of
the Himalayas is 26,776 feet above the level of the sea.

But as the Gun Club wished that its telescope, as well as the Columbiad,
should be set up in the States of the Union, they were obliged to be
content with the Rocky Mountains, and all the necessary material was
sent to the summit of Long's Peak in the territory of Missouri.

Neither pen nor language could relate the difficulties of every kind
that the American engineers had to overcome, and the prodigies of
audacity and skill that they accomplished. Enormous stones, massive
pieces of wrought-iron, heavy corner-clamps, and huge portions of
cylinder had to be raised 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 insoluble problem, and,
nevertheless, American genius triumphed over all these obstacles. Less
than a year after beginning the works in the last days of the month of
September, the gigantic reflector rose in the air to a height of 280
feet. It was hung from an enormous iron scaffolding; an ingenious
arrangement allowed it to be easily moved towards every point of the
sky, and to follow the stars from one horizon to the other during their
journey across space.

It had cost more than 400,000 dollars. The first time it was pointed at
the moon the observers felt both curious and uneasy. What would they
discover in the field of this telescope which magnified objects 48,000
times? Populations, flocks of lunar animals, towns, lakes, and oceans?
No, nothing that science was not already acquainted with, and upon all
points of her disc the volcanic nature of the moon could be determined
with absolute precision.

But the telescope of the Rocky Mountains, before being used by the Gun
Club, rendered immense services to astronomy. Thanks to its power of
penetration, the depths of the sky were explored to their utmost limits,
the apparent diameter of a great number of stars could be rigorously
measured, and Mr. Clarke, of the Cambridge staff, resolved the Crab
nebula in Taurus, which Lord Rosse's reflector had never been able to
do.

CHAPTER XXV.

FINAL DETAILS.

It was the 22nd of November. The supreme departure was to take place ten
days later. One operation still remained to bring it to a happy
termination, a delicate and perilous operation exacting 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 gun
and the introduction into it of 400,000 lbs. of gun-cotton. Nicholl had
thought, not without reason, perhaps, that the handling of so large a
quantity of pyroxyle would cause grave catastrophes, and that in any
case this eminently explosive mass would ignite of itself under the
pressure of the projectile.

There were also grave dangers increased by the carelessness of the
Americans, who, during the Federal war, used to load their cannon cigar
in mouth. But Barbicane had set his heart on succeeding, and did not
mean to founder in port; he therefore chose his best workmen, made them
work under his superintendence, and by dint of prudence and precautions
he managed to put all the chances of success on his side.

First he took care not to bring all his charge at once to the inclosure
of Stony Hill. He had it brought little by little carefully packed in
sealed cases. The 400,000 lbs. of pyroxyle had been divided into packets
of 500 lbs., which made 800 large cartridges made carefully by the
cleverest artisans of Pensacola. Each case contained ten, and they
arrived one after the other by the railroad of Tampa Town; by that means
there were never more than 500 lbs. of pyroxyle at once in the
inclosure. As soon as it arrived each case was unloaded by workmen
walking barefoot, and each cartridge transported to the orifice of the
Columbiad, into which they lowered them by means of cranes worked by the
men. Every steam-engine had been excluded, and the least fires
extinguished for two miles round. Even in November it was necessary to
preserve this gun-cotton from the ardour of the sun. So they worked at
night by light produced in a vacuum by means of Ruehmkorff's apparatus,
which threw an artificial brightness into the depths of the Columbiad.
There the cartridges were arranged with the utmost regularity, fastened
together by a wire destined to communicate the electric spark to them
all simultaneously.

In fact, it was by means of electricity that fire was to be set to this
mass of gun-cotton. All these single wires, surrounded by isolating
material, were rolled into a single one at a narrow hole pierced at the
height the projectile was to be placed; there they crossed the thick
metal wall and came up to the surface by one of the vent-holes in the
masonry made on purpose. Once arrived at the summit of Stony Hill, the
wire supported on poles for a distance of two miles met a powerful pile
of Bunsen passing through a non-conducting apparatus. It would,
therefore, be enough to press with the finger the knob of the apparatus
for the electric current to be at once established, and to set fire to
the 400,000 lbs. of gun-cotton. It is hardly necessary to say that this
was only to be done at the last moment.

On the 28th of November the 800 cartridges were placed at the bottom of
the Columbiad. That part of the operation had succeeded. But what worry,
anxiety, and struggles President Barbicane had to undergo! In vain had
he forbidden entrance to Stony Hill; every day curious sightseers
climbed over the palisading, and some, pushing imprudence to folly, came
and smoked amongst the bales of gun-cotton. Barbicane put himself into
daily rages. J.T. Maston seconded him to the best of his ability,
chasing the intruders away and picking up the still-lighted cigar-ends
which the Yankees threw about--a rude task, for more than 300,000 people
pressed round the palisades. Michel Ardan had offered himself to escort
the cases to the mouth of the gun, but having caught him with a cigar in
his mouth whilst he drove out the intruders to whom he was giving this
unfortunate example, the president of the Gun Club saw that he could not
depend upon this intrepid smoker, and was obliged to have him specially
watched.

At last, there being a Providence even for artillerymen, nothing blew
up, and the loading was happily terminated. The third bet of Captain
Nicholl was therefore much imperilled. There still remained the work of
introducing the projectile into the Columbiad and placing it on the
thick bed of gun-cotton.

But before beginning this operation the objects necessary for the
journey were placed with order in the waggon-compartment. There were a
good many of them, and if they had allowed Michel Ardan to do as he
pleased he would soon have filled up all the space reserved for the
travellers. No one can imagine all that the amiable Frenchman wished to
carry to the moon--a heap of useless trifles. But Barbicane interfered,
and refused all but the strictly necessary.

Several thermometers, barometers, and telescopes were placed in the
instrument-case.

The travellers were desirous of examining the moon during their transit,
and in order to facilitate the survey of this new world they took an
excellent map by Boeer and Moedler, the _Mappa Selenographica_,
published in four plates, which is justly looked upon as a masterpiece
of patience and observation. It represented with scrupulous exactitude
the slightest details of that portion of the moon turned towards the
earth. Mountains, valleys, craters, peaks, watersheds, were depicted on
it in their exact dimensions, faithful positions, and names, from Mounts
Doerfel and Leibnitz, whose highest summits rise on the eastern side of
the disc, to the _Mare Frigoris_, which extends into the North Polar
regions.

It was, therefore, a precious document for the travellers, for they
could study the country before setting foot upon it.

They took also three rifles and three fowling-pieces with powder and
shot in great quantity.

"We do not know with whom we may have to deal," said Michel Ardan. "Both
men and beasts may be displeased at our visit; we must, therefore, take
our precautions."

The instruments of personal defence were accompanied by pickaxes,
spades, saws, and other indispensable tools, without mentioning garments
suitable to every temperature, from the cold of the polar regions to the
heat of the torrid zone.

Michel Ardan would have liked to take a certain number of animals of
different sorts, not male and female of every species, as he did not see
the necessity of acclimatising serpents, tigers, alligators, or any
other noxious beasts in the moon.

"No," said he to Barbicane, "but some useful animals, ox or cow, ass or
horse, would look well in the landscape and be of great use."

"I agree with you, my dear Ardan," answered the president of the Gun
Club; "but our projectile is not Noah's Ark. It differs both in
dimensions and object, so let us remain in the bounds of possibility."

At last after long discussions it was agreed that the travellers should
be content to take with them an excellent sporting dog belonging to
Nicholl and a vigorous Newfoundland of prodigious strength. Several
cases of the most useful seeds were included amongst the indispensable
objects. If they had allowed him, Michel Ardan would have taken several
sacks of earth to sow them in. Any way he took a dozen little trees,
which were carefully enveloped in straw and placed in a corner of the
projectile.

Then remained the important question of provisions, for they were
obliged to provide against finding the moon absolutely barren. Barbicane
managed so well that he took enough for a year. But it must be added, to
prevent astonishment, that these provisions consisted of meat and
vegetable compressed to their smallest volume by hydraulic pressure, and
included a great quantity of nutritive elements; there was not much
variety, but it would not do to be too particular in such an expedition.
There was also about fifty gallons of brandy and water for two months
only, for, according to the latest observations of astronomers, no one
doubted the presence of a large quantity of water in the moon. As to
provisions, it would have been insane to believe that the inhabitants of
the earth would not find food up there. Michel Ardan had no doubt about
it. If he had he would not have gone.

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

"No, certainly," answered J.T. Maston.

"What do you mean?" asked Nicholl.

"Nothing more simple," answered Ardan. "Will not our Columbiad be still
there? Well, then, every time that the moon is in favourable conditions
of zenith, if not of perigee--that is to say, about once a year--could
they not send us a projectile loaded with provisions which we should
expect by a fixed date?"

"Hurrah!" cried J.T. Maston. "That is not at all a bad idea. Certainly
we will not forget you."

"I depend upon you. Thus you see we shall have news regularly from the
globe, and for our part we shall be very awkward if we do not find means
to communicate with our good friends on earth."

These words inspired such confidence that Michel Ardan with his superb
assurance would have carried the whole Gun Club with him. What he said
seemed simple, elementary, and sure of success, and it would have been
sordid attachment to this earth to hesitate to follow the three
travellers upon their lunar expedition.

When the different objects were placed in the projectile the water was
introduced between the partitions and the gas for lighting purposes laid
in. Barbicane took enough chlorate of potash and caustic potash for two
months, as he feared unforeseen delay. An extremely ingenious machine
working automatically put the elements for good air in motion. The
projectile, therefore, was ready, and the only thing left to do was to
lower it into the gun, an operation full of perils and difficulty.

The enormous projectile was taken to the summit of Stony Hill. There
enormous cranes seized it and held it suspended over the metal well.

This was an anxious moment. If the chains were to break under the
enormous weight the fall of such a mass would inevitably ignite the
gun-cotton.

Happily nothing of the sort happened, and a few hours afterwards the
projectile-compartment rested on its pyroxyle bed, a veritable
fulminating pillow. The only effect of its pressure was to ram the
charge of the gun more strongly.

"I have lost," said the captain, handing the sum of 3,000 dollars to
President Barbicane.

Barbicane did not wish to receive this money from his travelling
companion, but he was obliged to give way to Nicholl, who wished to
fulfil all his engagements before leaving the earth.

"Then," said Michel Ardan, "there is but one thing I wish for you now,
captain."

"What is that?" asked Nicholl.

"It is that you may lose your other two wagers. By that means we shall
be sure not to be stopped on the road."

CHAPTER XXVI.

FIRE!

The 1st of December came, the fatal day, for if the projectile did not
start that very evening at 10h. 46m. and 40s. p.m., more than eighteen
years would elapse before the moon would present the same simultaneous
conditions of zenith and perigee.

The weather was magnificent; notwithstanding the approach of winter the
sun shone brightly and bathed in its radiance that earth which three of
its inhabitants were about to leave for a new world.

How many people slept badly during the night that preceded the
ardently-longed-for day! How many breasts were oppressed with the heavy
burden of waiting! All hearts beat with anxiety except only the heart of
Michel Ardan. This impassible person went and came in his usual
business-like way, but nothing in him denoted any unusual preoccupation.
His sleep had been peaceful--it was the sleep of Turenne upon a
gun-carriage the night before the battle.

From early dawn an innumerable crowd covered the prairie, which extended
as far as the eye could reach round Stony Hill. Every quarter of an hour
the railroad of Tampa brought fresh sightseers. According to the _Tampa
Town Observer_, five millions of spectators were that day upon Floridian
soil.

The greater part of this crowd had been living in tents round the
inclosure, and laid the foundations of a town which has since been
called "Ardan's Town." The ground bristled with huts, cabins, and tents,
and these ephemeral habitations sheltered a population numerous enough
to rival the largest cities of Europe.

Every nation upon earth was represented; every language was spoken at
the same time. It was like the confusion of tongues at the Tower of
Babel. There the different classes of American society mixed in absolute
equality. Bankers, cultivators, sailors, agents, merchants,
cotton-planters, and magistrates elbowed each other with primitive ease.
The creoles of Louisiana fraternised with the farmers of Indiana; the
gentlemen of Kentucky and Tennessee, the elegant and haughty Virginians,
joked with the half-savage trappers of the Lakes and the butchers of
Cincinnati. They appeared in broad-brimmed white beavers and Panamas,
blue cotton trousers, from the Opelousa manufactories, draped in elegant
blouses of ecru cloth, in boots of brilliant colours, and extravagant
shirt-frills; upon shirt-fronts, cuffs, cravats, on their ten fingers,
even in their ears, an assortment of rings, pins, diamonds, chains,
buckles, and trinkets, the cost of which equalled the bad taste. Wife,
children, servants, in no less rich dress, accompanied, followed,
preceded, and surrounded their husbands, fathers, and masters, who
resembled the patriarchs amidst their innumerable families.

At meal-times it was a sight to see all these people devour the dishes
peculiar to the Southern States, and eat, with an appetite menacing to
the provisioning of Florida, the food that would be repugnant to a
European stomach, such as fricasseed frogs, monkey-flesh, fish-chowder,
underdone opossum, and raccoon steaks.

The liquors that accompanied this indigestible food were numerous.
Shouts and vociferations to buy resounded through the bar-rooms or
taverns, decorated with glasses, tankards, decanters, and bottles of
marvellous shapes, mortars for pounding sugar, and bundles of straws.

"Mint-julep!" roars out one of the salesmen.

"Claret sangaree!" shouts another through his nose.

"Gin-sling!" shouts one.

"Cocktail! Brandy-smash!" cries another.

"Who'll buy real mint-julep in the latest style?" shouted these skilful
salesmen, rapidly passing from one glass to another the sugar, lemon,
green mint, crushed ice, water, cognac, and fresh pine-apple which
compose this refreshing drink.

Generally these sounds, addressed to throats made thirsty by the spices
they consumed, mingled into one deafening roar. But on this 1st of
December these cries were rare. No one thought of eating and drinking,
and at 4 p.m. there were many spectators in the crowd who had not taken
their customary lunch! A much more significant fact, even the national
passion for gaming was allayed by the general emotion. Thimbles,

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