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Title: All Around the Moon

Author: Jules Verne

Translator: Edward Roth

Release Date: August 6, 2005 [EBook #16457]

Language: English

Character set encoding: ASCII

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ALL

AROUND THE MOON

FROM THE FRENCH OF

JULES VERNE

AUTHOR OF "FROM THE EARTH TO THE MOON", "TO THE SUN!" AND "OFF ON A
COMET!"

BY

EDWARD ROTH

ILLUSTRATED

PHILADELPHIA
DAVID MCKAY, PUBLISHER
23 SOUTH NINTH STREET




CONTENTS.

       PRELIMINARY

    I. FROM 10 P.M. TO 10. 46' 40''

   II. THE FIRST HALF HOUR

  III. THEY MAKE THEMSELVES AT HOME AND FEEL QUITE COMFORTABLE

   IV. FOR THE CORNELL GIRLS

    V. THE COLDS OF SPACE

   VI. INSTRUCTIVE CONVERSATION

  VII. A HIGH OLD TIME

 VIII. THE NEUTRAL POINT

   IX. A LITTLE OFF THE TRACK

    X. THE OBSERVERS OF THE MOON

   XI. FACT AND FANCY

  XII. A BIRD'S EYE VIEW OF THE LUNAR MOUNTAINS

 XIII. LUNAR LANDSCAPES

  XIV. A NIGHT OF FIFTEEN DAYS

   XV. GLIMPSES AT THE INVISIBLE

  XVI. THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE

 XVII. TYCHO

XVIII. PUZZLING QUESTIONS

  XIX. IN EVERY FIGHT, THE IMPOSSIBLE WINS

   XX. OFF THE PACIFIC COAST

  XXI. NEWS FOR MARSTON!

 XXII. ON THE WINGS OF THE WIND

XXIII. THE CLUB MEN GO A FISHING

 XXIV. FAREWELL TO THE BALTIMORE GUN CLUB




LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS.

 1. HIS FIRST CARE WAS TO TURN ON THE GAS

 2. DIANA AND SATELLITE

 3. HE HELPED ARDAN TO LIFT BARBICAN

 4. MORE HUNGRY THAN EITHER

 5. THEY DRANK TO THE SPEEDY UNION OF THE EARTH AND HER SATELLITE

 6. DON'T I THOUGH? MY HEAD IS SPLITTING WITH IT!

 7. POOR SATELLITE WAS DROPPED OUT

 8. THE BODY OF THE DOG THROWN OUT YESTERDAY

 9. A DEMONIACAL HULLABALOO

10. THE OXYGEN! HE CRIED

11. A GROUP _a la Jardin Mabille_

12. AN IMMENSE BATTLE-FIELD PILED WITH BLEACHING BONES

13. NEVERTHELESS THE SOLUTION ESCAPED HIM

14. IT'S COLD ENOUGH TO FREEZE A WHITE BEAR

15. THEY COULD UTTER NO WORD, THEY COULD BREATHE NO PRAYER

16. THEY SEEMED HALF ASLEEP IN HIS VITALIZING BEAMS

17. THESE ARCHES EVIDENTLY ONCE BORE THE PIPES OF AN AQUEDUCT

18. ARDAN GAZED AT THE PAIR FOR A FEW MINUTES

19. OLD MAC DISCOVERED TAKING OBSERVATIONS

20. FOR A SECOND ONLY DID THEY CATCH ITS FLASH

21. HOW IS THAT FOR HIGH?

22. EVERYWHERE THEIR DEPARTURE WAS ACCOMPANIED WITH THE MOST TOUCHING
    SYMPATHY




PRELIMINARY CHAPTER,

RESUMING THE FIRST PART OF THE WORK AND SERVING AS AN INTRODUCTION TO
THE SECOND.


A few years ago the world was suddenly astounded by hearing of an
experiment of a most novel and daring nature, altogether unprecedented
in the annals of science. The BALTIMORE GUN CLUB, a society of
artillerymen started in America during the great Civil War, had
conceived the idea of nothing less than establishing direct
communication with the Moon by means of a projectile! President
Barbican, the originator of the enterprise, was strongly encouraged in
its feasibility by the astronomers of Cambridge Observatory, and took
upon himself to provide all the means necessary to secure its success.
Having realized by means of a public subscription the sum of nearly five
and a half millions of dollars, he immediately set himself to work at
the necessary gigantic labors.

In accordance with the Cambridge men's note, the cannon intended to
discharge the projectile was to be planted in some country not further
than 28 deg. north or south from the equator, so that it might be aimed
vertically at the Moon in the zenith. The bullet was to be animated with
an initial velocity of 12,000 yards to the second. It was to be fired
off on the night of December 1st, at thirteen minutes and twenty seconds
before eleven o'clock, precisely. Four days afterwards it was to hit the
Moon, at the very moment that she reached her _perigee_, that is to say,
her nearest point to the Earth, about 228,000 miles distant.

The leading members of the Club, namely President Barbican, Secretary
Marston, Major Elphinstone and General Morgan, forming the executive
committee, held several meetings to discuss the shape and material of
the bullet, the nature and position of the cannon, and the quantity and
quality of the powder. The decision soon arrived at was as follows:
1st--The bullet was to be a hollow aluminium shell, its diameter nine
feet, its walls a foot in thickness, and its weight 19,250 pounds;
2nd--The cannon was to be a columbiad 900 feet in length, a well of that
depth forming the vertical mould in which it was to be cast, and
3rd--The powder was to be 400 thousand pounds of gun cotton, which, by
developing more than 200 thousand millions of cubic feet of gas under
the projectile, would easily send it as far as our satellite.

These questions settled, Barbican, aided by Murphy, the Chief Engineer
of the Cold Spring Iron Works, selected a spot in Florida, near the 27th
degree north latitude, called Stony Hill, where after the performance of
many wonderful feats in mining engineering, the Columbiad was
successfully cast.

Things had reached this state when an incident occurred which excited
the general interest a hundred fold.

A Frenchman from Paris, Michel Ardan by name, eccentric, but keen and
shrewd as well as daring, demanded, by the Atlantic telegraph,
permission to be enclosed in the bullet so that he might be carried to
the Moon, where he was curious to make certain investigations. Received
in America with great enthusiasm, Ardan held a great meeting,
triumphantly carried his point, reconciled Barbican to his mortal foe, a
certain Captain M'Nicholl, and even, by way of clinching the
reconciliation, induced both the newly made friends to join him in his
contemplated trip to the Moon.

The bullet, so modified as to become a hollow conical cylinder with
plenty of room inside, was further provided with powerful water-springs
and readily-ruptured partitions below the floor, intended to deaden the
dreadful concussion sure to accompany the start. It was supplied with
provisions for a year, water for a few months, and gas for nearly two
weeks. A self-acting apparatus, of ingenious construction, kept the
confined atmosphere sweet and healthy by manufacturing pure oxygen and
absorbing carbonic acid. Finally, the Gun Club had constructed, at
enormous expense, a gigantic telescope, which, from the summit of Long's
Peak, could pursue the Projectile as it winged its way through the
regions of space. Everything at last was ready.

On December 1st, at the appointed moment, in the midst of an immense
concourse of spectators, the departure took place, and, for the first
time in the world's history, three human beings quitted our terrestrial
globe with some possibility in their favor of finally reaching a point
of destination in the inter-planetary spaces. They expected to
accomplish their journey in 97 hours, 13 minutes and 20 seconds,
consequently reaching the Lunar surface precisely at midnight on
December 5-6, the exact moment when the Moon would be full.

Unfortunately, the instantaneous explosion of such a vast quantity of
gun-cotton, by giving rise to a violent commotion in the atmosphere,
generated so much vapor and mist as to render the Moon invisible for
several nights to the innumerable watchers in the Western Hemisphere,
who vainly tried to catch sight of her.

In the meantime, J.T. Marston, the Secretary of the Gun Club, and a most
devoted friend of Barbican's, had started for Long's Peak, Colorado, on
the summit of which the immense telescope, already alluded to, had been
erected; it was of the reflecting kind, and possessed power sufficient
to bring the Moon within a distance of five miles. While Marston was
prosecuting his long journey with all possible speed, Professor
Belfast, who had charge of the telescope, was endeavoring to catch a
glimpse of the Projectile, but for a long time with no success. The
hazy, cloudy weather lasted for more than a week, to the great disgust
of the public at large. People even began to fear that further
observation would have to be deferred to the 3d of the following month,
January, as during the latter half of December the waning Moon could not
possibly give light enough to render the Projectile visible.

At last, however, to the unbounded satisfaction of all, a violent
tempest suddenly cleared the sky, and on the 13th of December, shortly
after midnight, the Moon, verging towards her last quarter, revealed
herself sharp and bright on the dark background of the starry firmament.

That same morning, a few hours before Marston's arrival at the summit of
Long's Peak, a very remarkable telegram had been dispatched by Professor
Belfast to the Smithsonian Institute, Washington. It announced:

That on December 13th, at 2 o'clock in the morning, the Projectile shot
from Stony Hill had been perceived by Professor Belfast and his
assistants; that, deflected a little from its course by some unknown
cause, it had not reached its mark, though it had approached near enough
to be affected by the Lunar attraction; and that, its rectilineal motion
having become circular, it should henceforth continue to describe a
regular orbit around the Moon, of which in fact it had become the
Satellite. The dispatch went on further to state:

That the _elements_ of the new heavenly body had not yet been
calculated, as at least three different observations, taken at different
times, were necessary to determine them. The distance of the Projectile
from the Lunar surface, however, might be set down roughly at roughly
2833 miles.

The dispatch concluded with the following hypotheses, positively
pronounced to be the only two possible: Either, 1, The Lunar attraction
would finally prevail, in which case the travellers would reach their
destination; or 2, The Projectile, kept whirling forever in an immutable
orbit, would go on revolving around the Moon till time should be no
more.

In either alternative, what should be the lot of the daring adventurers?
They had, it is true, abundant provisions to last them for some time,
but even supposing that they did reach the Moon and thereby completely
establish the practicability of their daring enterprise, how were they
ever to get back? _Could_ they ever get back? or ever even be heard
from? Questions of this nature, freely discussed by the ablest pens of
the day, kept the public mind in a very restless and excited condition.

We must be pardoned here for making a little remark which, however,
astronomers and other scientific men of sanguine temperament would do
well to ponder over. An observer cannot be too cautious in announcing to
the public his discovery when it is of a nature purely speculative.
Nobody is obliged to discover a planet, or a comet, or even a satellite,
but, before announcing to the world that you have made such a discovery,
first make sure that such is really the fact. Because, you know, should
it afterwards come out that you have done nothing of the kind, you make
yourself a butt for the stupid jokes of the lowest newspaper scribblers.
Belfast had never thought of this. Impelled by his irrepressible rage
for discovery--the _furor inveniendi_ ascribed to all astronomers by
Aurelius Priscus--he had therefore been guilty of an indiscretion highly
un-scientific when his famous telegram, launched to the world at large
from the summit of the Rocky Mountains, pronounced so dogmatically on
the only possible issues of the great enterprise.

The truth was that his telegram contained _two_ very important errors:
1. Error of _observation_, as facts afterwards proved; the Projectile
_was_ not seen on the 13th and _could_ not have been on that day, so
that the little black spot which Belfast professed to have seen was most
certainly not the Projectile; 2. Error of _theory_ regarding the final
fate of the Projectile, since to make it become the Moon's satellite was
flying in the face of one of the great fundamental laws of Theoretical
Mechanics.

Only one, therefore, the first, of the hypotheses so positively
announced, was capable of realization. The travellers--that is to say if
they still lived--might so combine and unite their own efforts with
those of the Lunar attraction as actually to succeed at last in reaching
the Moon's surface.

Now the travellers, those daring but cool-headed men who knew very well
what they were about, _did_ still live, they _had_ survived the
frightful concussion of the start, and it is to the faithful record of
their wonderful trip in the bullet-car, with all its singular and
dramatic details, that the present volume is devoted. The story may
destroy many illusions, prejudices and conjectures; but it will at least
give correct ideas of the strange incidents to which such an enterprise
is exposed, and it will certainly bring out in strong colors the effects
of Barbican's scientific conceptions, M'Nicholl's mechanical resources,
and Ardan's daring, eccentric, but brilliant and effective combinations.

Besides, it will show that J.T. Marston, their faithful friend and a man
every way worthy of the friendship of such men, was only losing his time
while mirroring the Moon in the speculum of the gigantic telescope on
that lofty peak of the mountains.




CHAPTER I.

FROM 10 P.M. TO 10 46' 40''.


The moment that the great clock belonging to the works at Stony Hill had
struck ten, Barbican, Ardan and M'Nicholl began to take their last
farewells of the numerous friends surrounding them. The two dogs
intended to accompany them had been already deposited in the Projectile.
The three travellers approached the mouth of the enormous cannon, seated
themselves in the flying car, and once more took leave for the last time
of the vast throng standing in silence around them. The windlass
creaked, the car started, and the three daring men disappeared in the
yawning gulf.

The trap-hole giving them ready access to the interior of the
Projectile, the car soon came back empty; the great windlass was
presently rolled away; the tackle and scaffolding were removed, and in a
short space of time the great mouth of the Columbiad was completely rid
of all obstructions.

M'Nicholl took upon himself to fasten the door of the trap on the inside
by means of a powerful combination of screws and bolts of his own
invention. He also covered up very carefully the glass lights with
strong iron plates of extreme solidity and tightly fitting joints.

Ardan's first care was to turn on the gas, which he found burning rather
low; but he lit no more than one burner, being desirous to economize as
much as possible their store of light and heat, which, as he well knew,
could not at the very utmost last them longer than a few weeks.

Under the cheerful blaze, the interior of the Projectile looked like a
comfortable little chamber, with its circular sofa, nicely padded walls,
and dome shaped ceiling.

All the articles that it contained, arms, instruments, utensils, etc.,
were solidly fastened to the projections of the wadding, so as to
sustain the least injury possible from the first terrible shock. In
fact, all precautions possible, humanly speaking, had been taken to
counteract this, the first, and possibly one of the very greatest
dangers to which the courageous adventurers would be exposed.

Ardan expressed himself to be quite pleased with the appearance of
things in general.

"It's a prison, to be sure," said he "but not one of your ordinary
prisons that always keep in the one spot. For my part, as long as I can
have the privilege of looking out of the window, I am willing to lease
it for a hundred years. Ah! Barbican, that brings out one of your stony
smiles. You think our lease may last longer than that! Our tenement may
become our coffin, eh? Be it so. I prefer it anyway to Mahomet's; it may
indeed float in the air, but it won't be motionless as a milestone!"

[Illustration: TURN ON THE GAS.]

Barbican, having made sure by personal inspection that everything was in
perfect order, consulted his chronometer, which he had carefully set a
short time before with Chief Engineer Murphy's, who had been charged to
fire off the Projectile.

"Friends," he said, "it is now twenty minutes past ten. At 10 46' 40'',
precisely, Murphy will send the electric current into the gun-cotton. We
have, therefore, twenty-six minutes more to remain on earth."

"Twenty-six minutes and twenty seconds," observed Captain M'Nicholl, who
always aimed at mathematical precision.

"Twenty-six minutes!" cried Ardan, gaily. "An age, a cycle, according to
the use you make of them. In twenty-six minutes how much can be done!
The weightiest questions of warfare, politics, morality, can be
discussed, even decided, in twenty-six minutes. Twenty-six minutes well
spent are infinitely more valuable than twenty-six lifetimes wasted! A
few seconds even, employed by a Pascal, or a Newton, or a Barbican, or
any other profoundly intellectual being

    Whose thoughts wander through eternity--"

"As mad as Marston! Every bit!" muttered the Captain, half audibly.

"What do you conclude from this rigmarole of yours?" interrupted
Barbican.

"I conclude that we have twenty-six good minutes still left--"

"Only twenty-four minutes, ten seconds," interrupted the Captain, watch
in hand.

"Well, twenty-four minutes, Captain," Ardan went on; "now even in
twenty-four minutes, I maintain--"

"Ardan," interrupted Barbican, "after a very little while we shall have
plenty of time for philosophical disputations. Just now let us think of
something far more pressing."

"More pressing! what do you mean? are we not fully prepared?"

"Yes, fully prepared, as far at least as we have been able to foresee.
But we may still, I think, possibly increase the number of precautions
to be taken against the terrible shock that we are so soon to
experience."

"What? Have you any doubts whatever of the effectiveness of your
brilliant and extremely original idea? Don't you think that the layers
of water, regularly disposed in easily-ruptured partitions beneath this
floor, will afford us sufficient protection by their elasticity?"

"I hope so, indeed, my dear friend, but I am by no means confident."

"He hopes! He is by no means confident! Listen to that, Mac! Pretty time
to tell us so! Let me out of here!"

"Too late!" observed the Captain quietly. "The trap-hole alone would
take ten or fifteen minutes to open."

"Oh then I suppose I must make the best of it," said Ardan, laughing.
"All aboard, gentlemen! The train starts in twenty minutes!"

"In nineteen minutes and eighteen seconds," said the Captain, who never
took his eye off the chronometer.

The three travellers looked at each other for a little while, during
which even Ardan appeared to become serious. After another careful
glance at the several objects lying around them, Barbican said, quietly:

"Everything is in its place, except ourselves. What we have now to do is
to decide on the position we must take in order to neutralize the shock
as much as possible. We must be particularly careful to guard against a
rush of blood to the head."

"Correct!" said the Captain.

"Suppose we stood on our heads, like the circus tumblers!" cried Ardan,
ready to suit the action to the word.

"Better than that," said Barbican; "we can lie on our side. Keep clearly
in mind, dear friends, that at the instant of departure it makes very
little difference to us whether we are inside the bullet or in front of
it. There is, no doubt, _some_ difference," he added, seeing the great
eyes made by his friends, "but it is exceedingly little."

"Thank heaven for the _some_!" interrupted Ardan, fervently.

"Don't you approve of my suggestion, Captain?" asked Barbican.

"Certainly," was the hasty reply. "That is to say, absolutely.
Seventeen minutes twenty-seven seconds!"

"Mac isn't a human being at all!" cried Ardan, admiringly. "He is a
repeating chronometer, horizontal escapement, London-made lever, capped,
jewelled,--"

His companions let him run on while they busied themselves in making
their last arrangements, with the greatest coolness and most systematic
method. In fact, I don't think of anything just now to compare them to
except a couple of old travellers who, having to pass the night in the
train, are trying to make themselves as comfortable as possible for
their long journey. In your profound astonishment, you may naturally ask
me of what strange material can the hearts of these Americans be made,
who can view without the slightest semblance of a flutter the approach
of the most appalling dangers? In your curiosity I fully participate,
but, I'm sorry to say, I can't gratify it. It is one of those things
that I could never find out.

Three mattresses, thick and well wadded, spread on the disc forming the
false bottom of the Projectile, were arranged in lines whose parallelism
was simply perfect. But Ardan would never think of occupying his until
the very last moment. Walking up and down, with the restless nervousness
of a wild beast in a cage, he kept up a continuous fire of talk; at one
moment with his friends, at another with the dogs, addressing the latter
by the euphonious and suggestive names of Diana and Satellite.

[Illustration: DIANA AND SATELLITE.]

"Ho, pets!" he would exclaim as he patted them gently, "you must not
forget the noble part you are to play up there. You must be models of
canine deportment. The eyes of the whole Selenitic world will be upon
you. You are the standard bearers of your race. From you they will
receive their first impression regarding its merits. Let it be a
favorable one. Compel those Selenites to acknowledge, in spite of
themselves, that the terrestrial race of canines is far superior to that
of the very best Moon dog among them!"

"Dogs in the Moon!" sneered M'Nicholl, "I like that!"

"Plenty of dogs!" cried Ardan, "and horses too, and cows, and sheep, and
no end of chickens!"

"A hundred dollars to one there isn't a single chicken within the whole
Lunar realm, not excluding even the invisible side!" cried the Captain,
in an authoritative tone, but never taking his eye off the chronometer.

"I take that bet, my son," coolly replied Ardan, shaking the Captain's
hand by way of ratifying the wager; "and this reminds me, by the way,
Mac, that you have lost three bets already, to the pretty little tune of
six thousand dollars."

"And paid them, too!" cried the captain, monotonously; "ten, thirty-six,
six!"

"Yes, and in a quarter of an hour you will have to pay nine thousand
dollars more; four thousand because the Columbiad will not burst, and
five thousand because the Projectile will rise more than six miles from
the Earth."

"I have the money ready," answered the Captain, touching his breeches
pocket. "When I lose I pay. Not sooner. Ten, thirty-eight, ten!"

"Captain, you're a man of method, if there ever was one. I think,
however, that you made a mistake in your wagers."

"How so?" asked the Captain listlessly, his eye still on the dial.

"Because, by Jove, if you win there will be no more of you left to take
the money than there will be of Barbican to pay it!"

"Friend Ardan," quietly observed Barbican, "my stakes are deposited in
the _Wall Street Bank_, of New York, with orders to pay them over to the
Captain's heirs, in case the Captain himself should fail to put in an
appearance at the proper time."

"Oh! you rhinoceroses, you pachyderms, you granite men!" cried Ardan,
gasping with surprise; "you machines with iron heads, and iron hearts! I
may admire you, but I'm blessed if I understand you!"

"Ten, forty-two, ten!" repeated M'Nicholl, as mechanically as if it was
the chronometer itself that spoke.

"Four minutes and a half more," said Barbican.

"Oh! four and a half little minutes!" went on Ardan. "Only think of it!
We are shut up in a bullet that lies in the chamber of a cannon nine
hundred feet long. Underneath this bullet is piled a charge of 400
thousand pounds of gun-cotton, equivalent to 1600 thousand pounds of
ordinary gunpowder! And at this very instant our friend Murphy,
chronometer in hand, eye on dial, finger on discharger, is counting the
last seconds and getting ready to launch us into the limitless regions
of planetary--"

"Ardan, dear friend," interrupted Barbican, in a grave tone, "a serious
moment is now at hand. Let us meet it with some interior recollection.
Give me your hands, my dear friends."

"Certainly," said Ardan, with tears in his voice, and already at the
other extreme of his apparent levity.

The three brave men united in one last, silent, but warm and impulsively
affectionate pressure.

"And now, great God, our Creator, protect us! In Thee we trust!" prayed
Barbican, the others joining him with folded hands and bowed heads.

"Ten, forty-six!" whispered the Captain, as he and Ardan quietly took
their places on the mattresses.

Only forty seconds more!

Barbican rapidly extinguishes the gas and lies down beside his
companions.

The deathlike silence now reigning in the Projectile is interrupted only
by the sharp ticking of the chronometer as it beats the seconds.

Suddenly, a dreadful shock is felt, and the Projectile, shot up by the
instantaneous development of 200,000 millions of cubic feet of gas, is
flying into space with inconceivable rapidity!




CHAPTER II.

THE FIRST HALF HOUR.


What had taken place within the Projectile? What effect had been
produced by the frightful concussion? Had Barbican's ingenuity been
attended with a fortunate result? Had the shock been sufficiently
deadened by the springs, the buffers, the water layers, and the
partitions so readily ruptured? Had their combined effect succeeded in
counteracting the tremendous violence of a velocity of 12,000 yards a
second, actually sufficient to carry them from London to New York in six
minutes? These, and a hundred other questions of a similar nature were
asked that night by the millions who had been watching the explosion
from the base of Stony Hill. Themselves they forgot altogether for the
moment; they forgot everything in their absorbing anxiety regarding the
fate of the daring travellers. Had one among them, our friend Marston,
for instance, been favored with a glimpse at the interior of the
projectile, what would he have seen?

Nothing at all at first, on account of the darkness; except that the
walls had solidly resisted the frightful shock. Not a crack, nor a bend,
nor a dent could be perceived; not even the slightest injury had the
admirably constructed piece of mechanical workmanship endured. It had
not yielded an inch to the enormous pressure, and, far from melting and
falling back to earth, as had been so seriously apprehended, in showers
of blazing aluminium, it was still as strong in every respect as it had
been on the very day that it left the Cold Spring Iron Works, glittering
like a silver dollar.

Of real damage there was actually none, and even the disorder into which
things had been thrown in the interior by the violent shock was
comparatively slight. A few small objects lying around loose had been
furiously hurled against the ceiling, but the others appeared not to
have suffered the slightest injury. The straps that fastened them up
were unfrayed, and the fixtures that held them down were uncracked.

The partitions beneath the disc having been ruptured, and the water
having escaped, the false floor had been dashed with tremendous violence
against the bottom of the Projectile, and on this disc at this moment
three human bodies could be seen lying perfectly still and motionless.

Were they three corpses? Had the Projectile suddenly become a great
metallic coffin bearing its ghastly contents through the air with the
rapidity of a lightning flash?

In a very few minutes after the shock, one of the bodies stirred a
little, the arms moved, the eyes opened, the head rose and tried to look
around; finally, with some difficulty, the body managed to get on its
knees. It was the Frenchman! He held his head tightly squeezed between
his hands for some time as if to keep it from splitting. Then he felt
himself rapidly all over, cleared his throat with a vigorous "hem!"
listened to the sound critically for an instant, and then said to
himself in a relieved tone, but in his native tongue:

"One man all right! Call the roll for the others!"

He tried to rise, but the effort was too great for his strength. He fell
back again, his brain swimming, his eyes bursting, his head splitting.
His state very much resembled that of a young man waking up in the
morning after his first tremendous "spree."

"Br--rr!" he muttered to himself, still talking French; "this reminds me
of one of my wild nights long ago in the _Quartier Latin_, only
decidedly more so!"

Lying quietly on his back for a while, he could soon feel that the
circulation of his blood, so suddenly and violently arrested by the
terrific shock, was gradually recovering its regular flow; his heart
grew more normal in its action; his head became clearer, and the pain
less distracting.

"Time to call that roll," he at last exclaimed in a voice with some
pretensions to firmness; "Barbican! MacNicholl!"

He listens anxiously for a reply. None comes. A snow-wrapt grave at
midnight is not more silent. In vain does he try to catch even the
faintest sound of breathing, though he listens intently enough to hear
the beating of their hearts; but he hears only his own.

"Call that roll again!" he mutters in a voice far less assured than
before; "Barbican! MacNicholl!"

The same fearful unearthly stillness.

"The thing is getting decidedly monotonous!" he exclaimed, still
speaking French. Then rapidly recovering his consciousness as the full
horror of the situation began to break on his mind, he went on muttering
audibly: "Have they really hopped the twig? Bah! Fudge! what has not
been able to knock the life out of one little Frenchman can't have
killed two Americans! They're all right! But first and foremost, let us
enlighten the situation!"

So saying, he contrived without much difficulty to get on his feet.
Balancing himself then for a moment, he began groping about for the gas.
But he stopped suddenly.

"Hold on a minute!" he cried; "before lighting this match, let us see if
the gas has been escaping. Setting fire to a mixture of air and hydrogen
would make a pretty how-do-you-do! Such an explosion would infallibly
burst the Projectile, which so far seems all right, though I'm blest if
I can tell whether we're moving or not."

He began sniffing and smelling to discover if possible the odor of
escaped gas. He could not detect the slightest sign of anything of the
kind. This gave him great courage. He knew of course that his senses
were not yet in good order, still he thought he might trust them so far
as to be certain that the gas had not escaped and that consequently all
the other receptacles were uninjured.

At the touch of the match, the gas burst into light and burned with a
steady flame. Ardan immediately bent anxiously over the prostrate bodies
of his friends. They lay on each other like inert masses, M'Nicholl
stretched across Barbican.

Ardan first lifted up the Captain, laid him on the sofa, opened his
clenched hands, rubbed them, and slapped the palms vigorously. Then he
went all over the body carefully, kneading it, rubbing it, and gently
patting it. In such intelligent efforts to restore suspended
circulation, he seemed perfectly at home, and after a few minutes his
patience was rewarded by seeing the Captain's pallid face gradually
recover its natural color, and by feeling his heart gradually beat with
a firm pulsation.

At last M'Nicholl opened his eyes, stared at Ardan for an instant,
pressed his hand, looked around searchingly and anxiously, and at last
whispered in a faint voice:

"How's Barbican?"

"Barbican is all right, Captain," answered Ardan quietly, but still
speaking French. "I'll attend to him in a jiffy. He had to wait for his
turn. I began with you because you were the top man. We'll see in a
minute what we can do for dear old Barby (_ce cher Barbican_)!"

In less than thirty seconds more, the Captain not only was able to sit
up himself, but he even insisted on helping Ardan to lift Barbican,
and deposit him gently on the sofa.

[Illustration: HELPED ARDAN TO LIFT BARBICAN.]

The poor President had evidently suffered more from the concussion than
either of his companions. As they took off his coat they were at first
terribly shocked at the sight of a great patch of blood staining his
shirt bosom, but they were inexpressibly relieved at finding that it
proceeded from a slight contusion of the shoulder, little more than skin
deep.

Every approved operation that Ardan had performed for the Captain, both
now repeated for Barbican, but for a long time with nothing like a
favorable result.

Ardan at first tried to encourage the Captain by whispers of a lively
and hopeful nature, but not yet understanding why M'Nicholl did not
deign to make a single reply, he grew reserved by degrees and at last
would not speak a single word. He worked at Barbican, however, just as
before.

M'Nicholl interrupted himself every moment to lay his ear on the breast
of the unconscious man. At first he had shaken his head quite
despondingly, but by degrees he found himself more and more encouraged
to persist.

"He breathes!" he whispered at last.

"Yes, he has been breathing for some time," replied Ardan, quietly,
still unconsciously speaking French. "A little more rubbing and pulling
and pounding will make him as spry as a young grasshopper."

They worked at him, in fact, so vigorously, intelligently and
perseveringly, that, after what they considered a long hour's labor,
they had the delight of seeing the pale face assume a healthy hue, the
inert limbs give signs of returning animation, and the breathing become
strong and regular.

At last, Barbican suddenly opened his eyes, started into an upright
position on the sofa, took his friends by the hands, and, in a voice
showing complete consciousness, demanded eagerly:

"Ardan, M'Nicholl, are we moving?"

His friends looked at each other, a little amused, but more perplexed.
In their anxiety regarding their own and their friend's recovery, they
had never thought of asking such a question. His words recalled them at
once to a full sense of their situation.

"Moving? Blessed if I can tell!" said Ardan, still speaking French.

"We may be lying fifty feet deep in a Florida marsh, for all I know,"
observed M'Nicholl.

"Or, likely as not, in the bottom of the Gulf of Mexico," suggested
Ardan, still in French.

"Suppose we find out," observed Barbican, jumping up to try, his voice
as clear and his step as firm as ever.

But trying is one thing, and finding out another. Having no means of
comparing themselves with external objects, they could not possibly tell
whether they were moving, or at an absolute stand-still. Though our
Earth is whirling us continually around the Sun at the tremendous speed
of 500 miles a minute, its inhabitants are totally unconscious of the
slightest motion. It was the same with our travellers. Through their own
personal consciousness they could tell absolutely nothing. Were they
shooting through space like a meteor? They could not tell. Had they
fallen back and buried themselves deep in the sandy soil of Florida, or,
still more likely, hundreds of fathoms deep beneath the waters of the
Gulf of Mexico? They could not form the slightest idea.

Listening evidently could do no good. The profound silence proved
nothing. The padded walls of the Projectile were too thick to admit any
sound whether of wind, water, or human beings. Barbican, however, was
soon struck forcibly by one circumstance. He felt himself to be very
uncomfortably warm, and his friend's faces looked very hot and flushed.
Hastily removing the cover that protected the thermometer, he closely
inspected it, and in an instant uttered a joyous exclamation.

"Hurrah!" he cried. "We're moving! There's no mistake about it. The
thermometer marks 113 degrees Fahrenheit. Such a stifling heat could not
come from the gas. It comes from the exterior walls of our projectile,
which atmospheric friction must have made almost red hot. But this heat
must soon diminish, because we are already far beyond the regions of the
atmosphere, so that instead of smothering we shall be shortly in danger
of freezing."

"What?" asked Ardan, much bewildered. "We are already far beyond the
limits of the terrestrial atmosphere! Why do you think so?"

M'Nicholl was still too much flustered to venture a word.

"If you want me to answer your question satisfactorily, my dear Ardan,"
replied Barbican, with a quiet smile, "you will have the kindness to put
your questions in English."

"What do you mean, Barbican!" asked Ardan, hardly believing his ears.

"Hurrah!" cried M'Nicholl, in the tone of a man who has suddenly made a
welcome but most unexpected discovery.

"I don't know exactly how it is with the Captain," continued Barbican,
with the utmost tranquillity, "but for my part the study of the
languages never was my strong point, and though I always admired the
French, and even understood it pretty well, I never could converse in it
without giving myself more trouble than I always find it convenient to
assume."

"You don't mean to say that I have been talking French to you all this
time!" cried Ardan, horror-stricken.

"The most elegant French I ever heard, backed by the purest Parisian
accent," replied Barbican, highly amused; "Don't you think so, Captain?"
he added, turning to M'Nicholl, whose countenance still showed the most
comical traces of bewilderment.

"Well, I swan to man!" cried the Captain, who always swore a little
when his feelings got beyond his control; "Ardan, the Boss has got the
rig on both of us this time, but rough as it is on you it is a darned
sight more so on me. Be hanged if I did not think you were talking
English the whole time, and I put the whole blame for not understanding
you on the disordered state of my brain!"

Ardan only stared, and scratched his head, but Barbican actually--no,
not _laughed_, that serene nature could not _laugh_. His cast-iron
features puckered into a smile of the richest drollery, and his eyes
twinkled with the wickedest fun; but no undignified giggle escaped the
portal of those majestic lips.

"It _sounds_ like French, I'd say to myself," continued the Captain,
"but I _know_ it's English, and by and by, when this whirring goes out
of my head, I shall easily understand it."

Ardan now looked as if he was beginning to see the joke.

"The most puzzling part of the thing to me," went on M'Nicholl, giving
his experience with the utmost gravity, "was why English sounded so like
_French_. If it was simple incomprehensible gibberish, I could readily
blame the state of my ears for it. But the idea that my bothered ears
could turn a mere confused, muzzled, buzzing reverberation into a sweet,
harmonious, articulate, though unintelligible, human language, made me
sure that I was fast becoming crazy, if I was not so already."

"Ha! ha! ha!" roared Ardan, laughing till the tears came. "Now I
understand why the poor Captain made me no reply all the time, and
looked at me with such a hapless woe-begone expression of countenance.
The fact is, Barbican, that shock was too much both for M'Nicholl and
myself. You are the only man among us whose head is fire-proof,
blast-proof, and powder-proof. I really believe a burglar would have
greater difficulty in blowing your head-piece open than in bursting one
of those famous American safes your papers make such a fuss about. A
wonderful head, the Boss's, isn't it M'Nicholl?"

"Yes," said the Captain, as slowly as if every word were a gem of the
profoundest thought, "the Boss has a fearful and a wonderful head!"

"But now to business!" cried the versatile Ardan, "Why do you think,
Barbican, that we are at present beyond the limits of the terrestrial
atmosphere?"

"For a very simple reason," said Barbican, pointing to the chronometer;
"it is now more than seven minutes after 11. We must, therefore, have
been in motion more than twenty minutes. Consequently, unless our
initial velocity has been very much diminished by the friction, we must
have long before this completely cleared the fifty miles of atmosphere
enveloping the earth."

"Correct," said the Captain, cool as a cucumber, because once more in
complete possession of all his senses; "but how much do you think the
initial velocity to have been diminished by the friction?"

"By a third, according to my calculations," replied Barbican, "which I
think are right. Supposing our initial velocity, therefore, to have been
12,000 yards per second, by the time we quitted the atmosphere it must
have been reduced to 8,000 yards per second. At that rate, we must have
gone by this time--"

"Then, Mac, my boy, you've lost your two bets!" interrupted Ardan. "The
Columbiad has not burst, four thousand dollars; the Projectile has risen
at least six miles, five thousand dollars; come, Captain, bleed!"

"Let me first be sure we're right," said the Captain, quietly. "I don't
deny, you see, that friend Barbican's arguments are quite right, and,
therefore, that I have lost my nine thousand dollars. But there is
another view of the case possible, which might annul the bet."

"What other view?" asked Barbican, quickly.

"Suppose," said the Captain, very drily, "that the powder had not
caught, and that we were still lying quietly at the bottom of the
Columbiad!"

"By Jove!" laughed Ardan, "there's an idea truly worthy of my own
nondescript brain! We must surely have changed heads during that
concussion! No matter, there is some sense left in us yet. Come now,
Captain, consider a little, if you can. Weren't we both half-killed by
the shock? Didn't I rescue you from certain death with these two hands?
Don't you see Barbican's shoulder still bleeding by the violence of the
shock?"

"Correct, friend Michael, correct in every particular," replied the
Captain, "But one little question."

"Out with it!"

"Friend Michael, you say we're moving?"

"Yes."

"In consequence of the explosion?"

"Certainly!"

"Which must have been attended with a tremendous report?"

"Of course!"

"Did you hear that report, friend Michael?"

"N--o," replied Ardan, a little disconcerted at the question. "Well, no;
I can't say that I did hear any report."

"Did you, friend Barbican?"

"No," replied Barbican, promptly. "I heard no report whatever."

His answer was ready, but his look was quite as disconcerted as Ardan's.

"Well, friend Barbican and friend Michael," said the Captain, very drily
as he leered wickedly at both, "put that and that together and tell me
what you make of it."

"It's a fact!" exclaimed Barbican, puzzled, but not bewildered. "Why did
we not hear that report?"

"Too hard for me," said Ardan. "Give it up!"

The three friends gazed at each other for a while with countenances
expressive of much perplexity. Barbican appeared to be the least
self-possessed of the party. It was a complete turning of the tables
from the state of things a few moments ago. The problem was certainly
simple enough, but for that very reason the more inexplicable. If they
were moving the explosion must have taken place; but if the explosion
had taken place, why had they not heard the report?

Barbican's decision soon put an end to speculation.

"Conjecture being useless," said he, "let us have recourse to facts.
First, let us see where we are. Drop the deadlights!"

This operation, simple enough in itself and being immediately undertaken
by the whole three, was easily accomplished. The screws fastening the
bolts by which the external plates of the deadlights were solidly
pinned, readily yielded to the pressure of a powerful wrench. The bolts
were then driven outwards, and the holes which had contained them were
immediately filled with solid plugs of India rubber. The bolts once
driven out, the external plates dropped by their own weight, turning on
a hinge, like portholes, and the strong plate-glass forming the light
immediately showed itself. A second light exactly similar, could be
cleared away on the opposite side of the Projectile; a third, on the
summit of the dome, and a fourth, in the centre of the bottom. The
travellers could thus take observations in four different directions,
having an opportunity of gazing at the firmament through the side
lights, and at the Earth and the Moon through the lower and the upper
lights of the Projectile.

Ardan and the Captain had commenced examining the floor, previous to
operating on the bottom light. But Barbican was the first to get through
his work at one of the side lights, and M'Nicholl and Ardan soon heard
him shouting:

"No, my friends!" he exclaimed, in tones of decided emotion; "we have
_not_ fallen back to Earth; nor are we lying in the bottom of the Gulf
of Mexico. No! We are driving through space! Look at the stars
glittering all around! Brighter, but smaller than we have ever seen them
before! We have left the Earth and the Earth's atmosphere far behind
us!"

"Hurrah! Hurrah!" cried M'Nicholl and Ardan, feeling as if electric
shocks were coursing through them, though they could see nothing,
looking down from the side light, but the blackest and profoundest
obscurity.

Barbican soon convinced them that this pitchy blackness proved that they
were not, and could not be, reposing on the surface of the Earth, where
at that moment, everything was illuminated by the bright moonlight; also
that they had passed the different layers of the atmosphere, where the
diffused and refracted rays would be also sure to reveal themselves
through the lights of the Projectile. They were, therefore, certainly
moving. No doubt was longer possible.

"It's a fact!" observed the Captain, now quite convinced. "Then I've
lost!"

"Let me congratulate you!" cried Ardan, shaking his hand.

"Here is your nine thousand dollars, friend Barbican," said the Captain,
taking a roll of greenbacks of high denomination out of his
porte-monnaie.

"You want a receipt, don't you, Captain?" asked Barbican, counting the
money.

"Yes, I should prefer one, if it is not too much trouble," answered
M'Nicholl; "it saves dispute."

Coolly and mechanically, as if seated at his desk, in his office,
Barbican opened his memorandum book, wrote a receipt on a blank page,
dated, signed and sealed it, and then handed it to the Captain, who put
it away carefully among the other papers of his portfolio.

Ardan, taking off his hat, made a profound bow to both of his
companions, without saying a word. Such formality, under such
extraordinary circumstances, actually paralysed his tongue for the
moment. No wonder that he could not understand those Americans. Even
Indians would have surprised him by an exhibition of such stoicism.
After indulging in silent wonder for a minute or two, he joined his
companions who were now busy looking out at the starry sky.

"Where is the Moon?" he asked. "How is it that we cannot see her?"

"The fact of our not seeing her," answered Barbican, "gives me very
great satisfaction in one respect; it shows that our Projectile was shot
so rapidly out of the Columbiad that it had not time to be impressed
with the slightest revolving motion--for us a most fortunate matter. As
for the rest--see, there is _Cassiopeia_, a little to the left is
_Andromeda_, further down is the great square of _Pegasus_, and to the
southwest _Fomalhaut_ can be easily seen swallowing the _Cascade_. All
this shows we are looking west and consequently cannot see the Moon,
which is approaching the zenith from the east. Open the other light--But
hold on! Look here! What can this be?"

The three travellers, looking westwardly in the direction of _Alpherat_,
saw a brilliant object rapidly approaching them. At a distance, it
looked like a dusky moon, but the side turned towards the Earth blazed
with a bright light, which every moment became more intense. It came
towards them with prodigious velocity and, what was worse, its path lay
so directly in the course of the Projectile that a collision seemed
inevitable. As it moved onward, from west to east, they could easily see
that it rotated on its axis, like all heavenly bodies; in fact, it
somewhat resembled a Moon on a small scale, describing its regular orbit
around the Earth.

"_Mille tonerres!_" cried Ardan, greatly excited; "what is that? Can it
be another projectile?" M'Nicholl, wiping his spectacles, looked again,
but made no reply. Barbican looked puzzled and uneasy. A collision was
quite possible, and the results, even if not frightful in the highest
degree, must be extremely deplorable. The Projectile, if not absolutely
dashed to pieces, would be diverted from its own course and dragged
along in a new one in obedience to the irresistible attraction of this
furious asteroid.

Barbican fully realized that either alternative involved the complete
failure of their enterprise. He kept perfectly still, but, never losing
his presence of mind, he curiously looked on the approaching object with
a gladiatorial eye, as if seeking to detect some unguarded point in his
terrible adversary. The Captain was equally silent; he looked like a man
who had fully made up his mind to regard every possible contingency with
the most stoical indifference. But Ardan's tongue, more fluent than
ever, rattled away incessantly.

"Look! Look!" he exclaimed, in tones so perfectly expressive of his
rapidly alternating feelings as to render the medium of words totally
unnecessary. "How rapidly the cursed thing is nearing us! Plague take
your ugly phiz, the more I know you, the less I like you! Every second
she doubles in size! Come, Madame Projectile! Stir your stumps a little
livelier, old lady! He's making for you as straight as an arrow! We're
going right in his way, or he's coming in ours, I can't say which. It's
taking a mean advantage of us either way. As for ourselves--what can
_we_ do! Before such a monster as that we are as helpless as three men
in a little skiff shooting down the rapids to the brink of Niagara! Now
for it!"

Nearer and nearer it came, but without noise, without sparks, without a
trail, though its lower part was brighter than ever. Its path lying
little above them, the nearer it came the more the collision seemed
inevitable. Imagine yourself caught on a narrow railroad bridge at
midnight with an express train approaching at full speed, its reflector
already dazzling you with its light, the roar of the cars rattling in
your ears, and you may conceive the feelings of the travellers. At last
it was so near that the travellers started back in affright, with eyes
shut, hair on end, and fully believing their last hour had come. Even
then Ardan had his _mot_.

"We can neither switch off, down brakes, nor clap on more steam! Hard
luck!"

In an instant all was over. The velocity of the Projectile was
fortunately great enough to carry it barely above the dangerous point;
and in a flash the terrible bolide disappeared rapidly several hundred
yards beneath the affrighted travellers.

"Good bye! And may you never come back!" cried Ardan, hardly able to
breathe. "It's perfectly outrageous! Not room enough in infinite space
to let an unpretending bullet like ours move about a little without
incurring the risk of being run over by such a monster as that! What is
it anyhow? Do you know, Barbican?"

"I do," was the reply.

"Of course, you do! What is it that he don't know? Eh, Captain?"

"It is a simple bolide, but one of such enormous dimensions that the
Earth's attraction has made it a satellite."

"What!" cried Ardan, "another satellite besides the Moon? I hope there
are no more of them!"

"They are pretty numerous," replied Barbican; "but they are so small and
they move with such enormous velocity that they are very seldom seen.
Petit, the Director of the Observatory of Toulouse, who these last years
has devoted much time and care to the observation of bolides, has
calculated that the very one we have just encountered moves with such
astonishing swiftness that it accomplishes its revolution around the
Earth in about 3 hours and 20 minutes!"

"Whew!" whistled Ardan, "where should we be now if it had struck us!"

"You don't mean to say, Barbican," observed M'Nicholl, "that Petit has
seen this very one?"

"So it appears," replied Barbican.

"And do all astronomers admit its existence?" asked the Captain.

"Well, some of them have their doubts," replied Barbican--

"If the unbelievers had been here a minute or two ago," interrupted
Ardan, "they would never express a doubt again."

"If Petit's calculation is right," continued Barbican, "I can even form
a very good idea as to our distance from the Earth."

"It seems to me Barbican can do what he pleases here or elsewhere,"
observed Ardan to the Captain.

"Let us see, Barbican," asked M'Nicholl; "where has Petit's calculation
placed us?"

"The bolide's distance being known," replied Barbican, "at the moment we
met it we were a little more than 5 thousand miles from the Earth's
surface."

"Five thousand miles already!" cried Ardan, "why we have only just
started!"

"Let us see about that," quietly observed the Captain, looking at his
chronometer, and calculating with his pencil. "It is now 10 minutes past
eleven; we have therefore been 23 minutes on the road. Supposing our
initial velocity of 10,000 yards or nearly seven miles a second, to have
been kept up, we should by this time be about 9,000 miles from the
Earth; but by allowing for friction and gravity, we can hardly be more
than 5,500 miles. Yes, friend Barbican, Petit does not seem to be very
wrong in his calculations."

But Barbican hardly heard the observation. He had not yet answered the
puzzling question that had already presented itself to them for
solution; and until he had done so he could not attend to anything else.

"That's all very well and good, Captain," he replied in an absorbed
manner, "but we have not yet been able to account for a very strange
phenomenon. Why didn't we hear the report?"

No one replying, the conversation came to a stand-still, and Barbican,
still absorbed in his reflections, began clearing the second light of
its external shutter. In a few minutes the plate dropped, and the Moon
beams, flowing in, filled the interior of the Projectile with her
brilliant light. The Captain immediately put out the gas, from motives
of economy as well as because its glare somewhat interfered with the
observation of the interplanetary regions.

The Lunar disc struck the travellers as glittering with a splendor and
purity of light that they had never witnessed before. The beams, no
longer strained through the misty atmosphere of the Earth, streamed
copiously in through the glass and coated the interior walls of the
Projectile with a brilliant silvery plating. The intense blackness of
the sky enhanced the dazzling radiance of the Moon. Even the stars
blazed with a new and unequalled splendor, and, in the absence of a
refracting atmosphere, they flamed as bright in the close proximity of
the Moon as in any other part of the sky.

You can easily conceive the interest with which these bold travellers
gazed on the Starry Queen, the final object of their daring journey. She
was now insensibly approaching the zenith, the mathematical point which
she was to reach four days later. They presented their telescopes, but
her mountains, plains, craters and general characteristics hardly came
out a particle more sharply than if they had been viewed from the Earth.
Still, her light, unobstructed by air or vapor, shimmered with a lustre
actually transplendent. Her disc shone like a mirror of polished
platins. The travellers remained for some time absorbed in the silent
contemplation of the glorious scene.

"How they're gazing at her this very moment from Stony Hill!" said the
Captain at last to break the silence.

"By Jove!" cried Ardan; "It's true! Captain you're right. We were near
forgetting our dear old Mother, the Earth. What ungrateful children! Let
me feast my eyes once more on the blessed old creature!"

Barbican, to satisfy his companion's desire, immediately commenced to
clear away the disc which covered the floor of the Projectile and
prevented them from getting at the lower light. This disc, though it had
been dashed to the bottom of the Projectile with great violence, was
still as strong as ever, and, being made in compartments fastened by
screws, to dismount it was no easy matter. Barbican, however, with the
help of the others, soon had it all taken apart, and put away the pieces
carefully, to serve again in case of need. A round hole about a foot and
a half in diameter appeared, bored through the floor of the Projectile.
It was closed by a circular pane of plate-glass, which was about six
inches thick, fastened by a ring of copper. Below, on the outside, the
glass was protected by an aluminium plate, kept in its place by strong
bolts and nuts. The latter being unscrewed, the bolts slipped out by
their own weight, the shutter fell, and a new communication was
established between the interior and the exterior.

Ardan knelt down, applied his eye to the light, and tried to look out.
At first everything was quite dark and gloomy.

"I see no Earth!" he exclaimed at last.

"Don't you see a fine ribbon of light?" asked Barbican, "right beneath
us? A thin, pale, silvery crescent?"

"Of course I do. Can that be the Earth?"

"_Terra Mater_ herself, friend Ardan. That fine fillet of light, now
hardly visible on her eastern border, will disappear altogether as soon
as the Moon is full. Then, lying as she will be between the Sun and the
Moon, her illuminated face will be turned away from us altogether, and
for several days she will be involved in impenetrable darkness."

"And that's the Earth!" repeated Ardan, hardly able to believe his eyes,
as he continued to gaze on the slight thread of silvery white light,
somewhat resembling the appearance of the "Young May Moon" a few hours
after sunset.

Barbican's explanation was quite correct. The Earth, in reference to the
Moon or the Projectile, was in her last phase, or octant as it is
called, and showed a sharp-horned, attenuated, but brilliant crescent
strongly relieved by the black background of the sky. Its light,
rendered a little bluish by the density of the atmospheric envelopes,
was not quite as brilliant as the Moon's. But the Earth's crescent,
compared to the Lunar, was of dimensions much greater, being fully 4
times larger. You would have called it a vast, beautiful, but very thin
bow extending over the sky. A few points, brighter than the rest,
particularly in its concave part, revealed the presence of lofty
mountains, probably the Himalayahs. But they disappeared every now and
then under thick vapory spots, which are never seen on the Lunar disc.
They were the thin concentric cloud rings that surround the terrestrial
sphere.

However, the travellers' eyes were soon able to trace the rest of the
Earth's surface not only with facility, but even to follow its outline
with absolute delight. This was in consequence of two different
phenomena, one of which they could easily account for; but the other
they could not explain without Barbican's assistance. No wonder. Never
before had mortal eye beheld such a sight. Let us take each in its turn.

We all know that the ashy light by means of which we perceive what is
called the _Old Moon in the Young Moon's arms_ is due to the
Earth-shine, or the reflection of the solar rays from the Earth to the
Moon. By a phenomenon exactly identical, the travellers could now see
that portion of the Earth's surface which was unillumined by the Sun;
only, as, in consequence of the different areas of the respective
surfaces, the _Earthlight_ is thirteen times more intense than the
_Moonlight_, the dark portion of the Earth's disc appeared considerably
more adumbrated than the _Old Moon_.

But the other phenomenon had burst on them so suddenly that they
uttered a cry loud enough to wake up Barbican from his problem. They had
discovered a true starry ring! Around the Earth's outline, a ring, of
internally well defined thickness, but somewhat hazy on the outside,
could easily be traced by its surpassing brilliancy. Neither the
_Pleiades_, the _Northern Crown_, the _Magellanic Clouds_ nor the great
nebulas of _Orion_, or of _Argo_, no sparkling cluster, no corona, no
group of glittering star-dust that the travellers had ever gazed at,
presented such attractions as the diamond ring they now saw encompassing
the Earth, just as the brass meridian encompasses a terrestrial globe.
The resplendency of its light enchanted them, its pure softness
delighted them, its perfect regularity astonished them. What was it?
they asked Barbican. In a few words he explained it. The beautiful
luminous ring was simply an optical illusion, produced by the refraction
of the terrestrial atmosphere. All the stars in the neighborhood of the
Earth, and many actually behind it, had their rays refracted, diffused,
radiated, and finally converged to a focus by the atmosphere, as if by a
double convex lens of gigantic power.

Whilst the travellers were profoundly absorbed in the contemplation of
this wondrous sight, a sparkling shower of shooting stars suddenly
flashed over the Earth's dark surface, making it for a moment as bright
as the external ring. Hundreds of bolides, catching fire from contact
with the atmosphere, streaked the darkness with their luminous trails,
overspreading it occasionally with sheets of electric flame. The Earth
was just then in her perihelion, and we all know that the months of
November and December are so highly favorable to the appearance of these
meteoric showers that at the famous display of November, 1866,
astronomers counted as many as 8,000 between midnight and four o'clock.

Barbican explained the whole matter in a few words. The Earth, when
nearest to the sun, occasionally plunges into a group of countless
meteors travelling like comets, in eccentric orbits around the grand
centre of our solar system. The atmosphere strikes the rapidly moving
bodies with such violence as to set them on fire and render them visible
to us in beautiful star showers. But to this simple explanation of the
famous November meteors Ardan would not listen. He preferred believing
that Mother Earth, feeling that her three daring children were still
looking at her, though five thousand miles away, shot off her best
rocket-signals to show that she still thought of them and would never
let them out of her watchful eye.

For hours they continued to gaze with indescribable interest on the
faintly luminous mass so easily distinguishable among the other heavenly
bodies. Jupiter blazed on their right, Mars flashed his ruddy light on
their left, Saturn with his rings looked like a round white spot on a
black wall; even Venus they could see almost directly under them, easily
recognizing her by her soft, sweetly scintillant light. But no planet or
constellation possessed any attraction for the travellers, as long as
their eyes could trace that shadowy, crescent-edged, diamond-girdled,
meteor-furrowed spheroid, the theatre of their existence, the home of so
many undying desires, the mysterious cradle of their race!

Meantime the Projectile cleaved its way upwards, rapidly, unswervingly,
though with a gradually retarding velocity. As the Earth sensibly grew
darker, and the travellers' eyes grew dimmer, an irresistible somnolency
slowly stole over their weary frames. The extraordinary excitement they
had gone through during the last four or five hours, was naturally
followed by a profound reaction.

"Captain, you're nodding," said Ardan at last, after a longer silence
than usual; "the fact is, Barbican is the only wake man of the party,
because he is puzzling over his problem. _Dum vivimus vivamus_! As we
are asleep let us be asleep!"

So saying he threw himself on the mattress, and his companions
immediately followed the example.

They had been lying hardly a quarter of an hour, when Barbican started
up with a cry so loud and sudden as instantly to awaken his companions.

The bright moonlight showed them the President sitting up in his bed,
his eye blazing, his arms waving, as he shouted in a tone reminding them
of the day they had found him in St. Helena wood.

"_Eureka!_ I've got it! I know it!"

"What have you got?" cried Ardan, bouncing up and seizing him by the
right hand.

"What do you know?" cried the Captain, stretching over and seizing him
by the left.

"The reason why we did not hear the report!"

"Well, why did not we hear it!" asked both rapidly in the same breath.

"Because we were shot up 30 times faster than sound can travel!"




CHAPTER III.

THEY MAKE THEMSELVES AT HOME AND FEEL QUITE COMFORTABLE.


This curious explanation given, and its soundness immediately
recognized, the three friends were soon fast wrapped in the arms of
Morpheus. Where in fact could they have found a spot more favorable for
undisturbed repose? On land, where the dwellings, whether in populous
city or lonely country, continually experience every shock that thrills
the Earth's crust? At sea, where between waves or winds or paddles or
screws or machinery, everything is tremor, quiver or jar? In the air,
where the balloon is incessantly twirling, oscillating, on account of
the ever varying strata of different densities, and even occasionally
threatening to spill you out? The Projectile alone, floating grandly
through the absolute void, in the midst of the profoundest silence,
could offer to its inmates the possibility of enjoying slumber the most
complete, repose the most profound.

There is no telling how long our three daring travellers would have
continued to enjoy their sleep, if it had not been suddenly terminated
by an unexpected noise about seven o'clock in the morning of December
2nd, eight hours after their departure.

This noise was most decidedly of barking.

"The dogs! It's the dogs!" cried Ardan, springing up at a bound.

"They must be hungry!" observed the Captain.

"We have forgotten the poor creatures!" cried Barbican.

"Where can they have gone to?" asked Ardan, looking for them in all
directions.

At last they found one of them hiding under the sofa. Thunderstruck and
perfectly bewildered by the terrible shock, the poor animal had kept
close in its hiding place, never daring to utter a sound, until at last
the pangs of hunger had proved too strong even for its fright.

They readily recognized the amiable Diana, but they could not allure the
shivering, whining animal from her retreat without a good deal of
coaxing. Ardan talked to her in his most honeyed and seductive accents,
while trying to pull her out by the neck.

"Come out to your friends, charming Diana," he went on, "come out, my
beauty, destined for a lofty niche in the temple of canine glory! Come
out, worthy scion of a race deemed worthy by the Egyptians to be a
companion of the great god, Anubis, by the Christians, to be a friend of
the good Saint Roch! Come out and partake of a glory before which the
stars of Montargis and of St. Bernard shall henceforward pale their
ineffectual fire! Come out, my lady, and let me think o'er the countless
multiplication of thy species, so that, while sailing through the
interplanetary spaces, we may indulge in endless flights of fancy on
the number and variety of thy descendants who will ere long render the
Selenitic atmosphere vocal with canine ululation!"

[Illustration: MORE HUNGRY THAN EITHER.]

Diana, whether flattered or not, allowed herself to be dragged out,
still uttering short, plaintive whines. A hasty examination satisfying
her friends that she was more frightened than hurt and more hungry than
either, they continued their search for her companion.

"Satellite! Satellite! Step this way, sir!" cried Ardan. But no
Satellite appeared and, what was worse, not the slightest sound indicated
his presence. At last he was discovered on a ledge in the upper portion
of the Projectile, whither he had been shot by the terrible concussion.
Less fortunate than his female companion, the poor fellow had received a
frightful shock and his life was evidently in great danger.

"The acclimatization project looks shaky!" cried Ardan, handing the
animal very carefully and tenderly to the others. Poor Satellite's head
had been crushed against the roof, but, though recovery seemed hopeless,
they laid the body on a soft cushion, and soon had the satisfaction of
hearing it give vent to a slight sigh.

"Good!" said Ardan, "while there's life there's hope. You must not die
yet, old boy. We shall nurse you. We know our duty and shall not shirk
the responsibility. I should rather lose the right arm off my body than
be the cause of your death, poor Satellite! Try a little water?"

The suffering creature swallowed the cool draught with evident avidity,
then sunk into a deep slumber.

The friends, sitting around and having nothing more to do, looked out of
the window and began once more to watch the Earth and the Moon with
great attention. The glittering crescent of the Earth was evidently
narrower than it had been the preceding evening, but its volume was
still enormous when compared to the Lunar crescent, which was now
rapidly assuming the proportions of a perfect circle.

"By Jove," suddenly exclaimed Ardan, "why didn't we start at the moment
of Full Earth?--that is when our globe and the Sun were in opposition?"

"Why _should_ we!" growled M'Nicholl.

"Because in that case we should be now looking at the great continents
and the great seas in a new light--the former glittering under the solar
rays, the latter darker and somewhat shaded, as we see them on certain
maps. How I should like to get a glimpse at those poles of the Earth, on
which the eye of man has never yet lighted!"

"True," replied Barbican, "but if the Earth had been Full, the Moon
would have been New, that is to say, invisible to us on account of solar
irradiation. Of the two it is much preferable to be able to keep the
point of arrival in view rather than the point of departure."

"You're right, Barbican," observed the Captain; "besides, once we're in
the Moon, the long Lunar night will give us plenty of time to gaze our
full at yonder great celestial body, our former home, and still
swarming with our fellow beings."

"Our fellow beings no longer, dear boy!" cried Ardan. "We inhabit a new
world peopled by ourselves alone, the Projectile! Ardan is Barbican's
fellow being, and Barbican M'Nicholl's. Beyond us, outside us, humanity
ends, and we are now the only inhabitants of this microcosm, and so we
shall continue till the moment when we become Selenites pure and
simple."

"Which shall be in about eighty-eight hours from now," replied the
Captain.

"Which is as much as to say--?" asked Ardan.

"That it is half past eight," replied M'Nicholl.

"My regular hour for breakfast," exclaimed Ardan, "and I don't see the
shadow of a reason for changing it now."

The proposition was most acceptable, especially to the Captain, who
frequently boasted that, whether on land or water, on mountain summits
or in the depths of mines, he had never missed a meal in all his life.
In escaping from the Earth, our travellers felt that they had by no
means escaped from the laws of humanity, and their stomachs now called
on them lustily to fill the aching void. Ardan, as a Frenchman, claimed
the post of chief cook, an important office, but his companions yielded
it with alacrity. The gas furnished the requisite heat, and the
provision chest supplied the materials for their first repast. They
commenced with three plates of excellent soup, extracted from _Liebig's_
precious tablets, prepared from the best beef that ever roamed over the
Pampas.

To this succeeded several tenderloin beefsteaks, which, though reduced
to a small bulk by the hydraulic engines of the _American Dessicating
Company_, were pronounced to be fully as tender, juicy and savory as if
they had just left the gridiron of a London Club House. Ardan even swore
that they were "bleeding," and the others were too busy to contradict
him.

Preserved vegetables of various kinds, "fresher than nature," according
to Ardan, gave an agreeable variety to the entertainment, and these were
followed by several cups of magnificent tea, unanimously allowed to be
the best they had ever tasted. It was an odoriferous young hyson
gathered that very year, and presented to the Emperor of Russia by the
famous rebel chief Yakub Kushbegi, and of which Alexander had expressed
himself as very happy in being able to send a few boxes to his friend,
the distinguished President of the Baltimore Gun Club. To crown the
meal, Ardan unearthed an exquisite bottle of _Chambertin_, and, in
glasses sparkling with the richest juice of the _Cote d'or,_ the
travellers drank to the speedy union of the Earth and her satellite.

And, as if his work among the generous vineyards of Burgundy had not
been enough to show his interest in the matter, even the Sun wished to
join the party. Precisely at this moment, the Projectile beginning to
leave the conical shadow cast by the Earth, the rays of the glorious
King of Day struck its lower surface, not obliquely, but
perpendicularly, on account of the slight obliquity of the Moon's orbit
with that of the Earth.

[Illustration: TO THE UNION OF THE EARTH AND HER SATELLITE.]

"The Sun," cried Ardan.

"Of course," said Barbican, looking at his watch, "he's exactly up to
time."

"How is it that we see him only through the bottom light of our
Projectile?" asked Ardan.

"A moment's reflection must tell you," replied Barbican, "that when we
started last night, the Sun was almost directly below us; therefore, as
we continue to move in a straight line, he must still be in our rear."

"That's clear enough," said the Captain, "but another consideration, I'm
free to say, rather perplexes me. Since our Earth lies between us and
the Sun, why don't we see the sunlight forming a great ring around the
globe, in other words, instead of the full Sun that we plainly see there
below, why do we not witness an annular eclipse?"

"Your cool, clear head has not yet quite recovered from the shock, my
dear Captain;" replied Barbican, with a smile. "For two reasons we can't
see the ring eclipse: on account of the angle the Moon's orbit makes
with the Earth, the three bodies are not at present in a direct line;
we, therefore, see the Sun a little to the west of the earth; secondly,
even if they were exactly in a straight line, we should still be far
from the point whence an annular eclipse would be visible."

"That's true," said Ardan; "the cone of the Earth's shadow must extend
far beyond the Moon."

"Nearly four times as far," said Barbican; "still, as the Moon's orbit
and the Earth's do not lie in exactly the same plane, a Lunar eclipse
can occur only when the nodes coincide with the period of the Full Moon,
which is generally twice, never more than three times in a year. If we
had started about four days before the occurrence of a Lunar eclipse, we
should travel all the time in the dark. This would have been obnoxious
for many reasons."

"One, for instance?"

"An evident one is that, though at the present moment we are moving
through a vacuum, our Projectile, steeped in the solar rays, revels in
their light and heat. Hence great saving in gas, an important point in
our household economy."

In effect, the solar rays, tempered by no genial medium like our
atmosphere, soon began to glare and glow with such intensity, that the
Projectile under their influence, felt like suddenly passing from winter
to summer. Between the Moon overhead and the Sun beneath it was actually
inundated with fiery rays.

"One feels good here," cried the Captain, rubbing his hands.

"A little too good," cried Ardan. "It's already like a hot-house. With a
little garden clay, I could raise you a splendid crop of peas in
twenty-four hours. I hope in heaven the walls of our Projectile won't
melt like wax!"

"Don't be alarmed, dear friend," observed Barbican, quietly. "The
Projectile has seen the worst as far as heat is concerned; when tearing
through the atmosphere, she endured a temperature with which what she is
liable to at present stands no comparison. In fact, I should not be
astonished if, in the eyes of our friends at Stony Hill, it had
resembled for a moment or two a red-hot meteor."

"Poor Marston must have looked on us as roasted alive!" observed Ardan.

"What could have saved us I'm sure I can't tell," replied Barbican. "I
must acknowledge that against such a danger, I had made no provision
whatever."

"I knew all about it," said the Captain, "and on the strength of it, I
had laid my fifth wager."

"Probably," laughed Ardan, "there was not time enough to get grilled in:
I have heard of men who dipped their fingers into molten iron with
impunity."

Whilst Ardan and the Captain were arguing the point, Barbican began
busying himself in making everything as comfortable as if, instead of a
four days' journey, one of four years was contemplated. The reader, no
doubt, remembers that the floor of the Projectile contained about 50
square feet; that the chamber was nine feet high; that space was
economized as much as possible, nothing but the most absolute
necessities being admitted, of which each was kept strictly in its own
place; therefore, the travellers had room enough to move around in with
a certain liberty. The thick glass window in the floor was quite as
solid as any other part of it; but the Sun, streaming in from below,
lit up the Projectile strangely, producing some very singular and
startling effects of light appearing to come in by the wrong way.

The first thing now to be done was to see after the water cask and the
provision chest. They were not injured in the slightest respect, thanks
to the means taken to counteract the shock. The provisions were in good
condition, and abundant enough to supply the travellers for a whole
year--Barbican having taken care to be on the safe side, in case the
Projectile might land in a deserted region of the Moon. As for the water
and the other liquors, the travellers had enough only for two months.
Relying on the latest observations of astronomers, they had convinced
themselves that the Moon's atmosphere, being heavy, dense and thick in
the deep valleys, springs and streams of water could hardly fail to show
themselves there. During the journey, therefore, and for the first year
of their installation on the Lunar continent, the daring travellers
would be pretty safe from all danger of hunger or thirst.

The air supply proved also to be quite satisfactory. The _Reiset_ and
_Regnault_ apparatus for producing oxygen contained a supply of chlorate
of potash sufficient for two months. As the productive material had to
be maintained at a temperature of between 7 and 8 hundred degrees Fahr.,
a steady consumption of gas was required; but here too the supply far
exceeded the demand. The whole arrangement worked charmingly, requiring
only an odd glance now and then. The high temperature changing the
chlorate into a chloride, the oxygen was disengaged gradually but
abundantly, every eighteen pounds of chlorate of potash, furnishing the
seven pounds of oxygen necessary for the daily consumption of the
inmates of the Projectile.

Still--as the reader need hardly be reminded--it was not sufficient to
renew the exhausted oxygen; the complete purification of the air
required the absorption of the carbonic acid, exhaled from the lungs.
For nearly 12 hours the atmosphere had been gradually becoming more and
more charged with this deleterious gas, produced from the combustion of
the blood by the inspired oxygen. The Captain soon saw this, by noticing
with what difficulty Diana was panting. She even appeared to be
smothering, for the carbonic acid--as in the famous _Grotto del Cane_ on
the banks of Lake Agnano, near Naples--was collecting like water on the
floor of the Projectile, on account of its great specific gravity. It
already threatened the poor dog's life, though not yet endangering that
of her masters. The Captain, seeing this state of things, hastily laid
on the floor one or two cups containing caustic potash and water, and
stirred the mixture gently: this substance, having a powerful affinity
for carbonic acid, greedily absorbed it, and after a few moments the air
was completely purified.

The others had begun by this time to check off the state of the
instruments. The thermometer and the barometer were all right, except
one self-recorder of which the glass had got broken. An excellent
aneroid barometer, taken safe and sound out of its wadded box, was
carefully hung on a hook in the wall. It marked not only the pressure of
the air in the Projectile, but also the quantity of the watery vapor
that it contained. The needle, oscillating a little beyond thirty,
pointed pretty steadily at "_Fair_."

The mariner's compasses were also found to be quite free from injury. It
is, of course, hardly necessary to say that the needles pointed in no
particular direction, the magnetic pole of the Earth being unable at
such a distance to exercise any appreciable influence on them. But when
brought to the Moon, it was expected that these compasses, once more
subjected to the influence of the current, would attest certain
phenomena. In any case, it would be interesting to verify if the Earth
and her satellite were similarly affected by the magnetic forces.

A hypsometer, or instrument for ascertaining the heights of the Lunar
mountains by the barometric pressure under which water boils, a sextant
to measure the altitude of the Sun, a theodolite for taking horizontal
or vertical angles, telescopes, of indispensable necessity when the
travellers should approach the Moon,--all these instruments, carefully
examined, were found to be still in perfect working order,
notwithstanding the violence of the terrible shock at the start.

As to the picks, spades, and other tools that had been carefully
selected by the Captain; also the bags of various kinds of grain and
the bundles of various kinds of shrubs, which Ardan expected to
transplant to the Lunar plains--they were all still safe in their places
around the upper corners of the Projectile.

Some other articles were also up there which evidently possessed great
interest for the Frenchman. What they were nobody else seemed to know,
and he seemed to be in no hurry to tell. Every now and then, he would
climb up, by means of iron pins fixed in the wall, to inspect his
treasures; whatever they were, he arranged them and rearranged them with
evident pleasure, and as he rapidly passed a careful hand through
certain mysterious boxes, he joyfully sang in the falsest possible of
false voices the lively piece from _Nicolo_:

    _Le temps est beau, la route est belle,
    La promenade est un plaisir_.

    {The day is bright, our hearts are light.}
    {How sweet to rove through wood and dell.}

or the well known air in _Mignon_:

    _Legeres hirondelles,
    Oiseaux benis de Dieu,
    Ouvrez-ouvrez vos ailes,
    Envolez-vous! adieu!_

    {Farewell, happy Swallows, farewell!}
    {With summer for ever to dwell}
    {Ye leave our northern strand}
    {For the genial southern land}
    {Balmy with breezes bland.}
    {Return? Ah, who can tell?}
    {Farewell, happy Swallows, farewell!}

Barbican was much gratified to find that his rockets and other fireworks
had not received the least injury. He relied upon them for the
performance of a very important service as soon as the Projectile,
having passed the point of neutral attraction between the Earth and the
Moon, would begin to fall with accelerated velocity towards the Lunar
surface. This descent, though--thanks to the respective volumes of the
attracting bodies--six times less rapid than it would have been on the
surface of the Earth, would still be violent enough to dash the
Projectile into a thousand pieces. But Barbican confidently expected by
means of his powerful rockets to offer very considerable obstruction to
the violence of this fall, if not to counteract its terrible effects
altogether.

The inspection having thus given general satisfaction, the travellers
once more set themselves to watching external space through the lights
in the sides and the floor of the Projectile.

Everything still appeared to be in the same state as before. Nothing was
changed. The vast arch of the celestial dome glittered with stars, and
constellations blazed with a light clear and pure enough to throw an
astronomer into an ecstasy of admiration. Below them shone the Sun, like
the mouth of a white-hot furnace, his dazzling disc defined sharply on
the pitch-black back-ground of the sky. Above them the Moon, reflecting
back his rays from her glowing surface, appeared to stand motionless in
the midst of the starry host.

A little to the east of the Sun, they could see a pretty large dark
spot, like a hole in the sky, the broad silver fringe on one edge fading
off into a faint glimmering mist on the other--it was the Earth. Here
and there in all directions, nebulous masses gleamed like large flakes
of star dust, in which, from nadir to zenith, the eye could trace
without a break that vast ring of impalpable star powder, the famous
_Milky Way_, through the midst of which the beams of our glorious Sun
struggle with the dusky pallor of a star of only the fourth magnitude.

Our observers were never weary of gazing on this magnificent and novel
spectacle, of the grandeur of which, it is hardly necessary to say, no
description can give an adequate idea. What profound reflections it
suggested to their understandings! What vivid emotions it enkindled in
their imaginations! Barbican, desirous of commenting the story of the
journey while still influenced by these inspiring impressions, noted
carefully hour by hour every fact that signalized the beginning of his
enterprise. He wrote out his notes very carefully and systematically,
his round full hand, as business-like as ever, never betraying the
slightest emotion.

The Captain was quite as busy, but in a different way. Pulling out his
tablets, he reviewed his calculations regarding the motion of
projectiles, their velocities, ranges and paths, their retardations and
their accelerations, jotting down the figures with a rapidity wonderful
to behold. Ardan neither wrote nor calculated, but kept up an incessant
fire of small talk, now with Barbican, who hardly ever answered him,
now with M'Nicholl, who never heard him, occasionally with Diana, who
never understood him, but oftenest with himself, because, as he said, he
liked not only to talk to a sensible man but also to hear what a
sensible man had to say. He never stood still for a moment, but kept
"bobbing around" with the effervescent briskness of a bee, at one time
roosting at the top of the ladder, at another peering through the floor
light, now to the right, then to the left, always humming scraps from
the _Opera Bouffe_, but never changing the air. In the small space which
was then a whole world to the travellers, he represented to the life the
animation and loquacity of the French, and I need hardly say he played
his part to perfection.

The eventful day, or, to speak more correctly, the space of twelve hours
which with us forms a day, ended for our travellers with an abundant
supper, exquisitely cooked. It was highly enjoyed.

No incident had yet occurred of a nature calculated to shake their
confidence. Apprehending none therefore, full of hope rather and already
certain of success, they were soon lost in a peaceful slumber, whilst
the Projectile, moving rapidly, though with a velocity uniformly
retarding, still cleaved its way through the pathless regions of the
empyrean.




CHAPTER IV.

A CHAPTER FOR THE CORNELL GIRLS.


No incident worth recording occurred during the night, if night indeed
it could be called. In reality there was now no night or even day in the
Projectile, or rather, strictly speaking, it was always _night_ on the
upper end of the bullet, and always _day_ on the lower. Whenever,
therefore, the words _night_ and _day_ occur in our story, the reader
will readily understand them as referring to those spaces of time that
are so called in our Earthly almanacs, and were so measured by the
travellers' chronometers.

The repose of our friends must indeed have been undisturbed, if absolute
freedom from sound or jar of any kind could secure tranquillity. In
spite of its immense velocity, the Projectile still seemed to be
perfectly motionless. Not the slightest sign of movement could be
detected. Change of locality, though ever so rapid, can never reveal
itself to our senses when it takes place in a vacuum, or when the
enveloping atmosphere travels at the same rate as the moving body.
Though we are incessantly whirled around the Sun at the rate of about
seventy thousand miles an hour, which of us is conscious of the
slightest motion? In such a case, as far as sensation is concerned,
motion and repose are absolutely identical. Neither has any effect one
way or another on a material body. Is such a body in motion? It remains
in motion until some obstacle stops it. Is it at rest? It remains at
rest until some superior force compels it to change its position. This
indifference of bodies to motion or rest is what physicists call
_inertia_.

Barbican and his companions, therefore, shut up in the Projectile, could
readily imagine themselves to be completely motionless. Had they been
outside, the effect would have been precisely the same. No rush of air,
no jarring sensation would betray the slightest movement. But for the
sight of the Moon gradually growing larger above them, and of the Earth
gradually growing smaller beneath them, they could safely swear that
they were fast anchored in an ocean of deathlike immobility.

Towards the morning of next day (December 3), they were awakened by a
joyful, but quite unexpected sound.

"Cock-a-doodle! doo!" accompanied by a decided flapping of wings.

The Frenchman, on his feet in one instant and on the top of the ladder
in another, attempted to shut the lid of a half open box, speaking in an
angry but suppressed voice:

"Stop this hullabaloo, won't you? Do you want me to fail in my great
combination!"

"Hello?" cried Barbican and M'Nicholl, starting up and rubbing their
eyes.

"What noise was that?" asked Barbican.

"Seems to me I heard the crowing of a cock," observed the Captain.

"I never thought your ears could be so easily deceived, Captain," cried
Ardan, quickly, "Let us try it again," and, flapping his ribs with his
arms, he gave vent to a crow so loud and natural that the lustiest
chanticleer that ever saluted the orb of day might be proud of it.

The Captain roared right out, and even Barbican snickered, but as they
saw that their companion evidently wanted to conceal something, they
immediately assumed straight faces and pretended to think no more about
the matter.

"Barbican," said Ardan, coming down the ladder and evidently anxious to
change the conversation, "have you any idea of what I was thinking about
all night?"

"Not the slightest."

"I was thinking of the promptness of the reply you received last year
from the authorities of Cambridge University, when you asked them about
the feasibility of sending a bullet to the Moon. You know very well by
this time what a perfect ignoramus I am in Mathematics. I own I have
been often puzzled when thinking on what grounds they could form such a
positive opinion, in a case where I am certain that the calculation must
be an exceedingly delicate matter."

"The feasibility, you mean to say," replied Barbican, "not exactly of
sending a bullet to the Moon, but of sending it to the neutral point
between the Earth and the Moon, which lies at about nine-tenths of the
journey, where the two attractions counteract each other. Because that
point once passed, the Projectile would reach the Moon's surface by
virtue of its own weight."

"Well, reaching that neutral point be it;" replied Ardan, "but, once
more, I should like to know how they have been able to come at the
necessary initial velocity of 12,000 yards a second?"

"Nothing simpler," answered Barbican.

"Could you have done it yourself?" asked the Frenchman.

"Without the slightest difficulty. The Captain and myself could have
readily solved the problem, only the reply from the University saved us
the trouble."

"Well, Barbican, dear boy," observed Ardan, "all I've got to say is, you
might chop the head off my body, beginning with my feet, before you
could make me go through such a calculation."

"Simply because you don't understand Algebra," replied Barbican,
quietly.

"Oh! that's all very well!" cried Ardan, with an ironical smile. "You
great _x+y_ men think you settle everything by uttering the word
_Algebra_!"

"Ardan," asked Barbican, "do you think people could beat iron without a
hammer, or turn up furrows without a plough?"

"Hardly."

"Well, Algebra is an instrument or utensil just as much as a hammer or a
plough, and a very good instrument too if you know how to make use of
it."

"You're in earnest?"

"Quite so."

"And you can handle the instrument right before my eyes?"

"Certainly, if it interests you so much."

"You can show me how they got at the initial velocity of our
Projectile?"

"With the greatest pleasure. By taking into proper consideration all the
elements of the problem, viz.: (1) the distance between the centres of
the Earth and the Moon, (2) the Earth's radius, (3) its volume, and (4)
the Moon's volume, I can easily calculate what must be the initial
velocity, and that too by a very simple formula."

"Let us have the formula."

"In one moment; only I can't give you the curve really described by the
Projectile as it moves between the Earth and the Moon; this is to be
obtained by allowing for their combined movement around the Sun. I will
consider the Earth and the Sun to be motionless, that being sufficient
for our present purpose."

"Why so?"

"Because to give you that exact curve would be to solve a point in the
'Problem of the Three Bodies,' which Integral Calculus has not yet
reached."

"What!" cried Ardan, in a mocking tone, "is there really anything that
Mathematics can't do?"

"Yes," said Barbican, "there is still a great deal that Mathematics
can't even attempt."

"So far, so good;" resumed Ardan. "Now then what is this Integral
Calculus of yours?"

"It is a branch of Mathematics that has for its object the summation of
a certain infinite series of indefinitely small terms: but for the
solution of which, we must generally know the function of which a given
function is the differential coefficient. In other words," continued
Barbican, "in it we return from the differential coefficient, to the
function from which it was deduced."

"Clear as mud!" cried Ardan, with a hearty laugh.

"Now then, let me have a bit of paper and a pencil," added Barbican,
"and in half an hour you shall have your formula; meantime you can
easily find something interesting to do."

In a few seconds Barbican was profoundly absorbed in his problem, while
M'Nicholl was watching out of the window, and Ardan was busily employed
in preparing breakfast.

The morning meal was not quite ready, when Barbican, raising his head,
showed Ardan a page covered with algebraic signs at the end of which
stood the following formula:--

 1     2   2         r         m'    r       r
--- (v' - v ) = gr {--- - 1 + --- (----- - -----) }
 2                   x         m   d - x   d - r

"Which means?" asked Ardan.

"It means," said the Captain, now taking part in the discussion, "that
the half of _v_ prime squared minus _v_ squared equals _gr_ multiplied
by _r_ over _x_ minus one plus _m_ prime over _m_ multiplied by _r_ over
_d_ minus _x_ minus _r_ over _d_ minus _r_ ... that is--"

"That is," interrupted Ardan, in a roar of laughter, "_x_ stradlegs on
_y_, making for _z_ and jumping over _p_! Do _you_ mean to say you
understand the terrible jargon, Captain?"

"Nothing is clearer, Ardan."

"You too, Captain! Then of course I must give in gracefully, and declare
that the sun at noon-day is not more palpably evident than the sense of
Barbican's formula."

"You asked for Algebra, you know," observed Barbican.

"Rock crystal is nothing to it!"

"The fact is, Barbican," said the Captain, who had been looking over the
paper, "you have worked the thing out very well. You have the integral
equation of the living forces, and I have no doubt it will give us the
result sought for."

"Yes, but I should like to understand it, you know," cried Ardan: "I
would give ten years of the Captain's life to understand it!"

"Listen then," said Barbican. "Half of _v_ prime squared less _v_
squared, is the formula giving us the half variation of the living
force."

"Mac pretends he understands all that!"

"You need not be a _Solomon_ to do it," said the Captain. "All these
signs that you appear to consider so cabalistic form a language the
clearest, the shortest, and the most logical, for all those who can read
it."

"You pretend, Captain, that, by means of these hieroglyphics, far more
incomprehensible than the sacred Ibis of the Egyptians, you can
discover the velocity at which the Projectile should start?"

"Most undoubtedly," replied the Captain, "and, by the same formula I can
even tell you the rate of our velocity at any particular point of our
journey."

"You can?"

"I can."

"Then you're just as deep a one as our President."

"No, Ardan; not at all. The really difficult part of the question
Barbican has done. That is, to make out such an equation as takes into
account all the conditions of the problem. After that, it's a simple
affair of Arithmetic, requiring only a knowledge of the four rules to
work it out."

"Very simple," observed Ardan, who always got muddled at any kind of a
difficult sum in addition.

"Captain," said Barbican, "_you_ could have found the formulas too, if
you tried."

"I don't know about that," was the Captain's reply, "but I do know that
this formula is wonderfully come at."

"Now, Ardan, listen a moment," said Barbican, "and you will see what
sense there is in all these letters."

"I listen," sighed Ardan with the resignation of a martyr.

"_d_ is the distance from the centre of the Earth to the centre of the
Moon, for it is from the centres that we must calculate the
attractions."

"That I comprehend."

"_r_ is the radius of the Earth."

"That I comprehend."

"_m_ is the mass or volume of the Earth; _m_ prime that of the Moon. We
must take the mass of the two attracting bodies into consideration,
since attraction is in direct proportion to their masses."

"That I comprehend."

"_g_ is the gravity or the velocity acquired at the end of a second by a
body falling towards the centre of the Earth. Clear?"

"That I comprehend."

"Now I represent by _x_ the varying distance that separates the
Projectile from the centre of the Earth, and by _v_ prime its velocity
at that distance."

"That I comprehend."

"Finally, _v_ is its velocity when quitting our atmosphere."

"Yes," chimed in the Captain, "it is for this point, you see, that the
velocity had to be calculated, because we know already that the initial
velocity is exactly the three halves of the velocity when the Projectile
quits the atmosphere."

"That I don't comprehend," cried the Frenchman, energetically.

"It's simple enough, however," said Barbican.

"Not so simple as a simpleton," replied the Frenchman.

"The Captain merely means," said Barbican, "that at the instant the
Projectile quitted the terrestrial atmosphere it had already lost a
third of its initial velocity."

"So much as a third?"

"Yes, by friction against the atmospheric layers: the quicker its
motion, the greater resistance it encountered."

"That of course I admit, but your _v_ squared and your _v_ prime squared
rattle in my head like nails in a box!"

"The usual effect of Algebra on one who is a stranger to it; to finish
you, our next step is to express numerically the value of these several
symbols. Now some of them are already known, and some are to be
calculated."

"Hand the latter over to me," said the Captain.

"First," continued Barbican: "_r_, the Earth's radius is, in the
latitude of Florida, about 3,921 miles. _d_, the distance from the
centre of the Earth to the centre of the Moon is 56 terrestrial radii,
which the Captain calculates to be...?"

"To be," cried M'Nicholl working rapidly with his pencil, "219,572
miles, the moment the Moon is in her _perigee_, or nearest point to the
Earth."

"Very well," continued Barbican. "Now _m_ prime over _m_, that is the
ratio of the Moon's mass to that of the Earth is about the 1/81. _g_
gravity being at Florida about 32-1/4 feet, of course _g_ x _r_ must
be--how much, Captain?"

"38,465 miles," replied M'Nicholl.

"Now then?" asked Ardan.

[Illustration: MY HEAD IS SPLITTING WITH IT.]

"Now then," replied Barbican, "the expression having numerical values, I
am trying to find _v_, that is to say, the initial velocity which the
Projectile must possess in order to reach the point where the two
attractions neutralize each other. Here the velocity being null, _v_
prime becomes zero, and _x_ the required distance of this neutral point
must be represented by the nine-tenths of _d_, the distance between the
two centres."

"I have a vague kind of idea that it must be so," said Ardan.

"I shall, therefore, have the following result;" continued Barbican,
figuring up; "_x_ being nine-tenths of _d_, and _v_ prime being zero, my
formula becomes:--

 2            10 r     1    10 r     r
v  = gr {1 - ----- - ---- (----- - -----) }
               d      81     d     d - r   "

The Captain read it off rapidly.

"Right! that's correct!" he cried.

"You think so?" asked Barbican.

"As true as Euclid!" exclaimed M'Nicholl.

"Wonderful fellows," murmured the Frenchman, smiling with admiration.

"You understand now, Ardan, don't you?" asked Barbican.

"Don't I though?" exclaimed Ardan, "why my head is splitting with it!"

"Therefore," continued Barbican,

" 2             10 r     1    10 r     r
2v  = 2gr {1 - ----- - ---- (----- - -----) }
                 d      81     d     d - r   "

"And now," exclaimed M'Nicholl, sharpening his pencil; "in order to
obtain the velocity of the Projectile when leaving the atmosphere, we
have only to make a slight calculation."

The Captain, who before clerking on a Mississippi steamboat had been
professor of Mathematics in an Indiana university, felt quite at home at
the work. He rained figures from his pencil with a velocity that would
have made Marston stare. Page after page was filled with his
multiplications and divisions, while Barbican looked quietly on, and
Ardan impatiently stroked his head and ears to keep down a rising
head-ache.

"Well?" at last asked Barbican, seeing the Captain stop and throw a
somewhat hasty glance over his work.

"Well," answered M'Nicholl slowly but confidently, "the calculation is
made, I think correctly; and _v_, that is, the velocity of the
Projectile when quitting the atmosphere, sufficient to carry it to the
neutral point, should be at least ..."

"How much?" asked Barbican, eagerly.

"Should be at least 11,972 yards the first second."

"What!" cried Barbican, jumping off his seat. "How much did you say?"

"11,972 yards the first second it quits the atmosphere."

"Oh, malediction!" cried Barbican, with a gesture of terrible despair.

"What's the matter?" asked Ardan, very much surprised.

"Enough is the matter!" answered Barbican excitedly. "This velocity
having been diminished by a third, our initial velocity should have been
at least ..."

"17,958 yards the first second!" cried M'Nicholl, rapidly flourishing
his pencil.

"But the Cambridge Observatory having declared that 12,000 yards the
first second were sufficient, our Projectile started with no greater
velocity!"

"Well?" asked M'Nicholl.

"Well, such a velocity will never do!"

"How??" }
"How!!" } cried the Captain and Ardan in one voice.

"We can never reach the neutral point!"

"Thunder and lightning"

"Fire and Fury!"

"We can't get even halfway!"

"Heaven and Earth!"

"_Mille noms d'un boulet!_" cried Ardan, wildly gesticulating.

"And we shall fall back to the Earth!"

"Oh!"

"Ah!"

They could say no more. This fearful revelation took them like a stroke
of apoplexy.




CHAPTER V.

THE COLDS OF SPACE.


How could they imagine that the Observatory men had committed such a
blunder? Barbican would not believe it possible. He made the Captain go
over his calculation again and again; but no flaw was to be found in it.
He himself carefully examined it, figure after figure, but he could find
nothing wrong. They both took up the formula and subjected it to the
strongest tests; but it was invulnerable. There was no denying the fact.
The Cambridge professors had undoubtedly blundered in saying that an
initial velocity of 12,000 yards a second would be enough to carry them
to the neutral point. A velocity of nearly 18,000 yards would be the
very lowest required for such a purpose. They had simply forgotten to
allow a third for friction.

The three friends kept profound silence for some time. Breakfast now was
the last thing thought of. Barbican, with teeth grating, fingers
clutching, and eye-brows closely contracting, gazed grimly through the
window. The Captain, as a last resource, once more examined his
calculations, earnestly hoping to find a figure wrong. Ardan could
neither sit, stand nor lie still for a second, though he tried all
three. His silence, of course, did not last long.

"Ha! ha! ha!" he laughed bitterly. "Precious scientific men! Villainous
old hombogues! The whole set not worth a straw! I hope to gracious,
since we must fall, that we shall drop down plumb on Cambridge
Observatory, and not leave a single one of the miserable old women,
called professors, alive in the premises!"

A certain expression in Ardan's angry exclamation had struck the Captain
like a shot, and set his temples throbbing violently.

"_Must_ fall!" he exclaimed, starting up suddenly. "Let us see about
that! It is now seven o'clock in the morning. We must have, therefore,
been at least thirty-two hours on the road, and more than half of our
passage is already made. If we are going to fall at all, we must be
falling now! I'm certain we're not, but, Barbican, you have to find it
out!"

Barbican caught the idea like lightning, and, seizing a compass, he
began through the floor window to measure the visual angle of the
distant Earth. The apparent immobility of the Projectile allowed him to
do this with great exactness. Then laying aside the instrument, and
wiping off the thick drops of sweat that bedewed his forehead, he began
jotting down some figures on a piece of paper. The Captain looked on
with keen interest; he knew very well that Barbican was calculating
their distance from the Earth by the apparent measure of the terrestrial
diameter, and he eyed him anxiously.

Pretty soon his friends saw a color stealing into Barbican's pale face,
and a triumphant light glittering in his eye.

"No, my brave boys!" he exclaimed at last throwing down his pencil,
"we're not falling! Far from it, we are at present more than 150
thousand miles from the Earth!"

"Hurrah!" }
"Bravo!"  } cried M'Nicholl and Ardan, in a breath.

"We have passed the point where we should have stopped if we had had no
more initial velocity than the Cambridge men allowed us!"

"Hurrah! hurrah!"

"Bravo, Bravissimo!"

"And we're still going up!"

"Glory, glory, hallelujah!" sang M'Nicholl, in the highest excitement.

"_Vive ce cher Barbican!_" cried Ardan, bursting into French as usual
whenever his feelings had the better of him.

"Of course we're marching on!" continued M'Nicholl, "and I know the
reason why, too. Those 400,000 pounds of gun-cotton gave us greater
initial velocity than we had expected!"

"You're right, Captain!" added Barbican; "besides, you must not forget
that, by getting rid of the water, the Projectile was relieved of
considerable weight!"

"Correct again!" cried the Captain. "I had not thought of that!"

"Therefore, my brave boys," continued Barbican, with some excitement;
"away with melancholy! We're all right!"

"Yes; everything is lovely and the goose hangs high!" cried the Captain,
who on grand occasions was not above a little slang.

"Talking of goose reminds me of breakfast," cried Ardan; "I assure you,
my fright has not taken away my appetite!"

"Yes," continued Barbican. "Captain, you're quite right. Our initial
velocity very fortunately was much greater than what our Cambridge
friends had calculated for us!"

"Hang our Cambridge friends and their calculations!" cried Ardan, with
some asperity; "as usual with your scientific men they've more brass
than brains! If we're not now bed-fellows with the oysters in the Gulf
of Mexico, no thanks to our kind Cambridge friends. But talking of
oysters, let me remind you again that breakfast is ready."

The meal was a most joyous one. They ate much, they talked more, but
they laughed most. The little incident of Algebra had certainly very
much enlivened the situation.

"Now, my boys," Ardan went on, "all things thus turning out quite
comfortable, I would just ask you why we should not succeed? We are
fairly started. No breakers ahead that I can see. No rock on our road.
It is freer than the ships on the raging ocean, aye, freer than the
balloons in the blustering air. But the ship arrives at her destination;
the balloon, borne on the wings of the wind, rises to as high an
altitude as can be endured; why then should not our Projectile reach the
Moon?"

"It _will_ reach the Moon!" nodded Barbican.

"We shall reach the Moon or know for what!" cried M'Nicholl,
enthusiastically.

"The great American nation must not be disappointed!" continued Ardan.
"They are the only people on Earth capable of originating such an
enterprise! They are the only people capable of producing a Barbican!"

"Hurrah!" cried M'Nicholl.

"That point settled," continued the Frenchman, "another question comes
up to which I have not yet called your attention. When we get to the
Moon, what shall we do there? How are we going to amuse ourselves? I'm
afraid our life there will be awfully slow!"

His companions emphatically disclaimed the possibility of such a thing.

"You may deny it, but I know better, and knowing better, I have laid in
my stores accordingly. You have but to choose. I possess a varied
assortment. Chess, draughts, cards, dominoes--everything in fact, but a
billiard table?"

"What!" exclaimed Barbican; "cumbered yourself with such gimcracks?"

"Such gimcracks are not only good to amuse ourselves with, but are
eminently calculated also to win us the friendship of the Selenites."

"Friend Michael," said Barbican, "if the Moon is inhabited at all, her
inhabitants must have appeared several thousand years before the advent
of Man on our Earth, for there seems to be very little doubt that Luna
is considerably older than Terra in her present state. Therefore,
Selenites, if their brain is organized like our own, must have by this
time invented all that we are possessed of, and even much which we are
still to invent in the course of ages. The probability is that, instead
of their learning from us, we shall have much to learn from them."

"What!" asked Ardan, "you think they have artists like Phidias, Michael
Angelo and Raphael?"

"Certainly."

"And poets like Homer, Virgil, Dante, Shakspeare, Goethe and Hugo?"

"Not a doubt of it."

"And philosophers like Plato, Aristotle, Descartes, Bacon, Kant?"

"Why not?"

"And scientists like Euclid, Archimedes, Copernicus, Newton, Pascal?"

"I should think so."

"And famous actors, and singers, and composers, and--and photographers?"

"I could almost swear to it."

"Then, dear boy, since they have gone ahead as far as we and even
farther, why have not those great Selenites tried to start a
communication with the Earth? Why have they not fired a projectile from
the regions lunar to the regions terrestrial?"

"Who says they have not done so?" asked Barbican, coolly.

"Attempting such a communication," observed the Captain, "would
certainly be much easier for them than for us, principally for two
reasons. First, attraction on the Moon's surface being six times less
than on the Earth's, a projectile could be sent off more rapidly;
second, because, as this projectile need be sent only 24 instead of 240
thousand miles, they could do it with a quantity of powder ten times
less than what we should require for the same purpose."

"Then I ask again," said the Frenchman; "why haven't they made such an
attempt?"

"And I reply again," answered Barbican. "How do you know that they have
not made such an attempt?"

"Made it? When?"

"Thousands of years ago, before the invention of writing, before even
the appearance of Man on the Earth."

"But the bullet?" asked Ardan, triumphantly; "Where's the bullet?
Produce the bullet!"

"Friend Michael," answered Barbican, with a quiet smile, "you appear to
forget that the 5/6 of the surface of our Earth is water. 5 to 1,
therefore, that the bullet is more likely to be lying this moment at the
bottom of the Atlantic or the Pacific than anywhere else on the surface
of our globe. Besides, it may have sunk into some weak point of the
surface, at the early epoch when the crust of the Earth had not acquired
sufficient solidity."

"Captain," said Ardan, turning with a smile to M'Nicholl; "no use in
trying to catch Barby; slippery as an eel, he has an answer for
everything. Still I have a theory on the subject myself, which I think
it no harm to ventilate. It is this: The Selenites have never sent us
any projectile at all, simply because they had no gunpowder: being older
and wiser than we, they were never such fools as to invent any.--But,
what's that? Diana howling for her breakfast! Good! Like genuine
scientific men, while squabbling over nonsense, we let the poor animals
die of hunger. Excuse us, Diana; it is not the first time the little
suffer from the senseless disputes of the great."

So saying he laid before the animal a very toothsome pie, and
contemplated with evident pleasure her very successful efforts towards
its hasty and complete disappearance.

"Looking at Diana," he went on, "makes me almost wish we had made a
Noah's Ark of our Projectile by introducing into it a pair of all the
domestic animals!"

"Not room enough," observed Barbican.

"No doubt," remarked the Captain, "the ox, the cow, the horse, the goat,
all the ruminating animals would be very useful in the Lunar continent.
But we couldn't turn our Projectile into a stable, you know."

"Still, we might have made room for a pair of poor little donkeys!"
observed Ardan; "how I love the poor beasts. Fellow feeling, you will
say. No doubt, but there really is no animal I pity more. They are the
most ill-treated brutes in all creation. They are not only banged during
life; they are banged worse after death!"

"Hey! How do you make that out?" asked his companions, surprised.

"Because we make their skins into drum heads!" replied Ardan, with an
air, as if answering a conundrum.

Barbican and M'Nicholl could hardly help laughing at the absurd reply of
their lively companion, but their hilarity was soon stopped by the
expression his face assumed as he bent over Satellite's body, where it
lay stretched on the sofa.

"What's the matter now?" asked Barbican.

"Satellite's attack is over," replied Ardan.

"Good!" said M'Nicholl, misunderstanding him.

"Yes, I suppose it is good for the poor fellow," observed Ardan, in
melancholy accents. "Life with one's skull broken is hardly an enviable
possession. Our grand acclimatization project is knocked sky high, in
more senses than one!"

There was no doubt of the poor dog's death. The expression of Ardan's
countenance, as he looked at his friends, was of a very rueful order.

"Well," said the practical Barbican, "there's no help for that now; the
next thing to be done is to get rid of the body. We can't keep it here
with us forty-eight hours longer."

"Of course not," replied the Captain, "nor need we; our lights, being
provided with hinges, can be lifted back. What is to prevent us from
opening one of them, and flinging the body out through it!"

The President of the Gun Club reflected a few minutes; then he spoke:

"Yes, it can be done; but we must take the most careful precautions."

"Why so?" asked Ardan.

"For two simple reasons;" replied Barbican; "the first refers to the air
enclosed in the Projectile, and of which we must be very careful to lose
only the least possible quantity."

"But as we manufacture air ourselves!" objected Ardan.

"We manufacture air only partly, friend Michael," replied Barbican. "We
manufacture only oxygen; we can't supply nitrogen--By the bye, Ardan,
won't you watch the apparatus carefully every now and then to see that
the oxygen is not generated too freely. Very serious consequences would
attend an immoderate supply of oxygen--No, we can't manufacture
nitrogen, which is so absolutely necessary for our air and which might
escape readily through the open windows."

"What! the few seconds we should require for flinging out poor
Satellite?"

"A very few seconds indeed they should be," said Barbican, very gravely.

"Your second reason?" asked Ardan.

"The second reason is, that we must not allow the external cold, which
must be exceedingly great, to penetrate into our Projectile and freeze
us alive."

"But the Sun, you know--"

"Yes, the Sun heats our Projectile, but it does not heat the vacuum
through which we are now floating. Where there is no air there can
neither be heat nor light; just as wherever the rays of the Sun do not
arrive directly, it must be both cold and dark. The temperature around
us, if there be anything that can be called temperature, is produced
solely by stellar radiation. I need not say how low that is in the
scale, or that it would be the temperature to which our Earth should
fall, if the Sun were suddenly extinguished."

"Little fear of that for a few more million years," said M'Nicholl.

"Who can tell?" asked Ardan. "Besides, even admitting that the Sun will
not soon be extinguished, what is to prevent the Earth from shooting
away from him?"

"Let friend Michael speak," said Barbican, with a smile, to the Captain;
"we may learn something."

"Certainly you may," continued the Frenchman, "if you have room for
anything new. Were we not struck by a comet's tail in 1861?"

"So it was said, anyhow," observed the Captain. "I well remember what
nonsense there was in the papers about the 'phosphorescent auroral
glare.'"

"Well," continued the Frenchman, "suppose the comet of 1861 influenced
the Earth by an attraction superior to the Sun's. What would be the
consequence? Would not the Earth follow the attracting body, become its
satellite, and thus at last be dragged off to such a distance that the
Sun's rays could no longer excite heat on her surface?"

"Well, that might possibly occur," said Barbican slowly, "but even then
I question if the consequences would be so terrible as you seem to
apprehend."

"Why not?"

"Because the cold and the heat might still manage to be nearly equalized
on our globe. It has been calculated that, had the Earth been carried
off by the comet of '61, when arrived at her greatest distance, she
would have experienced a temperature hardly sixteen times greater than
the heat we receive from the Moon, which, as everybody knows, produces
no appreciable effect, even when concentrated to a focus by the most
powerful lenses."

"Well then," exclaimed Ardan, "at such a temperature--"

"Wait a moment," replied Barbican. "Have you never heard of the
principle of compensation? Listen to another calculation. Had the Earth
been dragged along with the comet, it has been calculated that at her
perihelion, or nearest point to the Sun, she would have to endure a heat
28,000 times greater than our mean summer temperature. But this heat,
fully capable of turning the rocks into glass and the oceans into vapor,
before proceeding to such extremity, must have first formed a thick
interposing ring of clouds, and thus considerably modified the excessive
temperature. Therefore, between the extreme cold of the aphelion and the
excessive heat of the perihelion, by the great law of compensation, it
is probable that the mean temperature would be tolerably endurable."

"At how many degrees is the temperature of the interplanetary space
estimated?" asked M'Nicholl.

"Some time ago," replied Barbican, "this temperature was considered to
be very low indeed--millions and millions of degrees below zero. But
Fourrier of Auxerre, a distinguished member of the _Academie des
Sciences_, whose _Memoires_ on the temperature of the Planetary spaces
appeared about 1827, reduced these figures to considerably diminished
proportions. According to his careful estimation, the temperature of
space is not much lower than 70 or 80 degrees Fahr. below zero."

"No more?" asked Ardan.

"No more," answered Barbican, "though I must acknowledge we have only
his word for it, as the _Memoire_ in which he had recorded all the
elements of that important determination, has been lost somewhere, and
is no longer to be found."

"I don't attach the slightest importance to his, or to any man's words,
unless they are sustained by reliable evidence," exclaimed M'Nicholl.
"Besides, if I'm not very much mistaken, Pouillet--another countryman of
yours, Ardan, and an Academician as well as Fourrier--esteems the
temperature of interplanetary spaces to be at least 256 deg. Fahr. below
zero. This we can easily verify for ourselves this moment by actual
experiment."

"Not just now exactly," observed Barbican, "for the solar rays,
striking our Projectile directly, would give us a very elevated instead
of a very low temperature. But once arrived at the Moon, during those
nights fifteen days long, which each of her faces experiences
alternately, we shall have plenty of time to make an experiment with
every condition in our favor. To be sure, our Satellite is at present
moving in a vacuum."

"A vacuum?" asked Ardan; "a perfect vacuum?"

"Well, a perfect vacuum as far as air is concerned."

"But is the air replaced by nothing?"

"Oh yes," replied Barbican. "By ether."

"Ah, ether! and what, pray, is ether?"

"Ether, friend Michael, is an elastic gas consisting of imponderable
atoms, which, as we are told by works on molecular physics, are, in
proportion to their size, as far apart as the celestial bodies are from
each other in space. This distance is less than the 1/3000000 x 1/1000',
or the one trillionth of a foot. The vibrations of the molecules of this
ether produce the sensations of light and heat, by making 430 trillions
of undulations per second, each undulation being hardly more than the
one ten-millionth of an inch in width."

"Trillions per second! ten-millionths of an inch in width!" cried Ardan.
"These oscillations have been very neatly counted and ticketed, and
checked off! Ah, friend Barbican," continued the Frenchman, shaking his
head, "these numbers are just tremendous guesses, frightening the ear
but revealing nothing to the intelligence."

"To get ideas, however, we must calculate--"

"No, no!" interrupted Ardan: "not calculate, but compare. A trillion
tells you nothing--Comparison, everything. For instance, you say, the
volume of _Uranus_ is 76 times greater than the Earth's; _Saturn's_ 900
times greater; _Jupiter's_ 1300 times greater; the Sun's 1300 thousand
times greater--You may tell me all that till I'm tired hearing it, and I
shall still be almost as ignorant as ever. For my part I prefer to be
told one of those simple comparisons that I find in the old almanacs:
The Sun is a globe two feet in diameter; _Jupiter_, a good sized orange;
_Saturn_, a smaller orange; _Neptune_, a plum; _Uranus_, a good sized
cherry; the Earth, a pea; _Venus_, also a pea but somewhat smaller;
_Mars_, a large pin's head; _Mercury_, a mustard seed; _Juno_,
_Ceres_, _Vesta_, _Pallas_, and the other asteroids so many grains
of sand. Be told something like that, and you have got at least the tail
of an idea!"

This learned burst of Ardan's had the natural effect of making his
hearers forget what they had been arguing about, and they therefore
proceeded at once to dispose of Satellite's body. It was a simple matter
enough--no more than to fling it out of the Projectile into space, just
as the sailors get rid of a dead body by throwing it into the sea. Only
in this operation they had to act, as Barbican recommended, with the
utmost care and dispatch, so as to lose as little as possible of the
internal air, which, by its great elasticity, would violently strive to
escape. The bolts of the floor-light, which was more than a foot in
diameter, were carefully unscrewed, while Ardan, a good deal affected,
prepared to launch his dog's body into space. The glass, worked by a
powerful lever which enabled it to overcome the pressure of the enclosed
air, turned quickly on its hinges, and poor Satellite was dropped out.
The whole operation was so well managed that very little air escaped,
and ever afterwards Barbican employed the same means to rid the
Projectile of all the litter and other useless matter by which it was
occasionally encumbered.

The evening of this third of December wore away without further
incident. As soon as Barbican had announced that the Projectile was
still winging its way, though with retarded velocity, towards the lunar
disc, the travellers quietly retired to rest.

[Illustration: POOR SATELLITE WAS DROPPED OUT.]




CHAPTER VI.

INSTRUCTIVE CONVERSATION.


On the fourth of December, the Projectile chronometers marked five
o'clock in the morning, just as the travellers woke up from a pleasant
slumber. They had now been 54 hours on their journey. As to lapse of
_time_, they had passed not much more than half of the number of hours
during which their trip was to last; but, as to lapse of _space_, they
had already accomplished very nearly the seven-tenths of their passage.
This difference between time and distance was due to the regular
retardation of their velocity.

They looked at the earth through the floor-light, but it was little more
than visible--a black spot drowned in the solar rays. No longer any sign
of a crescent, no longer any sign of ashy light. Next day, towards
midnight, the Earth was to be _new_, at the precise moment when the Moon
was to be _full_. Overhead, they could see the Queen of Night coming
nearer and nearer to the line followed by the Projectile, and evidently
approaching the point where both should meet at the appointed moment.
All around, the black vault of heaven was dotted with luminous points
which seemed to move somewhat, though, of course, in their extreme
distance their relative size underwent no change. The Sun and the stars
looked exactly as they had appeared when observed from the Earth. The
Moon indeed had become considerably enlarged in size, but the
travellers' telescopes were still too weak to enable them to make any
important observation regarding the nature of her surface, or that might
determine her topographical or geological features.

Naturally, therefore, the time slipped away in endless conversation. The
Moon, of course, was the chief topic. Each one contributed his share of
peculiar information, or peculiar ignorance, as the case might be.
Barbican and M'Nicholl always treated the subject gravely, as became
learned scientists, but Ardan preferred to look on things with the eye
of fancy. The Projectile, its situation, its direction, the incidents
possible to occur, the precautions necessary to take in order to break
the fall on the Moon's surface--these and many other subjects furnished
endless food for constant debate and inexhaustible conjectures.

For instance, at breakfast that morning, a question of Ardan's regarding
the Projectile drew from Barbican an answer curious enough to be
reported.

"Suppose, on the night that we were shot up from Stony Hill," said
Ardan, "suppose the Projectile had encountered some obstacle powerful
enough to stop it--what would be the consequence of the sudden halt?"

"But," replied Barbican, "I don't understand what obstacle it could have
met powerful enough to stop it."

"Suppose some obstacle, for the sake of argument," said Ardan.

"Suppose what can't be supposed," replied the matter-of-fact Barbican,
"what cannot possibly be supposed, unless indeed the original impulse
proved too weak. In that case, the velocity would have decreased by
degrees, but the Projectile itself would not have suddenly stopped."

"Suppose it had struck against some body in space."

"What body, for instance?"

"Well, that enormous bolide which we met."

"Oh!" hastily observed the Captain, "the Projectile would have been
dashed into a thousand pieces and we along with it."

"Better than that," observed Barbican; "we should have been burned
alive."

"Burned alive!" laughed Ardan. "What a pity we missed so interesting an
experiment! How I should have liked to find out how it felt!"

"You would not have much time to record your observations, friend
Michael, I assure you," observed Barbican. "The case is plain enough.
Heat and motion are convertible terms. What do we mean by heating water?
Simply giving increased, in fact, violent motion to its molecules."

"Well!" exclaimed the Frenchman, "that's an ingenious theory any how!"

"Not only ingenious but correct, my dear friend, for it completely
explains all the phenomena of caloric. Heat is nothing but molecular
movement, the violent oscillation of the particles of a body. When you
apply the brakes to the train, the train stops. But what has become of
its motion? It turns into heat and makes the brakes hot. Why do people
grease the axles? To hinder them from getting too hot, which they
assuredly would become if friction was allowed to obstruct the motion.
You understand, don't you?"

"Don't I though?" replied Ardan, apparently in earnest. "Let me show you
how thoroughly. When I have been running hard and long, I feel myself
perspiring like a bull and hot as a furnace. Why am I then forced to
stop? Simply because my motion has been transformed into heat! Of
course, I understand all about it!"

Barbican smiled a moment at this comical illustration of his theory and
then went on:

"Accordingly, in case of a collision it would have been all over
instantly with our Projectile. You have seen what becomes of the bullet
that strikes the iron target. It is flattened out of all shape;
sometimes it is even melted into a thin film. Its motion has been turned
into heat. Therefore, I maintain that if our Projectile had struck that
bolide, its velocity, suddenly checked, would have given rise to a heat
capable of completely volatilizing it in less than a second."

"Not a doubt of it!" said the Captain. "President," he added after a
moment, "haven't they calculated what would be the result, if the Earth
were suddenly brought to a stand-still in her journey, through her
orbit?"

"It has been calculated," answered Barbican, "that in such a case so
much heat would be developed as would instantly reduce her to vapor."

"Hm!" exclaimed Ardan; "a remarkably simple way for putting an end to
the world!"

"And supposing the Earth to fall into the Sun?" asked the Captain.

"Such a fall," answered Barbican, "according to the calculations of
Tyndall and Thomson, would develop an amount of heat equal to that
produced by sixteen hundred globes of burning coal, each globe equal in
size to the earth itself. Furthermore such a fall would supply the Sun
with at least as much heat as he expends in a hundred years!"

"A hundred years! Good! Nothing like accuracy!" cried Ardan. "Such
infallible calculators as Messrs. Tyndall and Thomson I can easily
excuse for any airs they may give themselves. They must be of an order
much higher than that of ordinary mortals like us!"

"I would not answer myself for the accuracy of such intricate problems,"
quietly observed Barbican; "but there is no doubt whatever regarding one
fact: motion suddenly interrupted always develops heat. And this has
given rise to another theory regarding the maintenance of the Sun's
temperature at a constant point. An incessant rain of bolides falling on
his surface compensates sufficiently for the heat that he is
continually giving forth. It has been calculated--"

"Good Lord deliver us!" cried Ardan, putting his hands to his ears:
"here comes Tyndall and Thomson again!"

--"It has been calculated," continued Barbican, not heeding the
interruption, "that the shock of every bolide drawn to the Sun's surface
by gravity, must produce there an amount of heat equal to that of the
combustion of four thousand blocks of coal, each the same size as the
falling bolide."

"I'll wager another cent that our bold savants calculated the heat of
the Sun himself," cried Ardan, with an incredulous laugh.

"That is precisely what they have done," answered Barbican referring to
his memorandum book; "the heat emitted by the Sun," he continued, "is
exactly that which would be produced by the combustion of a layer of
coal enveloping the Sun's surface, like an atmosphere, 17 miles in
thickness."

"Well done! and such heat would be capable of--?"

"Of melting in an hour a stratum of ice 2400 feet thick, or, according
to another calculation, of raising a globe of ice-cold water, 3 times
the size of our Earth, to the boiling point in an hour."

"Why not calculate the exact fraction of a second it would take to cook
a couple of eggs?" laughed Ardan. "I should as soon believe in one
calculation as in the other.--But--by the by--why does not such extreme
heat cook us all up like so many beefsteaks?"

"For two very good and sufficient reasons," answered Barbican. "In the
first place, the terrestrial atmosphere absorbs the 4/10 of the solar
heat. In the second, the quantity of solar heat intercepted by the Earth
is only about the two billionth part of all that is radiated."

"How fortunate to have such a handy thing as an atmosphere around us,"
cried the Frenchman; "it not only enables us to breathe, but it actually
keeps us from sizzling up like griskins."

"Yes," said the Captain, "but unfortunately we can't say so much for the
Moon."

"Oh pshaw!" cried Ardan, always full of confidence. "It's all right
there too! The Moon is either inhabited or she is not. If she is, the
inhabitants must breathe. If she is not, there must be oxygen enough
left for we, us and co., even if we should have to go after it to the
bottom of the ravines, where, by its gravity, it must have accumulated!
So much the better! we shall not have to climb those thundering
mountains!"

So saying, he jumped up and began to gaze with considerable interest on
the lunar disc, which just then was glittering with dazzling brightness.

"By Jove!" he exclaimed at length; "it must be pretty hot up there!"

"I should think so," observed the Captain; "especially when you remember
that the day up there lasts 360 hours!"

"Yes," observed Barbican, "but remember on the other hand that the
nights are just as long, and, as the heat escapes by radiation, the mean
temperature cannot be much greater than that of interplanetary space."

"A high old place for living in!" cried Ardan. "No matter! I wish we
were there now! Wouldn't it be jolly, dear boys, to have old Mother
Earth for our Moon, to see her always on our sky, never rising, never
setting, never undergoing any change except from New Earth to Last
Quarter! Would not it be fun to trace the shape of our great Oceans and
Continents, and to say: 'there is the Mediterranean! there is China!
there is the gulf of Mexico! there is the white line of the Rocky
Mountains where old Marston is watching for us with his big telescope!'
Then we should see every line, and brightness, and shadow fade away by
degrees, as she came nearer and nearer to the Sun, until at last she sat
completely lost in his dazzling rays! But--by the way--Barbican, are
there any eclipses in the Moon?"

"O yes; solar eclipses" replied Barbican, "must always occur whenever
the centres of the three heavenly bodies are in the same line, the Earth
occupying the middle place. However, such eclipses must always be
annular, as the Earth, projected like a screen on the solar disc, allows
more than half of the Sun to be still visible."

"How is that?" asked M'Nicholl, "no total eclipses in the Moon? Surely
the cone of the Earth's shadow must extend far enough to envelop her
surface?"

"It does reach her, in one sense," replied Barbican, "but it does not in
another. Remember the great refraction of the solar rays that must be
produced by the Earth's atmosphere. It is easy to show that this
refraction prevents the Sun from ever being totally invisible. See
here!" he continued, pulling out his tablets, "Let _a_ represent the
horizontal parallax, and _b_ the half of the Sun's apparent diameter--"

"Ouch!" cried the Frenchman, making a wry face, "here comes Mr. _x_
square riding to the mischief on a pair of double zeros again! Talk
English, or Yankee, or Dutch, or Greek, and I'm your man! Even a little
Arabic I can digest! But hang me, if I can endure your Algebra!"

"Well then, talking Yankee," replied Barbican with a smile, "the mean
distance of the Moon from the Earth being sixty terrestrial radii, the
length of the conic shadow, in consequence of atmospheric refraction, is
reduced to less than forty-two radii. Consequently, at the moment of an
eclipse, the Moon is far beyond the reach of the real shadow, so that
she can see not only the border rays of the Sun, but even those
proceeding from his very centre."

"Oh then," cried Ardan with a loud laugh, "we have an eclipse of the Sun
at the moment when the Sun is quite visible! Isn't that very like a
bull, Mr. Philosopher Barbican?"

"Yet it is perfectly true notwithstanding," answered Barbican. "At such
a moment the Sun is not eclipsed, because we can see him: and then again
he is eclipsed because we see him only by means of a few of his rays,
and even these have lost nearly all their brightness in their passage
through the terrestrial atmosphere!"

"Barbican is right, friend Michael," observed the Captain slowly: "the
same phenomenon occurs on earth every morning at sunrise, when
refraction shows us

                           '_the Sun new ris'n
    Looking through the horizontal misty air,
    Shorn of his beams._'"

"He must be right," said Ardan, who, to do him justice, though quick at
seeing a reason, was quicker to acknowledge its justice: "yes, he must
be right, because I begin to understand at last very clearly what he
really meant. However, we can judge for ourselves when we get
there.--But, apropos of nothing, tell me, Barbican, what do you think of
the Moon being an ancient comet, which had come so far within the sphere
of the Earth's attraction as to be kept there and turned into a
satellite?"

"Well, that _is_ an original idea!" said Barbican with a smile.

"My ideas generally are of that category," observed Ardan with an
affectation of dry pomposity.

"Not this time, however, friend Michael," observed M'Nicholl.

"Oh! I'm a plagiarist, am I?" asked the Frenchman, pretending to be
irritated.

"Well, something very like it," observed M'Nicholl quietly. "Apollonius
Rhodius, as I read one evening in the Philadelphia Library, speaks of
the Arcadians of Greece having a tradition that their ancestors were so
ancient that they inhabited the Earth long before the Moon had ever
become our satellite. They therefore called them [Greek: _Proselenoi_]
or _Ante-lunarians_. Now starting with some such wild notion as this,
certain scientists have looked on the Moon as an ancient comet brought
close enough to the Earth to be retained in its orbit by terrestrial
attraction."

"Why may not there be something plausible in such a hypothesis?" asked
Ardan with some curiosity.

"There is nothing whatever in it," replied Barbican decidedly: "a simple
proof is the fact that the Moon does not retain the slightest trace of
the vaporous envelope by which comets are always surrounded."

"Lost her tail you mean," said Ardan. "Pooh! Easy to account for that!
It might have got cut off by coming too close to the Sun!"

"It might, friend Michael, but an amputation by such means is not very
likely."

"No? Why not?"

"Because--because--By Jove, I can't say, because I don't know," cried
Barbican with a quiet smile on his countenance.

"Oh what a lot of volumes," cried Ardan, "could be made out of what we
don't know!"

"At present, for instance," observed M'Nicholl, "I don't know what
o'clock it is."

"Three o'clock!" said Barbican, glancing at his chronometer.

"No!" cried Ardan in surprise. "Bless us! How rapidly the time passes
when we are engaged in scientific conversation! Ouf! I'm getting
decidedly too learned! I feel as if I had swallowed a library!"

"I feel," observed M'Nicholl, "as if I had been listening to a lecture
on Astronomy in the _Star_ course."

"Better stir around a little more," said the Frenchman; "fatigue of body
is the best antidote to such severe mental labor as ours. I'll run up
the ladder a bit." So saying, he paid another visit to the upper portion
of the Projectile and remained there awhile whistling _Malbrouk_, whilst
his companions amused themselves in looking through the floor window.

Ardan was coming down the ladder, when his whistling was cut short by a
sudden exclamation of surprise.

"What's the matter?" asked Barbican quickly, as he looked up and saw the
Frenchman pointing to something outside the Projectile.

Approaching the window, Barbican saw with much surprise a sort of
flattened bag floating in space and only a few yards off. It seemed
perfectly motionless, and, consequently, the travellers knew that it
must be animated by the same ascensional movement as themselves.

"What on earth can such a consarn be, Barbican?" asked Ardan, who every
now and then liked to ventilate his stock of American slang. "Is it one
of those particles of meteoric matter you were speaking of just now,
caught within the sphere of our Projectile's attraction and accompanying
us to the Moon?"

"What I am surprised at," observed the Captain, "is that though the
specific gravity of that body is far inferior to that of our Projectile,
it moves with exactly the same velocity."

"Captain," said Barbican, after a moment's reflection, "I know no more
what that object is than you do, but I can understand very well why it
keeps abreast with the Projectile."

"Very well then, why?"

"Because, my dear Captain, we are moving through a vacuum, and because
all bodies fall or move--the same thing--with equal velocity through a
vacuum, no matter what may be their shape or their specific gravity. It
is the air alone that makes a difference of weight. Produce an
artificial vacuum in a glass tube and you will see that all objects
whatever falling through, whether bits of feather or grains of shot,
move with precisely the same rapidity. Up here, in space, like cause and
like effect."

"Correct," assented M'Nicholl. "Everything therefore that we shall throw
out of the Projectile is bound to accompany us to the Moon."

"Well, we _were_ smart!" cried Ardan suddenly.

"How so, friend Michael?" asked Barbican.

"Why not have packed the Projectile with ever so many useful objects,
books, instruments, tools, et cetera, and fling them out into space once
we were fairly started! They would have all followed us safely! Nothing
would have been lost! And--now I think on it--why not fling ourselves
out through the window? Shouldn't we be as safe out there as that
bolide? What fun it would be to feel ourselves sustained and upborne in
the ether, more highly favored even than the birds, who must keep on
flapping their wings continually to prevent themselves from falling!"

"Very true, my dear boy," observed Barbican; "but how could we breathe?"

"It's a fact," exclaimed the Frenchman. "Hang the air for spoiling our
fun! So we must remain shut up in our Projectile?"

"Not a doubt of it!"

--"Oh Thunder!" roared Ardan, suddenly striking his forehead.

"What ails you?" asked the Captain, somewhat surprised.

"Now I know what that bolide of ours is! Why didn't we think of it
before? It is no asteroid! It is no particle of meteoric matter! Nor is
it a piece of a shattered planet!"

"What is it then?" asked both of his companions in one voice.

[Illustration: SATELLITE'S BODY FLYING THROUGH SPACE.]

"It is nothing more or less than the body of the dog that we threw out
yesterday!"

So in fact it was. That shapeless, unrecognizable mass, melted,
expunged, flat as a bladder under an unexhausted receiver, drained of
its air, was poor Satellite's body, flying like a rocket through space,
and rising higher and higher in close company with the rapidly ascending
Projectile!




CHAPTER VII.

A HIGH OLD TIME.


A new phenomenon, therefore, strange but logical, startling but
admitting of easy explanation, was now presented to their view,
affording a fresh subject for lively discussion. Not that they disputed
much about it. They soon agreed on a principle from which they readily
deducted the following general law: _Every object thrown out of the
Projectile should partake of the Projectile's motion: it should
therefore follow the same path, and never cease to move until the
Projectile itself came to a stand-still._

But, in sober truth, they were at anything but a loss of subjects of
warm discussion. As the end of their journey began to approach, their
senses became keener and their sensations vivider. Steeled against
surprise, they looked for the unexpected, the strange, the startling;
and the only thing at which they would have wondered would be to be five
minutes without having something new to wonder at. Their excited
imaginations flew far ahead of the Projectile, whose velocity, by the
way, began to be retarded very decidedly by this time, though, of
course, the travellers had as yet no means to become aware of it. The
Moon's size on the sky was meantime getting larger and larger; her
apparent distance was growing shorter and shorter, until at last they
could almost imagine that by putting their hands out they could nearly
touch her.

Next morning, December 5th, all were up and dressed at a very early
hour. This was to be the last day of their journey, if all calculations
were correct. That very night, at 12 o'clock, within nineteen hours at
furthest, at the very moment of Full Moon, they were to reach her
resplendent surface. At that hour was to be completed the most
extraordinary journey ever undertaken by man in ancient or modern times.
Naturally enough, therefore, they found themselves unable to sleep after
four o'clock in the morning; peering upwards through the windows now
visibly glittering under the rays of the Moon, they spent some very
exciting hours in gazing at her slowly enlarging disc, and shouting at
her with confident and joyful hurrahs.

The majestic Queen of the Stars had now risen so high in the spangled
heavens that she could hardly rise higher. In a few degrees more she
would reach the exact point of space where her junction with the
Projectile was to be effected. According to his own observations,
Barbican calculated that they should strike her in the northern
hemisphere, where her plains, or _seas_ as they are called, are immense,
and her mountains are comparatively rare. This, of course, would be so
much the more favorable, if, as was to be apprehended, the lunar
atmosphere was confined exclusively to the low lands.

"Besides," as Ardan observed, "a plain is a more suitable landing place
than a mountain. A Selenite deposited on the top of Mount Everest or
even on Mont Blanc, could hardly be considered, in strict language, to
have arrived on Earth."

"Not to talk," added M'Nicholl, "of the comfort of the thing! When you
land on a plain, there you are. When you land on a peak or on a steep
mountain side, where are you? Tumbling over an embankment with the train
going forty miles an hour, would be nothing to it."

"Therefore, Captain Barbican," cried the Frenchman, "as we should like
to appear before the Selenites in full skins, please land us in the snug
though unromantic North. We shall have time enough to break our necks in
the South."

Barbican made no reply to his companions, because a new reflection had
begun to trouble him, to talk about which would have done no good. There
was certainly something wrong. The Projectile was evidently heading
towards the northern hemisphere of the Moon. What did this prove?
Clearly, a deviation resulting from some cause. The bullet, lodged,
aimed, and fired with the most careful mathematical precision, had been
calculated to reach the very centre of the Moon's disc. Clearly it was
not going to the centre now. What could have produced the deviation?
This Barbican could not tell; nor could he even determine its extent,
having no points of sight by which to make his observations. For the
present he tried to console himself with the hope that the deviation of
the Projectile would be followed by no worse consequence than carrying
them towards the northern border of the Moon, where for several reasons
it would be comparatively easier to alight. Carefully avoiding,
therefore, the use of any expression which might needlessly alarm his
companions, he continued to observe the Moon as carefully as he could,
hoping every moment to find some grounds for believing that the
deviation from the centre was only a slight one. He almost shuddered at
the thought of what would be their situation, if the bullet, missing its
aim, should pass the Moon, and plunge into the interplanetary space
beyond it.

As he continued to gaze, the Moon, instead of presenting the usual
flatness of her disc, began decidedly to show a surface somewhat convex.
Had the Sun been shining on her obliquely, the shadows would have
certainly thrown the great mountains into strong relief. The eye could
then bury itself deep in the yawning chasms of the craters, and easily
follow the cracks, streaks, and ridges which stripe, flecker, and bar
the immensity of her plains. But for the present all relief was lost in
the dazzling glare. The Captain could hardly distinguish even those dark
spots that impart to the full Moon some resemblance to the human face.

"Face!" cried Ardan: "well, a very fanciful eye may detect a face,
though, for the sake of Apollo's beauteous sister, I regret to say, a
terribly pockmarked one!"

The travellers, now evidently approaching the end of their journey,
observed the rapidly increasing world above them with newer and greater
curiosity every moment. Their fancies enkindled at the sight of the new
and strange scenes dimly presented to their view. In imagination they
climbed to the summit of this lofty peak. They let themselves down to
the abyss of that yawning crater. Here they imagined they saw vast seas
hardly kept in their basins by a rarefied atmosphere; there they thought
they could trace mighty rivers bearing to vast oceans the tribute of the
snowy mountains. In the first promptings of their eager curiosity, they
peered greedily into her cavernous depths, and almost expected, amidst
the deathlike hush of inaudible nature, to surprise some sound from the
mystic orb floating up there in eternal silence through a boundless
ocean of never ending vacuum.

This last day of their journey left their memories stored with thrilling
recollections. They took careful note of the slightest details. As they
neared their destination, they felt themselves invaded by a vague,
undefined restlessness. But this restlessness would have given way to
decided uneasiness, if they had known at what a slow rate they were
travelling. They would have surely concluded that their present velocity
would never be able to take them as far as the neutral point, not to
talk of passing it. The reason of such considerable retardation was,
that by this time the Projectile had reached such a great distance from
the Earth that it had hardly any weight. But even this weight, such as
it was, was to be diminished still further, and finally, to vanish
altogether as soon as the bullet reached the neutral point, where the
two attractions, terrestrial and lunar, should counteract each other
with new and surprising effects.

Notwithstanding the absorbing nature of his observations, Ardan never
forgot to prepare breakfast with his usual punctuality. It was eaten
readily and relished heartily. Nothing could be more exquisite than his
calf's foot jelly liquefied and prepared by gas heat, except perhaps his
meat biscuits of preserved Texas beef and Southdown mutton. A bottle of
Chateau Yquem and another of Clos de Vougeot, both of superlative
excellence in quality and flavor, crowned the repast. Their vicinity to
the Moon and their incessant glancing at her surface did not prevent the
travellers from touching each other's glasses merrily and often. Ardan
took occasion to remark that the lunar vineyards--if any existed--must
be magnificent, considering the intense solar heat they continually
experienced. Not that he counted on them too confidently, for he told
his friends that to provide for the worst he had supplied himself with a
few cases of the best vintages of Medoc and the Cote d'Or, of which the
bottles, then under discussion, might be taken as very favorable
specimens.

The Reiset and Regnault apparatus for purifying the air worked
splendidly, and maintained the atmosphere in a perfectly sanitary
condition. Not an atom of carbonic acid could resist the caustic potash;
and as for the oxygen, according to M'Nicholl's expression, "it was A
prime number one!"

The small quantity of watery vapor enclosed in the Projectile did no
more harm than serving to temper the dryness of the air: many a splendid
_salon_ in New York, London, or Paris, and many an auditorium, even of
theatre, opera house or Academy of Music, could be considered its
inferior in what concerned its hygienic condition.

To keep it in perfect working order, the apparatus should be carefully
attended to. This, Ardan looked on as his own peculiar occupation. He
was never tired regulating the tubes, trying the taps, and testing the
heat of the gas by the pyrometer. So far everything had worked
satisfactorily, and the travellers, following the example of their
friend Marston on a previous occasion, began to get so stout that their
own mothers would not know them in another month, should their
imprisonment last so long. Ardan said they all looked so sleek and
thriving that he was reminded forcibly of a nice lot of pigs fattening
in a pen for a country fair. But how long was this good fortune of
theirs going to last?

Whenever they took their eyes off the Moon, they could not help noticing
that they were still attended outside by the spectre of Satellite's
corpse and by the other refuse of the Projectile. An occasional
melancholy howl also attested Diana's recognition of her companion's
unhappy fate. The travellers saw with surprise that these waifs still
seemed perfectly motionless in space, and kept their respective
distances apart as mathematically as if they had been fastened with
nails to a stone wall.

"I tell you what, dear boys;" observed Ardan, commenting on this curious
phenomenon; "if the concussion had been a little too violent for one of
us that night, his survivors would have been seriously embarrassed in
trying to get rid of his remains. With no earth to cover him up, no sea
to plunge him into, his corpse would never disappear from view, but
would pursue us day and night, grim and ghastly like an avenging ghost!"

"Ugh!" said the Captain, shuddering at the idea.

"But, by the bye, Barbican!" cried the Frenchman, dropping the subject
with his usual abruptness; "you have forgotten something else! Why
didn't you bring a scaphander and an air pump? I could then venture out
of the Projectile as readily and as safely as the diver leaves his boat
and walks about on the bottom of the river! What fun to float in the
midst of that mysterious ether! to steep myself, aye, actually to revel
in the pure rays of the glorious sun! I should have ventured out on the
very point of the Projectile, and there I should have danced and
postured and kicked and bobbed and capered in a style that Taglioni
never dreamed of!"

"Shouldn't I like to see you!" cried the Captain grimly, smiling at the
idea.

"You would not see him long!" observed Barbican quietly. "The air
confined in his body, freed from external pressure, would burst him like
a shell, or like a balloon that suddenly rises to too great a height in
the air! A scaphander would have been a fatal gift. Don't regret its
absence, friend Michael; never forget this axiom: _As long as we are
floating in empty space, the only spot where safety is possible is
inside the Projectile!_"

The words "possible" and "impossible" always grated on Ardan's ears. If
he had been a lexicographer, he would have rigidly excluded them from
his dictionary, both as meaningless and useless. He was preparing an
answer for Barbican, when he was cut out by a sudden observation from
M'Nicholl.

"See here, friends!" cried the Captain; "this going to the Moon is all
very well, but how shall we get back?"

His listeners looked at each other with a surprised and perplexed air.
The question, though a very natural one, now appeared to have presented
itself to their consideration absolutely for the first time.

"What do you mean by such a question, Captain?" asked Barbican in a
grave judicial tone.

"Mac, my boy," said Ardan seriously, "don't it strike you as a little
out of order to ask how you are to return when you have not got there
yet?"

"I don't ask the question with any idea of backing out," observed the
Captain quietly; "as a matter of purely scientific inquiry, I repeat my
question: how are we to return?"

"I don't know," replied Barbican promptly.

"For my part," said Ardan; "if I had known how to get back, I should
have never come at all!"

"Well! of all the answers!" said the Captain, lifting his hands and
shaking his head.

"The best under the circumstances;" observed Barbican; "and I shall
further observe that such a question as yours at present is both useless
and uncalled for. On some future occasion, when we shall consider it
advisable to return, the question will be in order, and we shall discuss
it with all the attention it deserves. Though the Columbiad is at Stony
Hill, the Projectile will still be in the Moon."

"Much we shall gain by that! A bullet without a gun!"

"The gun we can make and the powder too!" replied Barbican confidently.
"Metal and sulphur and charcoal and saltpetre are likely enough to be
present in sufficient quantities beneath the Moon's surface. Besides, to
return is a problem of comparatively easy solution: we should have to
overcome the lunar attraction only--a slight matter--the rest of the
business would be readily done by gravity."

"Enough said on the subject!" exclaimed Ardan curtly; "how to get back
is indefinitely postponed! How to communicate with our friends on the
Earth, is another matter, and, as it seems to me, an extremely easy
one."

"Let us hear the very easy means by which you propose to communicate
with our friends on Earth," asked the Captain, with a sneer, for he was
by this time a little out of humor.

"By means of bolides ejected from the lunar volcanoes," replied the
Frenchman without an instant's hesitation.

"Well said, friend Ardan," exclaimed Barbican. "I am quite disposed to
acknowledge the feasibility of your plan. Laplace has calculated that a
force five times greater than that of an ordinary cannon would be
sufficient to send a bolide from the Moon to the Earth. Now there is no
cannon that can vie in force with even the smallest volcano."

"Hurrah!" cried Ardan, delighted at his success; "just imagine the
pleasure of sending our letters postage free! But--oh! what a splendid
idea!--Dolts that we were for not thinking of it sooner!"

"Let us have the splendid idea!" cried the Captain, with some of his old
acrimony.

"Why didn't we fasten a wire to the Projectile?" asked Ardan,
triumphantly, "It would have enabled us to exchange telegrams with the
Earth!"

"Ho! ho! ho!" roared the Captain, rapidly recovering his good humor;
"decidedly the best joke of the season! Ha! ha! ha! Of course you have
calculated the weight of a wire 240 thousand miles long?"

"No matter about its weight!" cried the Frenchman impetuously; "we
should have laughed at its weight! We could have tripled the charge of
the Columbiad; we could have quadrupled it!--aye, quintupled it, if
necessary!" he added in tones evidently increasing in loudness and
violence.

"Yes, friend Michael," observed Barbican; "but there is a slight and
unfortunately a fatal defect in your project. The Earth, by its
rotation, would have wrapped our wire around herself, like thread around
a spool, and dragged us back almost with the speed of lightning!"

"By the Nine gods of Porsena!" cried Ardan, "something is wrong with my
head to-day! My brain is out of joint, and I am making as nice a mess of
things as my friend Marston was ever capable of! By the bye--talking of
Marston--if we never return to the Earth, what is to prevent him from
following us to the Moon?"

"Nothing!" replied Barbican; "he is a faithful friend and a reliable
comrade. Besides, what is easier? Is not the Columbiad still at Stony
Hill? Cannot gun-cotton be readily manufactured on any occasion? Will
not the Moon again pass through the zenith of Florida? Eighteen years
from now, will she not occupy exactly the same spot that she does
to-day?"

"Certainly!" cried Ardan, with increasing enthusiasm, "Marston will
come! and Elphinstone of the torpedo! and the gallant Bloomsbury, and
Billsby the brave, and all our friends of the Baltimore Gun Club! And we
shall receive them with all the honors! And then we shall establish
projectile trains between the Earth and the Moon! Hurrah for J.T.
Marston!"

"Hurrah for Secretary Marston!" cried the Captain, with an enthusiasm
almost equal to Ardan's.

"Hurrah for my dear friend Marston!" cried Barbican, hardly less
excited than his comrades.

Our old acquaintance, Marston, of course could not have heard the joyous
acclamations that welcomed his name, but at that moment he certainly
must have felt his ears most unaccountably tingling. What was he doing
at the time? He was rattling along the banks of the Kansas River, as
fast as an express train could take him, on the road to Long's Peak,
where, by means of the great Telescope, he expected to find some traces
of the Projectile that contained his friends. He never forgot them for a
moment, but of course he little dreamed that his name at that very time
was exciting their vividest recollections and their warmest applause.

In fact, their recollections were rather too vivid, and their applause
decidedly too warm. Was not the animation that prevailed among the
guests of the Projectile of a very unusual character, and was it not
becoming more and more violent every moment? Could the wine have caused
it? No; though not teetotallers, they never drank to excess. Could the
Moon's proximity, shedding her subtle, mysterious influence over their
nervous systems, have stimulated them to a degree that was threatening
to border on frenzy? Their faces were as red as if they were standing
before a hot fire; their breathing was loud, and their lungs heaved like
a smith's bellows; their eyes blazed like burning coals; their voices
sounded as loud and harsh as that of a stump speaker trying to make
himself heard by an inattentive or hostile crowd; their words popped
from their lips like corks from Champagne bottles; their gesticulating
became wilder and in fact more alarming--considering the little room
left in the Projectile for muscular displays of any kind.

But the most extraordinary part of the whole phenomenon was that neither
of them, not even Barbican, had the slightest consciousness of any
strange or unusual ebullition of spirits either on his own part or on
that of the others.

"See here, gentlemen!" said the Captain in a quick imperious manner--the
roughness of his old life on the Mississippi would still break out--"See
here, gentlemen! It seems I'm not to know if we are to return from the
Moon. Well!--Pass that for the present! But there is one thing I _must_
know!"

"Hear! hear the Captain!" cried Barbican, stamping with his foot, like
an excited fencing master. "There is one thing he _must_ know!"

"I want to know what we're going to do when we get there!"

"He wants to know what we're going to do when we get there! A sensible
question! Answer it, Ardan!"

"Answer it yourself, Barbican! You know more about the Moon than I do!
You know more about it than all the Nasmyths that ever lived!"

"I'm blessed if I know anything at all about it!" cried Barbican, with a
joyous laugh. "Ha, ha, ha! The first eastern shore Marylander or any
other simpleton you meet in Baltimore, knows as much about the Moon as
I do! Why we're going there, I can't tell! What we're going to do when
we get there, can't tell either! Ardan knows all about it! He can tell!
He's taking us there!"

"Certainly I can tell! should I have offered to take you there without a
good object in view?" cried Ardan, husky with continual roaring. "Answer
me that!"

"No conundrums!" cried the Captain, in a voice sourer and rougher than
ever; "tell us if you can in plain English, what the demon we have come
here for!"

"I'll tell you if I feel like it," cried Ardan, folding his arms with an
aspect of great dignity; "and I'll not tell you if I don't feel like
it!"

"What's that?" cried Barbican. "You'll not give us an answer when we ask
you a reasonable question?"

"Never!" cried Ardan, with great determination. "I'll never answer a
question reasonable or unreasonable, unless it is asked in a proper
manner!"

"None of your French airs here!" exclaimed M'Nicholl, by this time
almost completely out of himself between anger and excitement. "I don't
know where I am; I don't know where I'm going; I don't know why I'm
going; _you_ know all about it, Ardan, or at least you think you do!
Well then, give me a plain answer to a plain question, or by the
Thirty-eight States of our glorious Union, I shall know what for!"

"Listen, Ardan!" cried Barbican, grappling with the Frenchman, and with
some difficulty restraining him from flying at M'Nicholl's throat; "You
ought to tell him! It is only your duty! One day you found us both in
St. Helena woods, where we had no more idea of going to the Moon than of
sailing to the South Pole! There you twisted us both around your finger,
and induced us to follow you blindly on the most formidable journey ever
undertaken by man! And now you refuse to tell us what it was all for!"

"I don't refuse, dear old Barbican! To you, at least, I can't refuse
anything!" cried Ardan, seizing his friend's hands and wringing them
violently. Then letting them go and suddenly starting back, "you wish to
know," he continued in resounding tones, "why we have followed out the
grandest idea that ever set a human brain on fire! Why we have
undertaken a journey that for length, danger, and novelty, for
fascinating, soul-stirring and delirious sensations, for all that can
attract man's burning heart, and satisfy the intensest cravings of his
intellect, far surpasses the vividest realities of Dante's passionate
dream! Well, I will tell you! It is to annex another World to the New
One! It is to take possession of the Moon in the name of the United
States of America! It is to add a thirty-ninth State to the glorious
Union! It is to colonize the lunar regions, to cultivate them, to people
them, to transport to them some of our wonders of art, science, and
industry! It is to civilize the Selenites, unless they are more
civilized already than we are ourselves! It is to make them all good
Republicans, if they are not so already!"

"Provided, of course, that there are Selenites in existence!" sneered
the Captain, now sourer than ever, and in his unaccountable excitement
doubly irritating.

"Who says there are no Selenites?" cried Ardan fiercely, with fists
clenched and brows contracted.

"I do!" cried M'Nicholl stoutly; "I deny the existence of anything of
the kind, and I denounce every one that maintains any such whim as a
visionary, if not a fool!"

Ardan's reply to this taunt was a desperate facer, which, however,
Barbican managed to stop while on its way towards the Captain's nose.
M'Nicholl, seeing himself struck at, immediately assumed such a posture
of defence as showed him to be no novice at the business. A battle
seemed unavoidable; but even at this trying moment Barbican showed
himself equal to the emergency.

"Stop, you crazy fellows! you ninnyhammers! you overgrown babies!" he
exclaimed, seizing his companions by the collar, and violently swinging
them around with his vast strength until they stood back to back; "what
are you going to fight about? Suppose there are Lunarians in the Moon!
Is that a reason why there should be Lunatics in the Projectile! But,
Ardan, why do you insist on Lunarians? Are we so shiftless that we can't
do without them when we get to the Moon?"

"I don't insist on them!" cried Ardan, who submitted to Barbican like a
child. "Hang the Lunarians! Certainly, we can do without them! What do I
care for them? Down with them!"

"Yes, down with the Lunarians!" cried M'Nicholl as spitefully as if he
had even the slightest belief in their existence.

"We shall take possession of the Moon ourselves!" cried Ardan.
"Lunarians or no Lunarians!"

"We three shall constitute a Republic!" cried M'Nicholl.

"I shall be the House!" cried Ardan.

"And I the Senate!" answered the Captain.

"And Barbican our first President!" shrieked the Frenchman.

"Our first and last!" roared M'Nicholl.

"No objections to a third term!" yelled Ardan.

"He's welcome to any number of terms he pleases!" vociferated M'Nicholl.

"Hurrah for President Barbican of the Lunatic--I mean of the Lunar
Republic!" screamed Ardan.

"Long may he wave, and may his shadow never grow less!" shouted Captain
M'Nicholl, his eyes almost out of their sockets.

Then with voices reminding you of sand fiercely blown against the window
panes, the _President_ and the _Senate_ chanted the immortal _Yankee
Doodle_, whilst the _House_ delivered itself of the _Marseillaise_, in a
style which even the wildest Jacobins in Robespierre's day could hardly
have surpassed.

But long before either song was ended, all three broke out into a
dance, wild, insensate, furious, delirious, paroxysmatical. No Orphic
festivals on Mount Cithaeron ever raged more wildly. No Bacchic revels
on Mount Parnassus were ever more corybantic. Diana, demented by the
maddening example, joined in the orgie, howling and barking frantically
in her turn, and wildly jumping as high as the ceiling of the
Projectile. Then came new accessions to the infernal din. Wings suddenly
began to flutter, cocks to crow, hens to cluck; and five or six
chickens, managing to escape out of their coop, flew backwards and
forwards blindly, with frightened screams, dashing against each other
and against the walls of the Projectile, and altogether getting up as
demoniacal a hullabaloo as could be made by ten thousand bats that you
suddenly disturbed in a cavern where they had slept through the winter.

Then the three companions, no longer able to withstand the overpowering
influence of the mysterious force that mastered them, intoxicated, more
than drunk, burned by the air that scorched their organs of respiration,
dropped at last, and lay flat, motionless, senseless as dabs of clay, on
the floor of the Projectile.

[Illustration: A DEMONIACAL HULLABALOO.]




CHAPTER VIII.

THE NEUTRAL POINT.


What had taken place? Whence proceeded this strange intoxication whose
consequences might have proved so disastrous? A little forgetfulness on
Ardan's part had done the whole mischief, but fortunately M'Nicholl was
able to remedy it in time.

After a regular fainting spell several minutes long, the Captain was the
first man to return to consciousness and the full recovery of his
intellectual faculties. His first feelings were far from pleasant. His
stomach gnawed him as if he had not eaten for a week, though he had
taken breakfast only a few hours before; his eyes were dim, his brain
throbbing, and his limbs shaking. In short, he presented every symptom
usually seen in a man dying of starvation. Picking himself up with much
care and difficulty, he roared out to Ardan for something to eat. Seeing
that the Frenchman was unable or unwilling to respond, he concluded to
help himself, by beginning first of all to prepare a little tea. To do
this, fire was necessary; so, to light his lamp, he struck a match.

But what was his surprise at seeing the sulphur tip of the match blazing
with a light so bright and dazzling that his eyes could hardly bear it!
Touching it to the gas burner, a stream of light flashed forth equal in
its intensity to the flame of an electric lamp. Then he understood it
all in an instant. The dazzling glare, his maddened brain, his gnawing
stomach--all were now clear as the noon-day Sun.

"The oxygen!" he cried, and, suddenly stooping down and examining the
tap of the air apparatus, he saw that it had been only half turned off.
Consequently the air was gradually getting more and more impregnated
with this powerful gas, colorless, odorless, tasteless, infinitely
precious, but, unless when strongly diluted with nitrogen, capable of
producing fatal disorders in the human system. Ardan, startled by
M'Nicholl's question about the means of returning from the Moon, had
turned the cock only half off.

The Captain instantly stopped the escape of the oxygen, but not one
moment too soon. It had completely saturated the atmosphere. A few
minutes more and it would have killed the travellers, not like carbonic
acid, by smothering them, but by burning them up, as a strong draught
burns up the coals in a stove.

[Illustration: "THE OXYGEN!" HE CRIED.]

It took nearly an hour for the air to become pure enough to allow the
lungs their natural play. Slowly and by degrees, the travellers
recovered from their intoxication; they had actually to sleep off the
fumes of the oxygen as a drunkard has to sleep off the effects of his
brandy. When Ardan learned that he was responsible for the whole
trouble, do you think the information disconcerted him? Not a bit of it.
On the contrary, he was rather proud of having done something
startling, to break the monotony of the journey; and to put a little
life, as he said, into old Barbican and the grim Captain, so as to get a
little fun out of such grave philosophers.

After laughing heartily at the comical figure cut by his two friends
capering like crazy students at the _Closerie des Lilas_, he went on
moralizing on the incident:

"For my part, I'm not a bit sorry for having partaken of this fuddling
gas. It gives me an idea, dear boys. Would it not be worth some
enterprising fellow's while to establish a sanatorium provided with
oxygen chambers, where people of a debilitated state of health could
enjoy a few hours of intensely active existence! There's money in it, as
you Americans say. Just suppose balls or parties given in halls where
the air would be provided with an extra supply of this enrapturing gas!
Or, theatres where the atmosphere would be maintained in a highly
oxygenated condition. What passion, what fire in the actors! What
enthusiasm in the spectators! And, carrying the idea a little further,
if, instead of an assembly or an audience, we should oxygenize towns,
cities, a whole country--what activity would be infused into the whole
people! What new life would electrify a stagnant community! Out of an
old used-up nation we could perhaps make a bran-new one, and, for my
part, I know more than one state in old Europe where this oxygen
experiment might be attended with a decided advantage, or where, at all
events, it could do no harm!"

The Frenchman spoke so glibly and gesticulated so earnestly that
M'Nicholl once more gravely examined the stop-cock; but Barbican damped
his enthusiasm by a single observation.

"Friend Michael," said he, "your new and interesting idea we shall
discuss at a more favorable opportunity. At present we want to know
where all these cocks and hens have come from."

"These cocks and hens?"

"Yes."

Ardan threw a glance of comical bewilderment on half a dozen or so of
splendid barn-yard fowls that were now beginning to recover from the
effects of the oxygen. For an instant he could not utter a word; then,
shrugging his shoulders, he muttered in a low voice:

"Catastrophe prematurely exploded!"

"What are you going to do with these chickens?" persisted Barbican.

"Acclimatize them in the Moon, by Jove! what else?" was the ready reply.

"Why conceal them then?"

"A hoax, a poor hoax, dear President, which proves a miserable failure!
I intended to let them loose on the Lunar Continent at the first
favorable opportunity. I often had a good laugh to myself, thinking of
your astonishment and the Captain's at seeing a lot of American poultry
scratching for worms on a Lunar dunghill!"

"Ah! wag, jester, incorrigible _farceur_!" cried Barbican with a smile;
"you want no nitrous oxide to put a bee in your bonnet! He is always as
bad as you and I were for a short time, M'Nicholl, under the laughing
gas! He's never had a sensible moment in his life!"

"I can't say the same of you," replied Ardan; "you had at least one
sensible moment in all your lives, and that was about an hour ago!"

Their incessant chattering did not prevent the friends from at once
repairing the disorder of the interior of the Projectile. Cocks and hens
were put back in their cages. But while doing so, the friends were
astonished to find that the birds, though good sized creatures, and now
pretty fat and plump, hardly felt heavier in their hands than if they
had been so many sparrows. This drew their interested attention to a new
phenomenon.

From the moment they had left the Earth, their own weight, and that of
the Projectile and the objects therein contained, had been undergoing a
progressive diminution. They might never be able to ascertain this fact
with regard to the Projectile, but the moment was now rapidly
approaching when the loss of weight would become perfectly sensible,
both regarding themselves and the tools and instruments surrounding
them. Of course, it is quite clear, that this decrease could not be
indicated by an ordinary scales, as the weight to balance the object
would have lost precisely as much as the object itself. But a spring
balance, for instance, in which the tension of the coil is independent
of attraction, would have readily given the exact equivalent of the
loss.

Attraction or weight, according to Newton's well known law, acting in
direct proportion to the mass of the attracting body and in inverse
proportion to the square of the distance, this consequence clearly
follows: Had the Earth been alone in space, or had the other heavenly
bodies been suddenly annihilated, the further from the Earth the
Projectile would be, the less weight it would have. However, it would
never _entirely_ lose its weight, as the terrestrial attraction would
have always made itself felt at no matter what distance. But as the
Earth is not the only celestial body possessing attraction, it is
evident that there may be a point in space where the respective
attractions may be entirely annihilated by mutual counteraction. Of this
phenomenon the present instance was a case in point. In a short time,
the Projectile and its contents would for a few moments be absolutely
and completely deprived of all weight whatsoever.

The path described by the Projectile was evidently a line from the Earth
to the Moon averaging somewhat less than 240,000 miles in length.
According as the distance between the Projectile and the Earth was
increasing, the terrestrial attraction was diminishing in the ratio of
the square of the distance, and the lunar attraction was augmenting in
the same proportion.

As before observed, the point was not now far off where, the two
attractions counteracting each other, the bullet would actually weigh
nothing at all. If the masses of the Earth and the Moon had been equal,
this should evidently be found half way between the two bodies. But by
making allowance for the difference of the respective masses, it was
easy to calculate that this point would be situated at the 9/10 of the
total distance, or, in round numbers, at something less than 216,000
miles from the Earth.

At this point, a body that possessed no energy or principle of movement
within itself, would remain forever, relatively motionless, suspended
like Mahomet's coffin, being equally attracted by the two orbs and
nothing impelling it in one direction rather than in the other.

Now the Projectile at this moment was nearing this point; if it reached
it, what would be the consequence?

To this question three answers presented themselves, all possible under
the circumstances, but very different in their results.

1. Suppose the Projectile to possess velocity enough to pass the neutral
point. In such case, it would undoubtedly proceed onward to the Moon,
being drawn thither by Lunar attraction.

2. Suppose it lacked the requisite velocity for reaching the neutral
point. In such a case it would just as certainly fall back to the Earth,
in obedience to the law of Terrestrial attraction.

3. Suppose it to be animated by just sufficient velocity to reach the
neutral point, but not to pass it. In that case, the Projectile would
remain forever in the same spot, perfectly motionless as far as regards
the Earth and the Moon, though of course following them both in their
annual orbits round the Sun.

Such was now the state of things, which Barbican tried to explain to his
friends, who, it need hardly be said, listened to his remarks with the
most intense interest. How were they to know, they asked him, the
precise instant at which the Projectile would reach the neutral point?
That would be an easy matter, he assured them. It would be at the very
moment when both themselves and all the other objects contained in the
Projectile would be completely free from every operation of the law of
gravity; in other words, when everything would cease to have weight.

This gradual diminution of the action of gravity, the travellers had
been for some time noticing, but they had not yet witnessed its total
cessation. But that very morning, about an hour before noon, as the
Captain was making some little experiment in Chemistry, he happened by
accident to overturn a glass full of water. What was his surprise at
seeing that neither the glass nor the water fell to the floor! Both
remained suspended in the air almost completely motionless.

"The prettiest experiment I ever saw!" cried Ardan; "let us have more of
it!"

And seizing the bottles, the arms, and the other objects in the
Projectile, he arranged them around each other in the air with some
regard to symmetry and proportion. The different articles, keeping
strictly each in its own place, formed a very attractive group wonderful
to behold. Diana, placed in the apex of the pyramid, would remind you of
those marvellous suspensions in the air performed by Houdin, Herman, and
a few other first class wizards. Only being kept in her place without
being hampered by invisible strings, the animal rather seemed to enjoy
the exhibition, though in all probability she was hardly conscious of
any thing unusual in her appearance.

Our travellers had been fully prepared for such a phenomenon, yet it
struck them with as much surprise as if they had never uttered a
scientific reason to account for it. They saw that, no longer subject to
the ordinary laws of nature, they were now entering the realms of the
marvellous. They felt that their bodies were absolutely without weight.
Their arms, fully extended, no longer sought their sides. Their heads
oscillated unsteadily on their shoulders. Their feet no longer rested on
the floor. In their efforts to hold themselves straight, they looked
like drunken men trying to maintain the perpendicular. We have all read
stories of some men deprived of the power of reflecting light and of
others who could not cast a shadow. But here reality, no fantastic
story, showed you men who, through the counteraction of attractive
forces, could tell no difference between light substances and heavy
substances, and who absolutely had no weight whatever themselves!

"Let us take graceful attitudes!" cried Ardan, "and imagine we are
playing _tableaux_! Let us, for instance, form a grand historical group
of the three great goddesses of the nineteenth century. Barbican will
represent Minerva or _Science_; the Captain, Bellona or _War_; while I,
as Madre Natura, the newly born goddess of _Progress_, floating
gracefully over you both, extend my hands so, fondly patronizing the
one, but grandly ordering off the other, to the regions of eternal
night! More on your toe, Captain! Your right foot a little higher! Look
at Barbican's admirable pose! Now then, prepare to receive orders for a
new tableau! Form group _a la Jardin Mabille!_ Presto! Change!"

In an instant, our travellers, changing attitudes, formed the new group
with tolerable success. Even Barbican, who had been to Paris in his
youth, yielding for a moment to the humor of the thing, acted the _naif
Anglais_ to the life. The Captain was frisky enough to remind you of a
middle-aged Frenchman from the provinces, on a hasty visit to the
capital for a few days' fun. Ardan was in raptures.

"Oh! if Raphael could only see us!" he exclaimed in a kind of ecstasy.
"He would paint such a picture as would throw all his other masterpieces
in the shade!"

"Knock spots out of the best of them by fifty per cent!" cried the
Captain, gesticulating well enough _a l'etudiant_, but rather mixing his
metaphors.

[Illustration: A GROUP _A LA JARDIN MABILLE_.]

"He should be pretty quick in getting through the job," observed
Barbican, the first as usual to recover tranquillity. "As soon as the
Projectile will have passed the neutral point--in half an hour at
longest--lunar attraction will draw us to the Moon."

"We shall have to crawl on the ceiling then like flies," said Ardan.

"Not at all," said the Captain; "the Projectile, having its centre of
gravity very low, will turn upside down by degrees."

"Upside down!" cried Ardan. "That will be a nice mess! everything
higgledy-piggledy!"

"No danger, friend Michael," said M'Nicholl; "there shall be no disorder
whatever; nothing will quit its place; the movement of the Projectile
will be effected by such slow degrees as to be imperceptible."

"Yes," added Barbican, "as soon as we shall have passed the neutral
point, the base of the Projectile, its heaviest part, will swing around
gradually until it faces the Moon. Before this phenomenon, however, can
take place, we must of course cross the line."

"Cross the line!" cried the Frenchman; "then let us imitate the sailors
when they do the same thing in the Atlantic Ocean! Splice the main
brace!"

A slight effort carried him sailing over to the side of the Projectile.
Opening a cupboard and taking out a bottle and a few glasses, he placed
them on a tray. Then setting the tray itself in the air as on a table in
front of his companions, he filled the glasses, passed them around, and,
in a lively speech interrupted with many a joyous hurrah, congratulated
his companions on their glorious achievement in being the first that
ever crossed the lunar line.

This counteracting influence of the attractions lasted nearly an hour.
By that time the travellers could keep themselves on the floor without
much effort. Barbican also made his companions remark that the conical
point of the Projectile diverged a little from the direct line to the
Moon, while by an inverse movement, as they could notice through the
window of the floor, the base was gradually turning away from the Earth.
The Lunar attraction was evidently getting the better of the
Terrestrial. The fall towards the Moon, though still almost insensible,
was certainly beginning.

It could not be more than the eightieth part of an inch in the first
second. But by degrees, as the attractive force would increase, the fall
would be more decided, and the Projectile, overbalanced by its base, and
presenting its cone to the Earth, would descend with accelerated
velocity to the Lunar surface. The object of their daring attempt would
then be successfully attained. No further obstacle, therefore, being
likely to stand in the way of the complete success of the enterprise,
the Captain and the Frenchman cordially shook hands with Barbican, all
kept congratulating each other on their good fortune as long as the
bottle lasted.

They could not talk enough about the wonderful phenomenon lately
witnessed; the chief point, the neutralization of the law of gravity,
particularly, supplied them with an inexhaustible subject. The
Frenchman, as usual, as enthusiastic in his fancy, as he was fanciful in
his enthusiasm, got off some characteristic remarks.

"What a fine thing it would be, my boys," he exclaimed, "if on Earth we
could be so fortunate as we have been here, and get rid of that weight
that keeps us down like lead, that rivets us to it like an adamantine
chain! Then should we prisoners become free! Adieu forever to all
weariness of arms or feet! At present, in order to fly over the surface
of the Earth by the simple exertion of our muscles or even to sustain
ourselves in the air, we require a muscular force fifty times greater
than we possess; but if attraction did not exist, the simplest act of
the will, our slightest whim even, would be sufficient to transport us
to whatever part of space we wished to visit."

"Ardan, you had better invent something to kill attraction," observed
M'Nicholl drily; "you can do it if you try. Jackson and Morton have
killed pain by sulphuric ether. Suppose you try your hand on
attraction!"

"It would be worth a trial!" cried Ardan, so full of his subject as not
to notice the Captain's jeering tone; "attraction once destroyed, there
is an end forever to all loads, packs and burdens! How the poor omnibus
horses would rejoice! Adieu forever to all cranes, derricks, capstans,
jack-screws, and even hotel-elevators! We could dispense with all
ladders, door steps, and even stair-cases!"

"And with all houses too," interrupted Barbican; "or, at least, we
_should_ dispense with them because we could not have them. If there was
no weight, you could neither make a wall of bricks nor cover your house
with a roof. Even your hat would not stay on your head. The cars would
not stay on the railway nor the boats on the water. What do I say? We
could not have any water. Even the Ocean would leave its bed and float
away into space. Nay, the atmosphere itself would leave us, being
detained in its place by terrestrial attraction and by nothing else."

"Too true, Mr. President," replied Ardan after a pause. "It's a fact. I
acknowledge the corn, as Marston says. But how you positive fellows do
knock holes into our pretty little creations of fancy!"

"Don't feel so bad about it, Ardan;" observed M'Nicholl; "though there
may be no orb from which gravity is excluded altogether, we shall soon
land in one, where it is much less powerful than on the Earth."

"You mean the Moon!"

"Yes, the Moon. Her mass being 1/89 of the Earth's, her attractive power
should be in the same proportion; that is, a boy 10 years old, whose
weight on Earth is about 90 lbs., would weigh on the Moon only about 1
pound, if nothing else were to be taken into consideration. But when
standing on the surface of the Moon, he is relatively 4 times nearer to
the centre than when he is standing on the surface of the Earth. His
weight, therefore, having to be increased by the square of the distance,
must be sixteen times greater. Now 16 times 1/89 being less than 1/5, it
is clear that my weight of 150 pounds will be cut down to nearly 30 as
soon as we reach the Moon's surface."

"And mine?" asked Ardan.

"Yours will hardly reach 25 pounds, I should think," was the reply.

"Shall my muscular strength diminish in the same proportion?" was the
next question.

"On the contrary, it will be relatively so much the more increased that
you can take a stride 15 feet in width as easily as you can now take one
of ordinary length."

"We shall be all Samsons, then, in the Moon!" cried Ardan.

"Especially," replied M'Nicholl, "if the stature of the Selenites is in
proportion to the mass of their globe."

"If so, what should be their height?"

"A tall man would hardly be twelve inches in his boots!"

"They must be veritable Lilliputians then!" cried Ardan; "and we are all
to be Gullivers! The old myth of the Giants realized! Perhaps the Titans
that played such famous parts in the prehistoric period of our Earth,
were adventurers like ourselves, casually arrived from some great
planet!"

"Not from such planets as _Mercury_, _Venus_ or _Mars_ anyhow, friend
Michael," observed Barbican. "But the inhabitants of _Jupiter_,
_Saturn_, _Uranus,_ or _Neptune_, if they bear the same proportion to
their planet that we do ours, must certainly be regular Brobdignagians."

"Let us keep severely away from all planets of the latter class then,"
said Ardan. "I never liked to play the part of Lilliputian myself. But
how about the Sun, Barbican? I always had a hankering after the Sun!"

"The Sun's volume is about 1-1/3 million times greater than that of the
Earth, but his density being only about 1/4, the attraction on his
surface is hardly 30 times greater than that of our globe. Still, every
proportion observed, the inhabitants of the Sun can't be much less than
150 or 160 feet in height."

"_Mille tonnerres!_" cried Ardan, "I should be there like Ulysses among
the Cyclops! I'll tell you what it is, Barbican; if we ever decide on
going to the Sun, we must provide ourselves before hand with a few of
your Rodman's Columbiads to frighten off the Solarians!"

"Your Columbiads would not do great execution there," observed
M'Nicholl; "your bullet would be hardly out of the barrel when it would
drop to the surface like a heavy stone pushed off the wall of a house."

"Oh! I like that!" laughed the incredulous Ardan.

"A little calculation, however, shows the Captain's remark to be
perfectly just," said Barbican. "Rodman's ordinary 15 inch Columbiad
requires a charge of 100 pounds of mammoth powder to throw a ball of
500 pounds weight. What could such a charge do with a ball weighing 30
times as much or 15,000 pounds? Reflect on the enormous weight
everything must have on the surface of the Sun! Your hat, for instance,
would weigh 20 or 30 pounds. Your cigar nearly a pound. In short, your
own weight on the Sun's surface would be so great, more than two tons,
that if you ever fell you should never be able to pick yourself up
again!"

"Yes," added the Captain, "and whenever you wanted to eat or drink you
should rig up a set of powerful machinery to hoist the eatables and
drinkables into your mouth."

"Enough of the Sun to-day, boys!" cried Ardan, shrugging his shoulders;
"I don't contemplate going there at present. Let us be satisfied with
the Moon! There, at least, we shall be of some account!"




CHAPTER IX.

A LITTLE OFF THE TRACK.


Barbican's mind was now completely at rest at least on one subject. The
original force of the discharge had been great enough to send the
Projectile beyond the neutral line. Therefore, there was no longer any
danger of its falling back to the Earth. Therefore, there was no longer
any danger of its resting eternally motionless on the point of the
counteracting attractions. The next subject to engage his attention was
the question: would the Projectile, under the influence of lunar
attraction, succeed in reaching its destination?

The only way in which it _could_ succeed was by falling through a space
of nearly 24,000 miles and then striking the Moon's surface. A most
terrific fall! Even taking the lunar attraction to be only the one-sixth
of the Earth's, such a fall was simply bewildering to think of. The
greatest height to which a balloon ever ascended was seven miles
(Glaisher, 1862). Imagine a fall from even that distance! Then imagine a
fall from a height of four thousand miles!

Yet it was for a fall of this appalling kind on the surface of the Moon
that the travellers had now to prepare themselves. Instead of avoiding
it, however, they eagerly desired it and would be very much
disappointed if they missed it. They had taken the best precautions they
could devise to guard against the terrific shock. These were mainly of
two kinds: one was intended to counteract as much as possible the
fearful results to be expected the instant the Projectile touched the
lunar surface; the other, to retard the velocity of the fall itself, and
thereby to render it less violent.

The best arrangement of the first kind was certainly Barbican's
water-contrivance for counteracting the shock at starting, which has
been so fully described in our former volume. (See _Baltimore Gun Club_,
page 353.) But unfortunately it could be no longer employed. Even if the
partitions were in working order, the water--two thousand pounds in
weight had been required--was no longer to be had. The little still left
in the tanks was of no account for such a purpose. Besides, they had not
a single drop of the precious liquid to spare, for they were as yet
anything but sanguine regarding the facility of finding water on the
Moon's surface.

Fortunately, however, as the gentle reader may remember, Barbican,
besides using water to break the concussion, had provided the movable
disc with stout pillars containing a strong buffing apparatus, intended
to protect it from striking the bottom too violently after the
destruction of the different partitions. These buffers were still good,
and, gravity being as yet almost imperceptible, to put them once more in
order and adjust them to the disc was not a difficult task.

The travellers set to work at once and soon accomplished it. The
different pieces were put together readily--a mere matter of bolts and
screws, with plenty of tools to manage them. In a short time the
repaired disc rested on its steel buffers, like a table on its legs, or
rather like a sofa seat on its springs. The new arrangement was attended
with at least one disadvantage. The bottom light being covered up, a
convenient view of the Moon's surface could not be had as soon as they
should begin to fall in a perpendicular descent. This, however, was only
a slight matter, as the side lights would permit the adventurers to
enjoy quite as favorable a view of the vast regions of the Moon as is
afforded to balloon travellers when looking down on the Earth over the
sides of their car.

The disc arrangement was completed in about an hour, but it was not till
past twelve o'clock before things were restored to their usual order.
Barbican then tried to make fresh observations regarding the inclination
of the Projectile; but to his very decided chagrin he found that it had
not yet turned over sufficiently to commence the perpendicular fall: on
the contrary, it even seemed to be following a curve rather parallel
with that of the lunar disc. The Queen of the Stars now glittered with a
light more dazzling than ever, whilst from an opposite part of the sky
the glorious King of Day flooded her with his fires.

The situation began to look a little serious.

"Shall we ever get there!" asked the Captain.

"Let us be prepared for getting there, any how," was Barbican's dubious
reply.

"You're a pretty pair of suspenders," said Ardan cheerily (he meant of
course doubting hesitators, but his fluent command of English sometimes
led him into such solecisms). "Certainly we shall get there--and perhaps
a little sooner than will be good for us."

This reply sharply recalled Barbican to the task he had undertaken, and
he now went to work seriously, trying to combine arrangements to break
the fall. The reader may perhaps remember Ardan's reply to the Captain
on the day of the famous meeting in Tampa.

"Your fall would be violent enough," the Captain had urged, "to splinter
you like glass into a thousand fragments."

"And what shall prevent me," had been Ardan's ready reply, "from
breaking my fall by means of counteracting rockets suitably disposed,
and let off at the proper time?"

The practical utility of this idea had at once impressed Barbican. It
could hardly be doubted that powerful rockets, fastened on the outside
to the bottom of the Projectile, could, when discharged, considerably
retard the velocity of the fall by their sturdy recoil. They could burn
in a vacuum by means of oxygen furnished by themselves, as powder burns
in the chamber of a gun, or as the volcanoes of the Moon continue their
action regardless of the absence of a lunar atmosphere.

Barbican had therefore provided himself with rockets enclosed in strong
steel gun barrels, grooved on the outside so that they could be screwed
into corresponding holes already made with much care in the bottom of
the Projectile. They were just long enough, when flush with the floor
inside, to project outside by about six inches. They were twenty in
number, and formed two concentric circles around the dead light. Small
holes in the disc gave admission to the wires by which each of the
rockets was to be discharged externally by electricity. The whole effect
was therefore to be confined to the outside. The mixtures having been
already carefully deposited in each barrel, nothing further need be done
than to take away the metallic plugs which had been screwed into the
bottom of the Projectile, and replace them by the rockets, every one of
which was found to fit its grooved chamber with rigid exactness.

This evidently should have been all done before the disc had been
finally laid on its springs. But as this had to be lifted up again in
order to reach the bottom of the Projectile, more work was to be done
than was strictly necessary. Though the labor was not very hard,
considering that gravity had as yet scarcely made itself felt, M'Nicholl
and Ardan were not sorry to have their little joke at Barbican's
expense. The Frenchman began humming

    "_Aliquandoque bonus dormitat Homerus,_"

to a tune from _Orphee aux Enfers_, and the Captain said something
about the Philadelphia Highway Commissioners who pave a street one day,
and tear it up the next to lay the gas pipes. But his friends' humor was
all lost on Barbican, who was so wrapped up in his work that he probably
never heard a word they said.

Towards three o'clock every preparation was made, every possible
precaution taken, and now our bold adventurers had nothing more to do
than watch and wait.

The Projectile was certainly approaching the Moon. It had by this time
turned over considerably under the influence of attraction, but its own
original motion still followed a decidedly oblique direction. The
consequence of these two forces might possibly be a tangent, line
approaching the edge of the Moon's disc. One thing was certain: the
Projectile had not yet commenced to fall directly towards her surface;
its base, in which its centre of gravity lay, was still turned away
considerably from the perpendicular.

Barbican's countenance soon showed perplexity and even alarm. His
Projectile was proving intractable to the laws of gravitation. The
_unknown_ was opening out dimly before him, the great boundless unknown
of the starry plains. In his pride and confidence as a scientist, he had
flattered himself with having sounded the consequence of every possible
hypothesis regarding the Projectile's ultimate fate: the return to the
Earth; the arrival at the Moon; and the motionless dead stop at the
neutral point. But here, a new and incomprehensible fourth hypothesis,
big with the terrors of the mystic infinite, rose up before his
disturbed mind, like a grim and hollow ghost. After a few seconds,
however, he looked at it straight in the face without wincing. His
companions showed themselves just as firm. Whether it was science that
emboldened Barbican, his phlegmatic stoicism that propped up the
Captain, or his enthusiastic vivacity that cheered the irrepressible
Ardan, I cannot exactly say. But certainly they were all soon talking
over the matter as calmly as you or I would discuss the advisability of
taking a sail on the lake some beautiful evening in July.

Their first remarks were decidedly peculiar and quite characteristic.
Other men would have asked themselves where the Projectile was taking
them to. Do you think such a question ever occurred to them? Not a bit
of it. They simply began asking each other what could have been the
cause of this new and strange state of things.

"Off the track, it appears," observed Ardan. "How's that?"

"My opinion is," answered the Captain, "that the Projectile was not
aimed true. Every possible precaution had been taken, I am well aware,
but we all know that an inch, a line, even the tenth part of a hair's
breadth wrong at the start would have sent us thousands of miles off our
course by this time."

"What have you to say to that, Barbican?" asked Ardan.

"I don't think there was any error at the start," was the confident
reply; "not even so much as a line! We took too many tests proving the
absolute perpendicularity of the Columbiad, to entertain the slightest
doubt on that subject. Its direction towards the zenith being
incontestable, I don't see why we should not reach the Moon when she
comes to the zenith."

"Perhaps we're behind time," suggested Ardan.

"What have you to say to that, Barbican?" asked the Captain. "You know
the Cambridge men said the journey had to be done in 97 hours 13 minutes
and 20 seconds. That's as much as to say that if we're not up to time we
shall miss the Moon."

"Correct," said Barbican. "But we _can't_ be behind time. We started,
you know, on December 1st, at 13 minutes and 20 seconds before 11
o'clock, and we were to arrive four days later at midnight precisely.
To-day is December 5th Gentlemen, please examine your watches. It is now
half past three in the afternoon. Eight hours and a half are sufficient
to take us to our journey's end. Why should we not arrive there?"

"How about being ahead of time?" asked the Captain.

"Just so!" said Ardan. "You know we have discovered the initial velocity
to have been greater than was expected."

"Not at all! not at all!" cried Barbican "A slight excess of velocity
would have done no harm whatever had the direction of the Projectile
been perfectly true. No. There must have been a digression. We must have
been switched off!"

"Switched off? By what?" asked both his listeners in one breath.

"I can't tell," said Barbican curtly.

"Well!" said Ardan; "if Barbican can't tell, there is an end to all
further talk on the subject. We're switched off--that's enough for me.
What has done it? I don't care. Where are we going to? I don't care.
What is the use of pestering our brains about it? We shall soon find
out. We are floating around in space, and we shall end by hauling up
somewhere or other."

But in this indifference Barbican was far from participating. Not that
he was not prepared to meet the future with a bold and manly heart. It
was his inability to answer his own question that rendered him uneasy.
What _had_ switched them off? He would have given worlds for an answer,
but his brain sorely puzzled sought one in vain.

In the mean time, the Projectile continued to turn its side rather than
its base towards the Moon; that is, to assume a lateral rather than a
direct movement, and this movement was fully participated in by the
multitude of the objects that had been thrown outside. Barbican could
even convince himself by sighting several points on the lunar surface,
by this time hardly more than fifteen or eighteen thousand miles
distant, that the velocity of the Projectile instead of accelerating was
becoming more and more uniform. This was another proof that there was
no perpendicular fall. However, though the original impulsive force was
still superior to the Moon's attraction, the travellers were evidently
approaching the lunar disc, and there was every reason to hope that they
would at last reach a point where, the lunar attraction at last having
the best of it, a decided fall should be the result.

The three friends, it need hardly be said, continued to make their
observations with redoubled interest, if redoubled interest were
possible. But with all their care they could as yet determine nothing
regarding the topographical details of our radiant satellite. Her
surface still reflected the solar rays too dazzlingly to show the relief
necessary for satisfactory observation.

Our travellers kept steadily on the watch looking out of the side
lights, till eight o'clock in the evening, by which time the Moon had
grown so large in their eyes that she covered up fully half the sky. At
this time the Projectile itself must have looked like a streak of light,
reflecting, as it did, the Sun's brilliancy on the one side and the
Moon's splendor on the other.

Barbican now took a careful observation and calculated that they could
not be much more than 2,000 miles from the object of their journey. The
velocity of the Projectile he calculated to be about 650 feet per second
or 450 miles an hour. They had therefore still plenty of time to reach
the Moon in about four hours. But though the bottom of the Projectile
continued to turn towards the lunar surface in obedience to the law of
centripetal force, the centrifugal force was still evidently strong
enough to change the path which it followed into some kind of curve, the
exact nature of which would be exceedingly difficult to calculate.

The careful observations that Barbican continued to take did not however
prevent him from endeavoring to solve his difficult problem. What _had_
switched them off? The hours passed on, but brought no result. That the
adventurers were approaching the Moon was evident, but it was just as
evident that they should never reach her. The nearest point the
Projectile could ever possibly attain would only be the result of two
opposite forces, the attractive and the repulsive, which, as was now
clear, influenced its motion. Therefore, to land in the Moon was an
utter impossibility, and any such idea was to be given up at once and
for ever.

"_Quand meme_! What of it!" cried Ardan; after some moments' silence.
"We're not to land in the Moon! Well! let us do the next best
thing--pass close enough to discover her secrets!"

But M'Nicholl could not accept the situation so coolly. On the contrary,
he decidedly lost his temper, as is occasionally the case with even
phlegmatic men. He muttered an oath or two, but in a voice hardly loud
enough to reach Barbican's ear. At last, impatient of further restraint,
he burst out:

"Who the deuce cares for her secrets? To the hangman with her secrets!
We started to land in the Moon! That's what's got to be done! That I
want or nothing! Confound the darned thing, I say, whatever it was,
whether on the Earth or off it, that shoved us off the track!"

"On the Earth or off it!" cried Barbican, striking his head suddenly;
"now I see it! You're right, Captain! Confound the bolide that we met
the first night of our journey!"

"Hey?" cried Ardan.

"What do you mean?" asked M'Nicholl.

"I mean," replied Barbican, with a voice now perfectly calm, and in a
tone of quiet conviction, "that our deviation is due altogether to that
wandering meteor."

"Why, it did not even graze us!" cried Ardan.

"No matter for that," replied Barbican. "Its mass, compared to ours, was
enormous, and its attraction was undoubtedly sufficiently great to
influence our deviation."

"Hardly enough to be appreciable," urged M'Nicholl.

"Right again, Captain," observed Barbican. "But just remember an
observation of your own made this very afternoon: an inch, a line, even
the tenth part of a hair's breadth wrong at the beginning, in a journey
of 240 thousand miles, would be sufficient to make us miss the Moon!"




CHAPTER X.

THE OBSERVERS OF THE MOON.


Barbican's happy conjecture had probably hit the nail on the head. The
divergency even of a second may amount to millions of miles if you only
have your lines long enough. The Projectile had certainly gone off its
direct course; whatever the cause, the fact was undoubted. It was a
great pity. The daring attempt must end in a failure due altogether to a
fortuitous accident, against which no human foresight could have
possibly taken precaution. Unless in case of the occurrence of some
other most improbable accident, reaching the Moon was evidently now
impossible. To failure, therefore, our travellers had to make up their
minds.

But was nothing to be gained by the trip? Though missing actual contact
with the Moon, might they not pass near enough to solve several problems
in physics and geology over which scientists had been for a long time
puzzling their brains in vain? Even this would be some compensation for
all their trouble, courage, and intelligence. As to what was to be their
own fate, to what doom were themselves to be reserved--they never
appeared to think of such a thing. They knew very well that in the midst
of those infinite solitudes they should soon find themselves without
air. The slight supply that kept them from smothering could not
possibly last more than five or six days longer. Five or six days! What
of that? _Quand meme_! as Ardan often exclaimed. Five or six days were
centuries to our bold adventurers! At present every second was a year in
events, and infinitely too precious to be squandered away in mere
preparations for possible contingencies. The Moon could never be
reached, but was it not possible that her surface could be carefully
observed? This they set themselves at once to find out.

The distance now separating them from our Satellite they estimated at
about 400 miles. Therefore relatively to their power of discovering the
details of her disc, they were still farther off from the Moon than some
of our modern astronomers are to-day, when provided with their powerful
telescopes.

We know, for example, that Lord Rosse's great telescope at Parsonstown,
possessing a power of magnifying 6000 times, brings the Moon to within
40 miles of us; not to speak of Barbican's great telescope on the summit
of Long's Peak, by which the Moon, magnified 48,000 times, was brought
within 5 miles of the Earth, where it therefore could reveal with
sufficient distinctness every object above 40 feet in diameter.

Therefore our adventurers, though at such a comparatively small
distance, could not make out the topographical details of the Moon with
any satisfaction by their unaided vision. The eye indeed could easily
enough catch the rugged outline of these vast depressions improperly
called "Seas," but it could do very little more. Its powers of
adjustability seemed to fail before the strange and bewildering scene.
The prominence of the mountains vanished, not only through the
foreshortening, but also in the dazzling radiation produced by the
direct reflection of the solar rays. After a short time therefore,
completely foiled by the blinding glare, the eye turned itself
unwillingly away, as if from a furnace of molten silver.

The spherical surface, however, had long since begun to reveal its
convexity. The Moon was gradually assuming the appearance of a gigantic
egg with the smaller end turned towards the Earth. In the earlier days
of her formation, while still in a state of mobility, she had been
probably a perfect sphere in shape, but, under the influence of
terrestrial gravity operating for uncounted ages, she was drawn at last
so much towards the centre of attraction as to resemble somewhat a
prolate spheriod. By becoming a satellite, she had lost the native
perfect regularity of her outline; her centre of gravity had shifted
from her real centre; and as a result of this arrangement, some
scientists have drawn the conclusion that the Moon's air and water have
been attracted to that portion of her surface which is always invisible
to the inhabitants of the Earth.

The convexity of her outline, this bulging prominence of her surface,
however, did not last long. The travellers were getting too near to
notice it. They were beginning to survey the Moon as balloonists survey
the Earth. The Projectile was now moving with great rapidity--with
nothing like its initial velocity, but still eight or nine times faster
than an express train. Its line of movement, however, being oblique
instead of direct, was so deceptive as to induce Ardan to flatter
himself that they might still reach the lunar surface. He could never
persuade himself to believe that they should get so near their aim and
still miss it. No; nothing might, could, would or should induce him to
believe it, he repeated again and again. But Barbican's pitiless logic
left him no reply.

"No, dear friend, no. We can reach the Moon only by a fall, and we don't
fall. Centripetal force keeps us at least for a while under the lunar
influence, but centrifugal force drives us away irresistibly."

These words were uttered in a tone that killed Ardan's last and fondest
hope.

       *       *       *       *       *

The portion of the Moon they were now approaching was her northern
hemisphere, found usually in the lower part of lunar maps. The lens of a
telescope, as is well known, gives only the inverted image of the
object; therefore, when an upright image is required, an additional
glass must be used. But as every additional glass is an additional
obstruction to the light, the object glass of a Lunar telescope is
employed without a corrector; light is thereby saved, and in viewing the
Moon, as in viewing a map, it evidently makes very little difference
whether we see her inverted or not. Maps of the Moon therefore, being
drawn from the image formed by the telescope, show the north in the
lower part, and _vice versa_. Of this kind was the _Mappa
Selenographica_, by Beer and Maedler, so often previously alluded to and
now carefully consulted by Barbican. The northern hemisphere, towards
which they were now rapidly approaching, presented a strong contrast
with the southern, by its vast plains and great depressions, checkered
here and there by very remarkable isolated mountains.[A]

At midnight the Moon was full. This was the precise moment at which the
travellers would have landed had not that unlucky bolide drawn them off
the track. The Moon was therefore strictly up to time, arriving at the
instant rigidly determined by the Cambridge Observatory. She occupied
the exact point, to a mathematical nicety, where our 28th parallel
crossed the perigee. An observer posted in the bottom of the Columbiad
at Stony Hill, would have found himself at this moment precisely under
the Moon. The axis of the enormous gun, continued upwards vertically,
would have struck the orb of night exactly in her centre.

It is hardly necessary to tell our readers that, during this memorable
night of the 5th and 6th of December, the travellers had no desire to
close their eyes. Could they do so, even if they had desired? No! All
their faculties, thoughts, and desires, were concentrated in one single
word: "Look!" Representatives of the Earth, and of all humanity past and
present, they felt that it was with their eyes that the race of man
contemplated the lunar regions and penetrated the secrets of our
satellite! A certain indescribable emotion therefore, combined with an
undefined sense of responsibility, held possession of their hearts, as
they moved silently from window to window.

Their observations, recorded by Barbican, were vigorously remade,
revised, and re-determined, by the others. To make them, they had
telescopes which they now began to employ with great advantage. To
regulate and investigate them, they had the best maps of the day.

Whilst occupied in this silent work, they could not help throwing a
short retrospective glance on the former Observers of the Moon.

The first of these was Galileo. His slight telescope magnified only
thirty times, still, in the spots flecking the lunar surface, like the
eyes checkering a peacock's tail, he was the first to discover mountains
and even to measure their heights. These, considering the difficulties
under which he labored, were wonderfully accurate, but unfortunately he
made no map embodying his observations.

A few years afterwards, Hevel of Dantzic, (1611-1688) a Polish
astronomer--more generally known as Hevelius, his works being all
written in Latin--undertook to correct Galileo's measurements. But as
his method could be strictly accurate only twice a month--the periods of
the first and second quadratures--his rectifications could be hardly
called successful.

Still it is to the labors of this eminent astronomer, carried on
uninterruptedly for fifty years in his own observatory, that we owe the
first map of the Moon. It was published in 1647 under the name of
_Selenographia_. He represented the circular mountains by open spots
somewhat round in shape, and by shaded figures he indicated the vast
plains, or, as he called them, the _seas_, that occupied so much of her
surface. These he designated by names taken from our Earth. His map
shows you a _Mount Sinai_ the midst of an _Arabia_, an _AEtna_ in the
centre of a _Sicily_, _Alps_, _Apennines_, _Carpathians_, a
_Mediterranean_, a _Palus Maeolis_, a _Pontus Euxinus_, and a _Caspian
Sea_. But these names seem to have been given capriciously and at
random, for they never recall any resemblance existing between
themselves and their namesakes on our globe. In the wide open spot, for
instance, connected on the south with vast continents and terminating in
a point, it would be no easy matter to recognize the reversed image of
the _Indian Peninsula_, the _Bay of Bengal_, and _Cochin China_.
Naturally, therefore, these names were nearly all soon dropped; but
another system of nomenclature, proposed by an astronomer better
acquainted with the human heart, met with a success that has lasted to
the present day.

This was Father Riccioli, a Jesuit, and (1598-1671) a contemporary of
Hevelius. In his _Astronomia Reformata_, (1665), he published a rough
and incorrect map of the Moon, compiled from observations made by
Grimaldi of Ferrara; but in designating the mountains, he named them
after eminent astronomers, and this idea of his has been carefully
carried out by map makers of later times.

A third map of the Moon was published at Rome in 1666 by Dominico
Cassini of Nice (1625-1712), the famous discoverer of Saturn's
satellites. Though somewhat incorrect regarding measurements, it was
superior to Riccioli's in execution, and for a long time it was
considered a standard work. Copies of this map are still to be found,
but Cassini's original copper-plate, preserved for a long time at the
_Imprimerie Royale_ in Paris, was at last sold to a brazier, by no less
a personage than the Director of the establishment himself, who,
according to Arago, wanted to get rid of what he considered useless
lumber!

La Hire (1640-1718), professor of astronomy in the _College de France_,
and an accomplished draughtsman, drew a map of the Moon which was
thirteen feet in diameter. This map could be seen long afterwards in the
library of St. Genevieve, Paris, but it was never engraved.

About 1760, Mayer, a famous German astronomer and the director of the
observatory of Goettingen, began the publication of a magnificent map of
the Moon, drawn after lunar measurements all rigorously verified by
himself. Unfortunately his death in 1762 interrupted a work which would
have surpassed in accuracy every previous effort of the kind.

Next appears Schroeter of Erfurt (1745-1816), a fine observer (he first
discovered the Lunar _Rills_), but a poor draughtsman: his maps are
therefore of little value. Lohrman of Dresden published in 1838 an
excellent map of the Moon, 15 inches in diameter, accompanied by
descriptive text and several charts of particular portions on a larger
scale.

But this and all other maps were thrown completely into the shade by
Beer and Maedler's famous _Mappa Selenographica_, so often alluded to in
the course of this work. This map, projected orthographically--that is,
one in which all the rays proceeding from the surface to the eye are
supposed to be parallel to each other--gives a reproduction of the lunar
disc exactly as it appears. The representation of the mountains and
plains is therefore correct only in the central portion; elsewhere,
north, south, east, or west, the features, being foreshortened, are
crowded together, and cannot be compared in measurement with those in
the centre. It is more than three feet square; for convenient reference
it is divided into four parts, each having a very full index; in short,
this map is in all respects a master piece of lunar cartography.[B]

After Beer and Maedler, we should allude to Julius Schmitt's (of Athens)
excellent selenographic reliefs: to Doctor Draper's, and to Father
Secchi's successful application of photography to lunar representation;
to De La Rue's (of London) magnificent stereographs of the Moon, to be
had at every optician's; to the clear and correct map prepared by
Lecouturier and Chapuis in 1860; to the many beautiful pictures of the
Moon in various phases of illumination obtained by the Messrs. Bond of
Harvard University; to Rutherford's (of New York) unparalleled lunar
photographs; and finally to Nasmyth and Carpenter's wonderful work on
the Moon, illustrated by photographs of her surface in detail, prepared
from models at which they had been laboring for more than a quarter of
the century.

Of all these maps, pictures, and projections, Barbican had provided
himself with only two--Beer and Maedler's in German, and Lecouturier and
Chapuis' in French. These he considered quite sufficient for all
purposes, and certainly they considerably simplified his labors as an
observer.

His best optical instruments were several excellent marine telescopes,
manufactured especially under his direction. Magnifying the object a
hundred times, on the surface of the Earth they would have brought the
Moon to within a distance of somewhat less than 2400 miles. But at the
point to which our travellers had arrived towards three o'clock in the
morning, and which could hardly be more than 12 or 1300 miles from the
Moon, these telescopes, ranging through a medium disturbed by no
atmosphere, easily brought the lunar surface to within less than 13
miles' distance from the eyes of our adventurers.

Therefore they should now see objects in the Moon as clearly as people
can see the opposite bank of a river that is about 12 miles wide.

[Footnote A: In our Map of the Moon, prepared expressly for this work,
we have so far improved on Beer and Maedler as to give her surface as it
appears to the naked eye: that is, the north is in the north; only we
must always remember that the west is and must be on the _right hand_.]

[Footnote B: In our Map the _Mappa Selenographica_ is copied as closely
and as fully as is necessary for understanding the details of the story.
For further information the reader is referred to Nasmyth's late
magnificent work: the MOON.]




CHAPTER XI.

FACT AND FANCY.


"Have you ever seen the Moon?" said a teacher ironically one day in
class to one of his pupils.

"No, sir;" was the pert reply; "but I think I can safely say I've heard
it spoken about."

Though saying what he considered a smart thing, the pupil was probably
perfectly right. Like the immense majority of his fellow beings, he had
looked at the Moon, heard her talked of, written poetry about her, but,
in the strict sense of the term, he had probably never seen her--that
is--scanned her, examined her, surveyed her, inspected her, reconnoitred
her--even with an opera glass! Not one in a thousand, not one in ten
thousand, has ever examined even the map of our only Satellite. To guard
our beloved and intelligent reader against this reproach, we have
prepared an excellent reduction of Beer and Maedler's _Mappa_, on which,
for the better understanding of what is to follow, we hope he will
occasionally cast a gracious eye.

When you look at any map of the Moon, you are struck first of all with
one peculiarity. Contrary to the arrangement prevailing in Mars and on
our Earth, the continents occupy principally the southern hemisphere of
the lunar orb. Then these continents are far from presenting such sharp
and regular outlines as distinguish the Indian Peninsula, Africa, and
South America. On the contrary, their coasts, angular, jagged, and
deeply indented, abound in bays and peninsulas. They remind you of the
coast of Norway, or of the islands in the Sound, where the land seems to
be cut up into endless divisions. If navigation ever existed on the
Moon's surface, it must have been of a singularly difficult and
dangerous nature, and we can scarcely say which of the two should be
more pitied--the sailors who had to steer through these dangerous and
complicated passes, or the map-makers who had to designate them on their
charts.

You will also remark that the southern pole of the Moon is much more
_continental_ than the northern. Around the latter, there exists only a
slight fringe of lands separated from the other continents by vast
"seas." This word "seas"--a term employed by the first lunar map
constructors--is still retained to designate those vast depressions on
the Moon's surface, once perhaps covered with water, though they are now
only enormous plains. In the south, the continents cover nearly the
whole hemisphere. It is therefore possible that the Selenites have
planted their flag on at least one of their poles, whereas the Parrys
and Franklins of England, the Kanes and the Wilkeses of America, the
Dumont d'Urvilles and the Lamberts of France, have so far met with
obstacles completely insurmountable, while in search of those unknown
points of our terrestrial globe.

The islands--the next feature on the Moon's surface--are exceedingly
numerous. Generally oblong or circular in shape and almost as regular in
outline as if drawn with a compass, they form vast archipelagoes like
the famous group lying between Greece and Asia Minor, which mythology
has made the scene of her earliest and most charming legends. As we gaze
at them, the names of Naxos, Tenedos, Milo, and Carpathos rise up before
our mind's eye, and we begin looking around for the Trojan fleet and
Jason's Argo. This, at least, was Ardan's idea, and at first his eyes
would see nothing on the map but a Grecian archipelago. But his
companions, sound practical men, and therefore totally devoid of
sentiment, were reminded by these rugged coasts of the beetling cliffs
of New Brunswick and Nova Scotia; so that, where the Frenchman saw the
tracks of ancient heroes, the Americans saw only commodious shipping
points and favorable sites for trading posts--all, of course, in the
purest interest of lunar commerce and industry.

To end our hasty sketch of the continental portion of the Moon, we must
say a few words regarding her orthography or mountain systems. With a
fair telescope you can distinguish very readily her mountain chains, her
isolated mountains, her circuses or ring formations, and her rills,
cracks and radiating streaks. The character of the whole lunar relief is
comprised in these divisions. It is a surface prodigiously reticulated,
upheaved and depressed, apparently without the slightest order or
system. It is a vast Switzerland, an enormous Norway, where everything
is the result of direct plutonic action. This surface, so rugged, craggy
and wrinkled, seems to be the result of successive contractions of the
crust, at an early period of the planet's existence. The examination of
the lunar disc is therefore highly favorable for the study of the great
geological phenomena of our own globe. As certain astronomers have
remarked, the Moon's surface, though older than the Earth's, has
remained younger. That is, it has undergone less change. No water has
broken through its rugged elevations, filled up its scowling cavities,
and by incessant action tended continuously to the production of a
general level. No atmosphere, by its disintegrating, decomposing
influence has softened off the rugged features of the plutonic
mountains. Volcanic action alone, unaffected by either aqueous or
atmospheric forces, can here be seen in all its glory. In other words
the Moon looks now as our Earth did endless ages ago, when "she was void
and empty and when darkness sat upon the face of the deep;" eons of ages
ago, long before the tides of the ocean and the winds of the atmosphere
had begun to strew her rough surface with sand and clay, rock and coal,
forest and meadow, gradually preparing it, according to the laws of our
beneficent Creator, to be at last the pleasant though the temporary
abode of Man!

Having wandered over vast continents, your eye is attracted by the
"seas" of dimensions still vaster. Not only their shape, situation, and
look, remind us of our own oceans, but, again like them, they occupy
the greater part of the Moon's surface. The "seas," or, more correctly,
plains, excited our travellers' curiosity to a very high degree, and
they set themselves at once to examine their nature.

The astronomer who first gave names to those "seas" in all probability
was a Frenchman. Hevelius, however, respected them, even Riccioli did
not disturb them, and so they have come down to us. Ardan laughed
heartily at the fancies which they called up, and said the whole thing
reminded him of one of those "maps of matrimony" that he had once seen
or read of in the works of Scudery or Cyrano de Bergerac.

"However," he added, "I must say that this map has much more reality in
it than could be found in the sentimental maps of the 17th century. In
fact, I have no difficulty whatever in calling it the _Map of Life!_
very neatly divided into two parts, the east and the west, the masculine
and the feminine. The women on the right, and the men on the left!"

At such observations, Ardan's companions only shrugged their shoulders.
A map of the Moon in their eyes was a map of the Moon, no more, no less;
their romantic friend might view it as he pleased. Nevertheless, their
romantic friend was not altogether wrong. Judge a little for yourselves.

What is the first "sea" you find in the hemisphere on the left? The
_Mare Imbrium_ or the Rainy Sea, a fit emblem of our human life, beaten
by many a pitiless storm. In a corresponding part of the southern
hemisphere you see _Mare Nubium_, the Cloudy Sea, in which our poor
human reason so often gets befogged. Close to this lies _Mare Humorum_,
the Sea of Humors, where we sail about, the sport of each fitful breeze,
"everything by starts and nothing long." Around all, embracing all, lies
_Oceanus Procellarum_, the Ocean of Tempests, where, engaged in one
continuous struggle with the gusty whirlwinds, excited by our own
passions or those of others, so few of us escape shipwreck. And, when
disgusted by the difficulties of life, its deceptions, its treacheries
and all the other miseries "that flesh is heir to," where do we too
often fly to avoid them? To the _Sinus Iridium_ or the _Sinus Roris_,
that is Rainbow Gulf and Dewy Gulf whose glittering lights, alas! give
forth no real illumination to guide our stumbling feet, whose sun-tipped
pinnacles have less substance than a dream, whose enchanting waters all
evaporate before we can lift a cup-full to our parched lips! Showers,
storms, fogs, rainbows--is not the whole mortal life of man comprised in
these four words?

Now turn to the hemisphere on the right, the women's side, and you also
discover "seas," more numerous indeed, but of smaller dimensions and
with gentler names, as more befitting the feminine temperament. First
comes _Mare Serenitatis_, the Sea of Serenity, so expressive of the
calm, tranquil soul of an innocent maiden. Near it is _Lacus Somniorum_,
the Lake of Dreams, in which she loves to gaze at her gilded and rosy
future. In the southern division is seen _Mare Nectaris_, the Sea of
Nectar, over whose soft heaving billows she is gently wafted by Love's
caressing winds, "Youth on the prow and Pleasure at the helm." Not far
off is _Mare Fecunditatis_, the Sea of Fertility, in which she becomes
the happy mother of rejoicing children. A little north is _Mare
Crisium_, the Sea of Crises where her life and happiness are sometimes
exposed to sudden, and unexpected dangers which fortunately, however,
seldom end fatally. Far to the left, near the men's side, is _Mare
Vaporum_, the Sea of Vapors, into which, though it is rather small, and
full of sunken rocks, she sometimes allows herself to wander, moody, and
pouting, and not exactly knowing where she wants to go or what she wants
to do. Between the two last expands the great _Mare Tranquillitatis_,
the Sea of Tranquillity, into whose quiet depths are at last absorbed
all her simulated passions, all her futile aspirations, all her
unglutted desires, and whose unruffled waters are gliding on forever in
noiseless current towards _Lacus Mortis_, the Lake of Death, whose misty
shores

    "In ruthless, vast, and gloomy woods are girt."

So at least Ardan mused as he stooped over Beer and Maedler's map. Did
not these strange successive names somewhat justify his flights of
fancy? Surely they had a wonderful variety of meaning. Was it by
accident or by forethought deep that the two hemispheres of the Moon had
been thus so strangely divided, yet, as man to woman, though divided
still united, and thus forming even in the cold regions of space a
perfect image of our terrestrial existence? Who can say that our
romantic French friend was altogether wrong in thus explaining the
astute fancies of the old astronomers?

His companions, however, it need hardly be said, never saw the "seas" in
that light. They looked on them not with sentimental but with
geographical eyes. They studied this new world and tried to get it by
heart, working at it like a school boy at his lessons. They began by
measuring its angles and diameters.

To their practical, common sense vision _Mare Nubium_, the Cloudy Sea,
was an immense depression of the surface, sprinkled here and there with
a few circular mountains. Covering a great portion of that part of the
southern hemisphere which lies east of the centre, it occupied a space
of about 270 thousand square miles, its central point lying in 15 deg. south
latitude and 20 deg. east longitude. Northeast from this lay _Oceanus
Procellarum_, the Ocean of Tempests, the most extensive of all the
plains on the lunar disc, embracing a surface of about half a million of
square miles, its centre being in 10 deg. north and 45 deg. east. From its bosom
those wonderful mountains _Kepler_ and _Aristarchus_ lifted their vast
ramparts glittering with innumerable streaks radiating in all
directions.

To the north, in the direction of _Mare Frigoris_, extends _Mare
Imbrium_, the Sea of Rains, its central point in 35 deg. north and 20 deg.
east. It is somewhat circular in shape, and it covers a space of about
300 thousand square miles. South of _Oceanus Procellarum_ and separated
from _Mare Nubium_ by a goodly number of ring mountains, lies the little
basin of _Mare Humorum_, the Sea of Humors, containing only about 66
thousand square miles, its central point having a latitude of 25 deg. south
and a longitude of 40 deg. east.

On the shores of these great seas three "Gulfs" are easily found: _Sinus
Aestuum_, the Gulf of the Tides, northeast of the centre; _Sinus
Iridium_, the Gulf of the Rainbows, northeast of the _Mare Imbrium_; and
_Sinus Roris_, the Dewy Gulf, a little further northeast. All seem to be
small plains enclosed between chains of lofty mountains.

The western hemisphere, dedicated to the ladies, according to Ardan, and
therefore naturally more capricious, was remarkable for "seas" of
smaller dimensions, but much more numerous. These were principally:
_Mare Serenitatis_, the Sea of Serenity, 25 deg. north and 20 deg. west,
comprising a surface of about 130 thousand square miles; _Mare Crisium_,
the Sea of Crises, a round, well defined, dark depression towards the
northwestern edge, 17 deg. north 55 deg. west, embracing a surface of 60
thousand square miles, a regular Caspian Sea in fact, only that the
plateau in which it lies buried is surrounded by a girdle of much higher
mountains. Then towards the equator, with a latitude of 5 deg. north and a
longitude of 25 deg. west, appears _Mare Tranquillitatis_, the Sea of
Tranquillity, occupying about 180 thousand square miles. This
communicates on the south with _Mare Nectaris_, the Sea of Nectar,
embracing an extent of about 42 thousand square miles, with a mean
latitude of 15 deg. south and a longitude of 35 deg. west. Southwest from _Mare
Tranquillitatis_, lies _Mare Fecunditatis_, the Sea of Fertility, the
greatest in this hemisphere, as it occupies an extent of more than 300
thousand square miles, its latitude being 3 deg. south and its longitude 50 deg.
west. For away to the north, on the borders of the _Mare Frigoris_, or
Icy Sea, is seen the small _Mare Humboldtianum_, or Humboldt Sea, with a
surface of about 10 thousand square miles. Corresponding to this in the
southern hemisphere lies the _Mare Australe_, or South Sea, whose
surface, as it extends along the western rim, is rather difficult to
calculate. Finally, right in the centre of the lunar disc, where the
equator intersects the first meridian, can be seen _Sinus Medii_, the
Central Gulf, the common property therefore of all the hemispheres, the
northern and southern, as well as of the eastern and western.

Into these great divisions the surface of our satellite resolved itself
before the eyes of Barbican and M'Nicholl. Adding up the various
measurements, they found that the surface of her visible hemisphere was
about 7-1/2 millions of square miles, of which about the two thirds
comprised the volcanoes, the mountain chains, the rings, the islands--in
short, the land portion of the lunar surface; the other third comprised
the "seas," the "lakes," the "marshes," the "bays" or "gulfs," and the
other divisions usually assigned to water.

To all this deeply interesting information, though the fruit of
observation the closest, aided and confirmed by calculation the
profoundest, Ardan listened with the utmost indifference. In fact, even
his French politeness could not suppress two or three decided yawns,
which of course the mathematicians were too absorbed to notice.

In their enthusiasm they tried to make him understand that though the
Moon is 13-1/2 times smaller than our Earth, she can show more than 50
thousand craters, which astronomers have already counted and designated
by specific names.

"To conclude this portion of our investigation therefore," cried
Barbican, clearing his throat, and occupying Aldan's right ear,--"the
Moon's surface is a honey combed, perforated, punctured--"

"A fistulous, a rugose, salebrous,--" cut in the Captain, close on the
left.

--"And highly cribriform superficies--" cried Barbican.

--"A sieve, a riddle, a colander--" shouted the Captain.

--"A skimming dish, a buckwheat cake, a lump of green cheese--" went on
Barbican--.

--In fact, there is no knowing how far they would have proceeded with
their designations, comparisons, and scientific expressions, had not
Ardan, driven to extremities by Barbican's last profanity, suddenly
jumped up, broken away from his companions, and clapped a forcible
extinguisher on their eloquence by putting his hands on their lips and
keeping them there awhile. Then striking a grand attitude, he looked
towards the Moon and burst out in accents of thrilling indignation:

"Pardon, O beautiful Diana of the Ephesians! Pardon, O Phoebe, thou
pearl-faced goddess of night beloved of Greece! O Isis, thou sympathetic
queen of Nile-washed cities! O Astarte, thou favorite deity of the
Syrian hills! O Artemis, thou symbolical daughter of Jupiter and Latona,
that is of light and darkness! O brilliant sister of the radiant Apollo!
enshrined in the enchanting strains of Virgil and Homer, which I only
half learned at college, and therefore unfortunately forget just now!
Otherwise what pleasure I should have had in hurling them at the heads
of Barbican, M'Nicholl, and every other barbarous iconoclast of the
nineteenth century!--"

Here he stopped short, for two reasons: first he was out of breath;
secondly, he saw that the irrepressible scientists had been too busy
making observations of their own to hear a single word of what he had
uttered, and were probably totally unconscious that he had spoken at
all. In a few seconds his breath came back in full blast, but the idea
of talking when only deaf men were listening was so disconcerting as to
leave him actually unable to get off another syllable.




CHAPTER XII.

A BIRD'S EYE VIEW OF THE LUNAR MOUNTAINS.


I am rather inclined to believe myself that not one word of Ardan's
rhapsody had been ever heard by Barbican or M'Nicholl. Long before he
had spoken his last words, they had once more become mute as statues,
and now were both eagerly watching, pencil in hand, spyglass to eye, the
northern lunar hemisphere towards which they were rapidly but indirectly
approaching. They had fully made up their minds by this time that they
were leaving far behind them the central point which they would have
probably reached half an hour ago if they had not been shunted off their
course by that inopportune bolide.

About half past twelve o'clock, Barbican broke the dead silence by
saying that after a careful calculation they were now only about 875
miles from the Moon's surface, a distance two hundred miles less in
length than the lunar radius, and which was still to be diminished as
they advanced further north. They were at that moment ten degrees north
of the equator, almost directly over the ridge lying between the _Mare
Serenitatis_ and the _Mare Tranquillitatis_. From this latitude all the
way up to the north pole the travellers enjoyed a most satisfactory view
of the Moon in all directions and under the most favorable conditions.
By means of their spyglasses, magnifying a hundred times, they cut down
this distance of 875 miles to about 9. The great telescope of the Rocky
Mountains, by its enormous magnifying power of 48,000, brought the Moon,
it is true, within a distance of 5 miles, or nearly twice as near; but
this advantage of nearness was considerably more than counterbalanced by
a want of clearness, resulting from the haziness and refractiveness of
the terrestrial atmosphere, not to mention those fatal defects in the
reflector that the art of man has not yet succeeded in remedying.
Accordingly, our travellers, armed with excellent telescopes--of just
power enough to be no injury to clearness,--and posted on unequalled
vantage ground, began already to distinguish certain details that had
probably never been noticed before by terrestrial observers. Even Ardan,
by this time quite recovered from his fit of sentiment and probably
infected a little by the scientific enthusiasm of his companions, began
to observe and note and observe and note, alternately, with all the
_sangfroid_ of a veteran astronomer.

"Friends," said Barbican, again interrupting a silence that had lasted
perhaps ten minutes, "whither we are going I can't say; if we shall ever
revisit the Earth, I can't tell. Still, it is our duty so to act in all
respects as if these labors of ours were one day to be of service to our
fellow-creatures. Let us keep our souls free from every distraction. We
are now astronomers. We see now what no mortal eye has ever gazed on
before. This Projectile is simply a work room of the great Cambridge
Observatory lifted into space. Let us take observations!"

With these words, he set to work with a renewed ardor, in which his
companions fully participated. The consequence was that they soon had
several of the outline maps covered with the best sketches they could
make of the Moon's various aspects thus presented under such favorable
circumstances. They could now remark not only that they were passing the
tenth degree of north latitude, but that the Projectile followed almost
directly the twentieth degree of east longitude.

"One thing always puzzled me when examining maps of the Moon," observed
Ardan, "and I can't say that I see it yet as clearly as if I had thought
over the matter. It is this. I could understand, when looking through a
lens at an object, why we get only its reversed image--a simple law of
optics explains _that_. Therefore, in a map of the Moon, as the bottom
means the north and the top the south, why does not the right mean the
west and the left the east? I suppose I could have made this out by a
little thought, but thinking, that is reflection, not being my forte, it
is the last thing I ever care to do. Barbican, throw me a word or two on
the subject."

"I can see what troubles you," answered Barbican, "but I can also see
that one moment's reflection would have put an end to your perplexity.
On ordinary maps of the Earth's surface when the north is the top, the
right hand must be the east, the left hand the west, and so on. That is
simply because we look _down_ from _above_. And such a map seen through
a lens will appear reversed in all respects. But in looking at the Moon,
that is _up_ from _down_, we change our position so far that our right
hand points west and our left east. Consequently, in our reversed map,
though the north becomes south, the right remains east, and--"

"Enough said! I see it at a glance! Thank you, Barbican. Why did not
they make you a professor of astronomy? Your hint will save me a world
of trouble."[C]

Aided by the _Mappa Selenographica_, the travellers could easily
recognize the different portions of the Moon over which they were now
moving. An occasional glance at our reduction of this map, given as a
frontispiece, will enable the gentle reader to follow the travellers on
the line in which they moved and to understand the remarks and
observations in which they occasionally indulged.

"Where are we now?" asked Ardan.

"Over the northern shores of the _Mare Nubium_," replied Barbican. "But
we are still too far off to see with any certainty what they are like.
What is the _Mare_ itself? A sea, according to the early astronomers? a
plain of solid sand, according to later authority? or an immense forest,
according to De la Rue of London, so far the Moon's most successful
photographer? This gentleman's authority, Ardan, would have given you
decided support in your famous dispute with the Captain at the meeting
near Tampa, for he says very decidedly that the Moon has an atmosphere,
very low to be sure but very dense. This, however, we must find out for
ourselves; and in the meantime let us affirm nothing until we have good
grounds for positive assertion."

_Mare Nubium_, though not very clearly outlined on the maps, is easily
recognized by lying directly east of the regions about the centre. It
would appear as if this vast plain were sprinkled with immense lava
blocks shot forth from the great volcanoes on the right, _Ptolemaeus_,
_Alphonse_, _Alpetragius_ and _Arzachel_. But the Projectile advanced so
rapidly that these mountains soon disappeared, and the travellers were
not long before they could distinguish the great peaks that closed the
"Sea" on its northern boundary. Here a radiating mountain showed a
summit so dazzling with the reflection of the solar rays that Ardan
could not help crying out:

"It looks like one of the carbon points of an electric light projected
on a screen! What do you call it, Barbican?"

"_Copernicus_," replied the President. "Let us examine old
_Copernicus_!"

This grand crater is deservedly considered one of the greatest of the
lunar wonders. It lifts its giant ramparts to upwards of 12,000 feet
above the level of the lunar surface. Being quite visible from the Earth
and well situated for observation, it is a favorite object for
astronomical study; this is particularly the case during the phase
existing between Last Quarter and the New Moon, when its vast shadows,
projected boldly from the east towards the west, allow its prodigious
dimensions to be measured.

After _Tycho_, which is situated in the southern hemisphere,
_Copernicus_ forms the most important radiating mountain in the lunar
disc. It looms up, single and isolated, like a gigantic light-house, on
the peninsula separating _Mare Nubium_ from _Oceanus Procellarum_ on one
side and from _Mare Imbrium_ on the other; thus illuminating with its
splendid radiation three "Seas" at a time. The wonderful complexity of
its bright streaks diverging on all sides from its centre presented a
scene alike splendid and unique. These streaks, the travellers thought,
could be traced further north than in any other direction: they fancied
they could detect them even in the _Mare Imbrium_, but this of course
might be owing to the point from which they made their observations. At
one o'clock in the morning, the Projectile, flying through space, was
exactly over this magnificent mountain.

In spite of the brilliant sunlight that was blazing around them, the
travellers could easily recognize the peculiar features of _Copernicus_.
It belongs to those ring mountains of the first class called Circuses.
Like _Kepler_ and _Aristarchus_, who rule over _Oceanus Procellarum_,
_Copernicus_, when viewed through our telescopes, sometimes glistens so
brightly through the ashy light of the Moon that it has been frequently
taken for a volcano in full activity. Whatever it may have been once,
however, it is certainly nothing more now than, like all the other
mountains on the visible side of the Moon, an extinct volcano, only with
a crater of such exceeding grandeur and sublimity as to throw utterly
into the shade everything like it on our Earth. The crater of Etna is at
most little more than a mile across. The crater of _Copernicus_ has a
diameter of at least 50 miles. Within it, the travellers could easily
discover by their glasses an immense number of terraced ridges, probably
landslips, alternating with stratifications resulting from successive
eruptions. Here and there, but particularly in the southern side, they
caught glimpses of shadows of such intense blackness, projected across
the plateau and lying there like pitch spots, that they could not tell
them from yawning chasms of incalculable depth. Outside the crater the
shadows were almost as deep, whilst on the plains all around,
particularly in the west, so many small craters could be detected that
the eye in vain attempted to count them.

"Many circular mountains of this kind," observed Barbican, "can be seen
on the lunar surface, but _Copernicus_, though not one of the greatest,
is one of the most remarkable on account of those diverging streaks of
bright light that you see radiating from its summit. By looking
steadily into its crater, you can see more cones than mortal eye ever
lit on before. They are so numerous as to render the interior plateau
quite rugged, and were formerly so many openings giving vent to fire and
volcanic matter. A curious and very common arrangement of this internal
plateau of lunar craters is its lying at a lower level than the external
plains, quite the contrary to a terrestrial crater, which generally has
its bottom much higher than the level of the surrounding country. It
follows therefore that the deep lying curve of the bottom of these ring
mountains would give a sphere with a diameter somewhat smaller than the
Moon's."

"What can be the cause of this peculiarity?" asked M'Nicholl.

"I can't tell;" answered Barbican, "but, as a conjecture, I should say
that it is probably to the comparatively smaller area of the Moon and
the more violent character of her volcanic action that the extremely
rugged character of her surface is mainly due."

"Why, it's the _Campi Phlegraei_ or the Fire Fields of Naples over
again!" cried Ardan suddenly. "There's _Monte Barbaro_, there's the
_Solfatara_, there is the crater of _Astroni_, and there is the _Monte
Nuovo_, as plain as the hand on my body!"

"The great resemblance between the region you speak of and the general
surface of the Moon has been often remarked;" observed Barbican, "but
it is even still more striking in the neighborhood of _Theophilus_ on
the borders of _Mare Nectaris_."

"That's _Mare Nectaris_, the gray spot over there on the southwest,
isn't it?" asked M'Nicholl; "is there any likelihood of our getting a
better view of it?"

"Not the slightest," answered Barbican, "unless we go round the Moon and
return this way, like a satellite describing its orbit."

By this time they had arrived at a point vertical to the mountain
centre. _Copernicus's_ vast ramparts formed a perfect circle or rather a
pair of concentric circles. All around the mountain extended a dark
grayish plain of savage aspect, on which the peak shadows projected
themselves in sharp relief. In the gloomy bottom of the crater, whose
dimensions are vast enough to swallow Mont Blanc body and bones, could
be distinguished a magnificent group of cones, at least half a mile in
height and glittering like piles of crystal. Towards the north several
breaches could be seen in the ramparts, due probably to a caving in of
immense masses accumulated on the summit of the precipitous walls.

As already observed, the surrounding plains were dotted with numberless
craters mostly of small dimensions, except _Gay Lussac_ on the north,
whose crater was about 12 miles in diameter. Towards the southwest and
the immediate east, the plain appeared to be very flat, no protuberance,
no prominence of any kind lifting itself above the general dead level.
Towards the north, on the contrary, as far as where the peninsula
jutted on _Oceanus Procellarum_, the plain looked like a sea of lava
wildly lashed for a while by a furious hurricane and then, when its
waves and breakers and driving ridges were at their wildest, suddenly
frozen into solidity. Over this rugged, rumpled, wrinkled surface and in
all directions, ran the wonderful streaks whose radiating point appeared
to be the summit of _Copernicus_. Many of them appeared to be ten miles
wide and hundreds of miles in length.

The travellers disputed for some time on the origin of these strange
radii, but could hardly be said to have arrived at any conclusion more
satisfactory than that already reached by some terrestrial observers.

To M'Nicholl's question:

"Why can't these streaks be simply prolonged mountain crests reflecting
the sun's rays more vividly by their superior altitude and comparative
smoothness?"

Barbican readily replied:

"These streaks _can't_ be mountain crests, because, if they were, under
certain conditions of solar illumination they should project
_shadows_--a thing which they have never been known to do under any
circumstances whatever. In fact, it is only during the period of the
full Moon that these streaks are seen at all; as soon as the sun's rays
become oblique, they disappear altogether--a proof that their appearance
is due altogether to peculiar advantages in their surface for the
reflection of light."

"Dear boys, will you allow me to give my little guess on the subject?"
asked Ardan.

His companions were profuse in expressing their desire to hear it.

"Well then," he resumed, "seeing that these bright streaks invariably
start from a certain point to radiate in all directions, why not suppose
them to be streams of lava issuing from the crater and flowing down the
mountain side until they cooled?"

"Such a supposition or something like it has been put forth by
Herschel," replied Barbican; "but your own sense will convince you that
it is quite untenable when you consider that lava, however hot and
liquid it may be at the commencement of its journey, cannot flow on for
hundreds of miles, up hills, across ravines, and over plains, all the
time in streams of almost exactly equal width."

"That theory of yours holds no more water than mine, Ardan," observed
M'Nicholl.

"Correct, Captain," replied the Frenchman; "Barbican has a trick of
knocking the bottom out of every weaker vessel. But let us hear what he
has to say on the subject himself. What is your theory. Barbican?"

"My theory," said Barbican, "is pretty much the same as that lately
presented by an English astronomer, Nasmyth, who has devoted much study
and reflection to lunar matters. Of course, I only formulate my theory,
I don't affirm it. These streaks are cracks, made in the Moon's surface
by cooling or by shrinkage, through which volcanic matter has been
forced up by internal pressure. The sinking ice of a frozen lake, when
meeting with some sharp pointed rock, cracks in a radiating manner:
every one of its fissures then admits the water, which immediately
spreads laterally over the ice pretty much as the lava spreads itself
over the lunar surface. This theory accounts for the radiating nature of
the streaks, their great and nearly equal thickness, their immense
length, their inability to cast a shadow, and their invisibility at any
time except at or near the Full Moon. Still it is nothing but a theory,
and I don't deny that serious objections may be brought against it."

"Do you know, dear boys," cried Ardan, led off as usual by the slightest
fancy, "do you know what I am thinking of when I look down on the great
rugged plains spread out beneath us?"

"I can't say, I'm sure," replied Barbican, somewhat piqued at the little
attention he had secured for his theory.

"Well, what are you thinking of?" asked M'Nicholl.

"Spillikins!" answered Ardan triumphantly.

"Spillikins?" cried his companions, somewhat surprised.

"Yes, Spillikins! These rocks, these blocks, these peaks, these streaks,
these cones, these cracks, these ramparts, these escarpments,--what are
they but a set of spillikins, though I acknowledge on a grand scale? I
wish I had a little hook to pull them one by one!"

[Illustration: AN IMMENSE BATTLEFIELD.]

"Oh, do be serious, Ardan!" cried Barbican, a little impatiently.

"Certainly," replied Ardan. "Let us be serious, Captain, since
seriousness best befits the subject in hand. What do you think of
another comparison? Does not this plain look like an immense battle
field piled with the bleaching bones of myriads who had slaughtered each
other to a man at the bidding of some mighty Caesar? What do you think
of that lofty comparison, hey?"

"It is quite on a par with the other," muttered Barbican.

"He's hard to please, Captain," continued Ardan, "but let us try him
again! Does not this plain look like--?"

"My worthy friend," interrupted Barbican, quietly, but in a tone to
discourage further discussion, "what you think the plain _looks like_ is
of very slight import, as long as you know no more than a child what it
really _is_!"

"Bravo, Barbican! well put!" cried the irrepressible Frenchman. "Shall I
ever realize the absurdity of my entering into an argument with a
scientist!"

But this time the Projectile, though advancing northward with a pretty
uniform velocity, had neither gained nor lost in its nearness to the
lunar disc. Each moment altering the character of the fleeting landscape
beneath them, the travellers, as may well be imagined, never thought of
taking an instant's repose. At about half past one, looking to their
right on the west, they saw the summits of another mountain; Barbican,
consulting his map, recognized _Eratosthenes_.

This was a ring mountain, about 33 miles in diameter, having, like
_Copernicus_, a crater of immense profundity containing central cones.
Whilst they were directing their glasses towards its gloomy depths,
Barbican mentioned to his friends Kepler's strange idea regarding the
formation of these ring mountains. "They must have been constructed," he
said, "by mortal hands."

"With what object?" asked the Captain.

"A very natural one," answered Barbican. "The Selenites must have
undertaken the immense labor of digging these enormous pits at places of
refuge in which they could protect themselves against the fierce solar
rays that beat against them for 15 days in succession!"

"Not a bad idea, that of the Selenites!" exclaimed Ardan.

"An absurd idea!" cried M'Nicholl. "But probably Kepler never knew the
real dimensions of these craters. Barbican knows the trouble and time
required to dig a well in Stony Hill only nine hundred feet deep. To dig
out a single lunar crater would take hundreds and hundreds of years, and
even then they should be giants who would attempt it!"

"Why so?" asked Ardan. "In the Moon, where gravity is six times less
than on the Earth, the labor of the Selenites can't be compared with
that of men like us."

"But suppose a Selenite to be six times smaller than a man like us!"
urged M'Nicholl.

"And suppose a Selenite never had an existence at all!" interposed
Barbican with his usual success in putting an end to the argument. "But
never mind the Selenites now. Observe _Eratosthenes_ as long as you have
the opportunity."

"Which will not be very long," said M'Nicholl. "He is already sinking
out of view too far to the right to be carefully observed."

"What are those peaks beyond him?" asked Ardan.

"The _Apennines_," answered Barbican; "and those on the left are the
_Carpathians_."

"I have seen very few mountain chains or ranges in the Moon," remarked
Ardan, after some minutes' observation.

"Mountains chains are not numerous in the Moon," replied Barbican, "and
in that respect her oreographic system presents a decided contrast with
that of the Earth. With us the ranges are many, the craters few; in the
Moon the ranges are few and the craters innumerable."

Barbican might have spoken of another curious feature regarding the
mountain ranges: namely, that they are chiefly confined to the northern
hemisphere, where the craters are fewest and the "seas" the most
extensive.

For the benefit of those interested, and to be done at once with this
part of the subject, we give in the following little table a list of the
chief lunar mountain chains, with their latitude, and respective
heights in English feet.

              _Name._          _Degrees of Latitude._      _Height._

            { _Altai Mountains_     17 deg. to 28              13,000ft.
Southern    { _Cordilleras_         10  to 20              12,000
Hemisphere. { _Pyrenees_             8  to 18              12,000
            { _Riphean_              5  to 10               2,600

            { _Haemus_              10  to 20               6,300
            { _Carpathian_          15  to 19               6,000
            { _Apennines_           14  to 27              18,000
Northern    { _Taurus_              25  to 34               8,500
Hemisphere. { _Hercynian_           17  to 29               3,400
            { _Caucasus_            33  to 40              17,000
            { _Alps_                42  to 30              10,000

Of these different chains, the most important is that of the
_Apennines_, about 450 miles long, a length, however, far inferior to
that of many of the great mountain ranges of our globe. They skirt the
western shores of the _Mare Imbrium_, over which they rise in immense
cliffs, 18 or 20 thousand feet in height, steep as a wall and casting
over the plain intensely black shadows at least 90 miles long. Of Mt.
_Huyghens_, the highest in the group, the travellers were just barely
able to distinguish the sharp angular summit in the far west. To the
east, however, the _Carpathians_, extending from the 18th to 30th
degrees of east longitude, lay directly under their eyes and could be
examined in all the peculiarities of their distribution.

Barbican proposed a hypothesis regarding the formation of those
mountains, which his companions thought at least as good as any other.
Looking carefully over the _Carpathians_ and catching occasional
glimpses of semi-circular formations and half domes, he concluded that
the chain must have formerly been a succession of vast craters. Then had
come some mighty internal discharge, or rather the subsidence to which
_Mare Imbrium_ is due, for it immediately broke off or swallowed up one
half of those mountains, leaving the other half steep as a wall on one
side and sloping gently on the other to the level of the surrounding
plains. The _Carpathians_ were therefore pretty nearly in the same
condition as the crater mountains _Ptolemy_, _Alpetragius_ and
_Arzachel_ would find themselves in, if some terrible cataclysm, by
tearing away their eastern ramparts, had turned them into a chain of
mountains whose towering cliffs would nod threateningly over the western
shores of _Mare Nubium_. The mean height of the _Carpathians_ is about
6,000 feet, the altitude of certain points in the Pyrenees such as the
_Port of Pineda_, or _Roland's Breach_, in the shadow of _Mont Perdu_.
The northern slopes of the _Carpathians_ sink rapidly towards the shores
of the vast _Mare Imbrium_.

Towards two o'clock in the morning, Barbican calculated the Projectile
to be on the 20th northern parallel, and therefore almost immediately
over the little ring mountain called _Pytheas_, about 4600 feet in
height. The distance of the travellers from the Moon at this point
could not be more than about 750 miles, reduced to about 7 by means of
their excellent telescopes.

_Mare Imbrium_, the Sea of Rains here revealed itself in all its
vastness to the eyes of the travellers, though it must be acknowledged
that the immense depression so called, did not afford them a very clear
idea regarding its exact boundaries. Right ahead of them rose _Lambert_
about a mile in height; and further on, more to the left, in the
direction of _Oceanus Procellarum_, _Euler_ revealed itself by its
glittering radiations. This mountain, of about the same height as
_Lambert_, had been the object of very interesting calculations on the
part of Schroeter of Erfurt. This keen observer, desirous of inquiring
into the probable origin of the lunar mountains, had proposed to himself
the following question: Does the volume of the crater appear to be equal
to that of the surrounding ramparts? His calculations showing him that
this was generally the case, he naturally concluded that these ramparts
must therefore have been the product of a single eruption, for
successive eruptions of volcanic matter would have disturbed this
correlation. _Euler_ alone, he found, to be an exception to this general
law, as the volume of its crater appeared to be twice as great as that
of the mass surrounding it. It must therefore have been formed by
several eruptions in succession, but in that case what had become of the
ejected matter?

Theories of this nature and all manner of scientific questions were, of
course, perfectly permissible to terrestrial astronomers laboring under
the disadvantage of imperfect instruments. But Barbican could not think
of wasting his time in any speculation of the kind, and now, seeing that
his Projectile perceptibly approached the lunar disc, though he
despaired of ever reaching it, he was more sanguine than ever of being
soon able to discover positively and unquestionably some of the secrets
of its formation.

[Footnote C: We must again remind our readers that, in our map, though
every thing is set down as it appears to the eye not as it is reversed
by the telescope, still, for the reason made so clear by Barbican, the
right hand side must be the west and the left the east.]




CHAPTER XIII.

LUNAR LANDSCAPES


At half past two in the morning of December 6th, the travellers crossed
the 30th northern parallel, at a distance from the lunar surface of 625
miles, reduced to about 6 by their spy-glasses. Barbican could not yet
see the least probability of their landing at any point of the disc. The
velocity of the Projectile was decidedly slow, but for that reason
extremely puzzling. Barbican could not account for it. At such a
proximity to the Moon, the velocity, one would think, should be very
great indeed to be able to counteract the lunar attraction. Why did it
not fall? Barbican could not tell; his companions were equally in the
dark. Ardan said he gave it up. Besides they had no time to spend in
investigating it. The lunar panorama was unrolling all its splendors
beneath them, and they could not bear to lose one of its slightest
details.

The lunar disc being brought within a distance of about six miles by the
spy-glasses, it is a fair question to ask, what _could_ an aeronaut at
such an elevation from our Earth discover on its surface? At present
that question can hardly be answered, the most remarkable balloon
ascensions never having passed an altitude of five miles under
circumstances favorable for observers. Here, however, is an account,
carefully transcribed from notes taken on the spot, of what Barbican and
his companions _did_ see from their peculiar post of observation.

Varieties of color, in the first place, appeared here and there upon the
disc. Selenographers are not quite agreed as to the nature of these
colors. Not that such colors are without variety or too faint to be
easily distinguished. Schmidt of Athens even says that if our oceans on
earth were all evaporated, an observer in the Moon would hardly find the
seas and continents of our globe even so well outlined as those of the
Moon are to the eye of a terrestrial observer. According to him, the
shade of color distinguishing those vast plains known as "seas" is a
dark gray dashed with green and brown,--a color presented also by a few
of the great craters.

This opinion of Schmidt's, shared by Beer and Maedler, Barbican's
observations now convinced him to be far better founded than that of
certain astronomers who admit of no color at all being visible on the
Moon's surface but gray. In certain spots the greenish tint was quite
decided, particularly in _Mare Serenitatis_ and _Mare Humorum,_ the very
localities where Schmidt had most noticed it. Barbican also remarked
that several large craters, of the class that had no interior cones,
reflected a kind of bluish tinge, somewhat like that given forth by a
freshly polished steel plate. These tints, he now saw enough to convince
him, proceeded really from the lunar surface, and were not due, as
certain astronomers asserted, either to the imperfections of the
spy-glasses, or to the interference of the terrestrial atmosphere. His
singular opportunity for correct observation allowed him to entertain no
doubt whatever on the subject. Hampered by no atmosphere, he was free
from all liability to optical illusion. Satisfied therefore as to the
reality of these tints, he considered such knowledge a positive gain to
science. But that greenish tint--to what was it due? To a dense tropical
vegetation maintained by a low atmosphere, a mile or so in thickness?
Possibly. But this was another question that could not be answered at
present.

Further on he could detect here and there traces of a decidedly ruddy
tint. Such a shade he knew had been already detected in the _Palus
Somnii_, near _Mare Crisium_, and in the circular area of _Lichtenberg_,
near the _Hercynian Mountains_, on the eastern edge of the Moon. To what
cause was this tint to be attributed? To the actual color of the surface
itself? Or to that of the lava covering it here and there? Or to the
color resulting from the mixture of other colors seen at a distance too
great to allow of their being distinguished separately? Impossible to
tell.

Barbican and his companions succeeded no better at a new problem that
soon engaged their undivided attention. It deserves some detail.

Having passed _Lambert_, being just over _Timocharis_, all were
attentively gazing at the magnificent crater of _Archimedes_ with a
diameter of 52 miles across and ramparts more than 5000 feet in height,
when Ardan startled his companions by suddenly exclaiming:

"Hello! Cultivated fields as I am a living man!"

"What do you mean by your cultivated fields?" asked M'Nicholl sourly,
wiping his glasses and shrugging his shoulders.

"Certainly cultivated fields!" replied Ardan. "Don't you see the
furrows? They're certainly plain enough. They are white too from
glistening in the sun, but they are quite different from the radiating
streaks of _Copernicus_. Why, their sides are perfectly parallel!"

"Where are those furrows?" asked M'Nicholl, putting his glasses to his
eye and adjusting the focus.

"You can see them in all directions," answered Ardan; "but two are
particularly visible: one running north from _Archimedes_, the other
south towards the _Apennines_."

M'Nicholl's face, as he gazed, gradually assumed a grin which soon
developed into a snicker, if not a positive laugh, as he observed to
Ardan:

"Your Selenites must be Brobdignagians, their oxen Leviathans, and their
ploughs bigger than Marston's famous cannon, if these are furrows!"

"How's that, Barbican?" asked Ardan doubtfully, but unwilling to submit
to M'Nicholl.

"They're not furrows, dear friend," said Barbican, "and can't be,
either, simply on account of their immense size. They are what the
German astronomers called _Rillen_; the French, _rainures_, and the
English, _grooves_, _canals_, _clefts_, _cracks_, _chasms_, or
_fissures_."

"You have a good stock of names for them anyhow," observed Ardan, "if
that does any good."

"The number of names given them," answered Barbican, "shows how little
is really known about them. They have been observed in all the level
portion of the Moon's surface. Small as they appear to us, a little
calculation must convince you that they are in some places hundreds of
miles in length, a mile in width and probably in many points several
miles in depth. Their width and depth, however, vary, though their
sides, so far as observed, are always rigorously parallel. Let us take a
good look at them."

Putting the glass to his eye, Barbican examined the clefts for some time
with close attention. He saw that their banks were sharp edged and
extremely steep. In many places they were of such geometrical regularity
that he readily excused Gruithuysen's idea of deeming them to be
gigantic earthworks thrown up by the Selenite engineers. Some of them
were as straight as if laid out with a line, others were curved a little
here and there, though still maintaining the strict parallelism of their
sides. These crossed each other; those entered craters and came out at
the other side. Here, they furrowed annular plateaus, such as
_Posidonius_ or _Petavius_. There, they wrinkled whole seas, for
instance, _Mare Serenitatis_.

These curious peculiarities of the lunar surface had interested the
astronomic mind to a very high degree at their first discovery, and have
proved to be very perplexing problems ever since. The first observers do
not seem to have noticed them. Neither Hevelius, nor Cassini, nor La
Hire, nor Herschel, makes a single remark regarding their nature.

It was Schroeter, in 1789, who called the attention of scientists to
them for the first time. He had only 11 to show, but Lohrmann soon
recorded 75 more. Pastorff, Gruithuysen, and particularly Beer and
Maedler were still more successful, but Julius Schmidt, the famous
astronomer of Athens, has raised their number up to 425, and has even
published their names in a catalogue. But counting them is one thing,
determining their nature is another. They are not fortifications,
certainly: and cannot be ancient beds of dried up rivers, for two very
good and sufficient reasons: first, water, even under the most favorable
circumstances on the Moon's surface, could have never ploughed up such
vast channels; secondly, these chasms often traverse lofty craters
through and through, like an immense railroad cutting.

At these details, Ardan's imagination became unusually excited and of
course it was not without some result. It even happened that he hit on
an idea that had already suggested itself to Schmidt of Athens.

"Why not consider them," he asked, "to be the simple phenomena of
vegetation?"

"What do you mean?" asked Barbican.

"Rows of sugar cane?" suggested M'Nicholl with a snicker.

"Not exactly, my worthy Captain," answered Ardan quietly, "though you
were perhaps nearer to the mark than you expected. I don't mean exactly
rows of sugar cane, but I do mean vast avenues of trees--poplars, for
instance--planted regularly on each side of a great high road."

"Still harping on vegetation!" said the Captain. "Ardan, what a splendid
historian was spoiled in you! The less you know about your facts, the
readier you are to account for them."

"_Ma foi_," said Ardan simply, "I do only what the greatest of your
scientific men do--that is, guess. There is this difference however
between us--I call my guesses, guesses, mere conjecture;--they dignify
theirs as profound theories or as astounding discoveries!"

"Often the case, friend Ardan, too often the case," said Barbican.

"In the question under consideration, however," continued the Frenchman,
"my conjecture has this advantage over some others: it explains why
these rills appear and seem to disappear at regular intervals."

"Let us hear the explanation," said the Captain.

"They become invisible when the trees lose their leaves, and they
reappear when they resume them."

"His explanation is not without ingenuity," observed Barbican to
M'Nicholl, "but, my dear friend," turning to Ardan, "it is hardly
admissible."

"Probably not," said Ardan, "but why not?"

"Because as the Sun is nearly always vertical to the lunar equator, the
Moon can have no change of seasons worth mentioning; therefore her
vegetation can present none of the phenomena that you speak of."

This was perfectly true. The slight obliquity of the Moon's axis, only
1-1/2 deg., keeps the Sun in the same altitude the whole year around. In the
equatorial regions he is always vertical, and in the polar he is never
higher than the horizon. Therefore, there can be no change of seasons;
according to the latitude, it is a perpetual winter, spring, summer, or
autumn the whole year round. This state of things is almost precisely
similar to that which prevails in Jupiter, who also stands nearly
upright in his orbit, the inclination of his axis being only about 3 deg..

But how to account for the _grooves_? A very hard nut to crack. They
must certainly be a later formation than the craters and the rings, for
they are often found breaking right through the circular ramparts.
Probably the latest of all lunar features, the results of the last
geological epochs, they are due altogether to expansion or shrinkage
acting on a large scale and brought about by the great forces of nature,
operating after a manner altogether unknown on our earth. Such at least
was Barbican's idea.

"My friends," he quietly observed, "without meaning to put forward any
pretentious claims to originality, but by simply turning to account some
advantages that have never before befallen contemplative mortal eye, why
not construct a little hypothesis of our own regarding the nature of
these grooves and the causes that gave them birth? Look at that great
chasm just below us, somewhat to the right. It is at least fifty or
sixty miles long and runs along the base of the _Apennines_ in a line
almost perfectly straight. Does not its parallelism with the mountain
chain suggest a causative relation? See that other mighty _rill_, at
least a hundred and fifty miles long, starting directly north of it and
pursuing so true a course that it cleaves _Archimedes_ almost cleanly
into two. The nearer it lies to the mountain, as you perceive, the
greater its width; as it recedes in either direction it grows narrower.
Does not everything point out to one great cause of their origin? They
are simple crevasses, like those so often noticed on Alpine glaciers,
only that these tremendous cracks in the surface are produced by the
shrinkage of the crust consequent on cooling. Can we point out some
analogies to this on the Earth? Certainly. The defile of the Jordan,
terminating in the awful depression of the Dead Sea, no doubt occurs to
you on the moment. But the _Yosemite Valley_, as I saw it ten years ago,
is an apter comparison. There I stood on the brink of a tremendous chasm
with perpendicular walls, a mile in width, a mile in depth and eight
miles in length. Judge if I was astounded! But how should we feel it,
when travelling on the lunar surface, we should suddenly find ourselves
on the brink of a yawning chasm two miles wide, fifty miles long, and so
fathomless in sheer vertical depth as to leave its black profundities
absolutely invisible in spite of the dazzling sunlight!"

"I feel my flesh already crawling even in the anticipation!" cried
Ardan.

"I shan't regret it much if we never get to the Moon," growled
M'Nicholl; "I never hankered after it anyhow!"

By this time the Projectile had reached the fortieth degree of lunar
latitude, and could hardly be further than five hundred miles from the
surface, a distance reduced to about 5 miles by the travellers' glasses.
Away to their left appeared _Helicon_, a ring mountain about 1600 feet
high; and still further to the left the eye could catch a glimpse of the
cliffs enclosing a semi-elliptical portion of _Mare Imbrium_, called the
_Sinus Iridium_, or Bay of the Rainbows.

In order to allow astronomers to make complete observations on the lunar
surface, the terrestrial atmosphere should possess a transparency
seventy times greater than its present power of transmission. But in the
void through which the Projectile was now floating, no fluid whatever
interposed between the eye of the observer and the object observed.
Besides, the travellers now found themselves at a distance that had
never before been reached by the most powerful telescopes, including
even Lord Rosse's and the great instrument on the Rocky Mountains.
Barbican was therefore in a condition singularly favorable to resolve
the great question concerning the Moon's inhabitableness. Nevertheless,
the solution still escaped him. He could discover nothing around him but
a dreary waste of immense plains, and towards the north, beneath him,
bare mountains of the aridest character.

Not the slightest vestige of man's work could be detected over the vast
expanse. Not the slightest sign of a ruin spoke of his ever having been
there. Nothing betrayed the slightest trace of the development of animal
life, even in an inferior degree. No movement. Not the least glimpse of
vegetation. Of the three great kingdoms that hold dominion on the
surface of the globe, the mineral, the vegetable and the animal, one
alone was represented on the lunar sphere: the mineral, the whole
mineral, and nothing but the mineral.

"Why!" exclaimed Ardan, with a disconcerted look, after a long and
searching examination, "I can't find anybody. Everything is as
motionless as a street in Pompeii at 4 o'clock in the morning!"

[Illustration: THE SOLUTION STILL ESCAPED HIM.]

"Good comparison, friend Ardan;" observed M'Nicholl. "Lava, slag,
volcanic eminences, vitreous matter glistening like ice, piles of
scoria, pitch black shadows, dazzling streaks, like rivers of light
breaking over jagged rocks--these are now beneath my eye--these alone I
can detect--not a man--not an animal--not a tree. The great American
Desert is a land of milk and honey in comparison with the joyless orb
over which we are now moving. However, even yet we can predicate
nothing positive. The atmosphere may have taken refuge in the depths of
the chasms, in the interior of the craters, or even on the opposite side
of the Moon, for all we know!"

"Still we must remember," observed Barbican, "that even the sharpest eye
cannot detect a man at a distance greater than four miles and a-half,
and our glasses have not yet brought us nearer than five."

"Which means to say," observed Ardan, "that though we can't see the
Selenites, they can see our Projectile!"

But matters had not improved much when, towards four o'clock in the
morning, the travellers found themselves on the 50th parallel, and at a
distance of only about 375 miles from the lunar surface. Still no trace
of the least movement, or even of the lowest form of life.

"What peaked mountain is that which we have just passed on our right?"
asked Ardan. "It is quite remarkable, standing as it does in almost
solitary grandeur in the barren plain."

"That is _Pico_," answered Barbican. "It is at least 8000 feet high and
is well known to terrestrial astronomers as well by its peculiar shadow
as on account of its comparative isolation. See the collection of
perfectly formed little craters nestling around its base."

"Barbican," asked M'Nicholl suddenly, "what peak is that which lies
almost directly south of _Pico_? I see it plainly, but I can't find it
on my map."

"I have remarked that pyramidal peak myself," replied Barbican; "but I
can assure you that so far it has received no name as yet, although it
is likely enough to have been distinguished by the terrestrial
astronomers. It can't be less than 4000 feet in height."

"I propose we called it _Barbican_!" cried Ardan enthusiastically.

"Agreed!" answered M'Nicholl, "unless we can find a higher one."

"We must be before-hand with Schmidt of Athens!" exclaimed Ardan. "He
will leave nothing unnamed that his telescope can catch a glimpse of."

"Passed unanimously!" cried M'Nicholl.

"And officially recorded!" added the Frenchman, making the proper entry
on his map.

"_Salve, Mt. Barbican!_" then cried both gentlemen, rising and taking
off their hats respectfully to the distant peak.

"Look to the west!" interrupted Barbican, watching, as usual, while his
companions were talking, and probably perfectly unconscious of what they
were saying; "directly to the west! Now tell me what you see!"

"I see a vast valley!" answered M'Nicholl.

"Straight as an arrow!" added Ardan.

"Running through lofty mountains!" cried M'Nicholl.

"Cut through with a pair of saws and scooped out with a chisel!" cried
Ardan.

"See the shadows of those peaks!" cried M'Nicholl catching fire at the
sight. "Black, long, and sharp as if cast by cathedral spires!"

"Oh! ye crags and peaks!" burst forth Ardan; "how I should like to catch
even a faint echo of the chorus you could chant, if a wild storm roared
over your beetling summits! The pine forests of Norwegian mountains
howling in midwinter would not be an accordeon in comparison!"

"Wonderful instance of subsidence on a grand scale!" exclaimed the
Captain, hastily relapsing into science.

"Not at all!" cried the Frenchman, still true to his colors; "no
subsidence there! A comet simply came too close and left its mark as it
flew past."

"Fanciful exclamations, dear friends," observed Barbican; "but I'm not
surprised at your excitement. Yonder is the famous _Valley of the Alps_,
a standing enigma to all selenographers. How it could have been formed,
no one can tell. Even wilder guesses than yours, Ardan, have been
hazarded on the subject. All we can state positively at present
regarding this wonderful formation, is what I have just recorded in my
note-book: the _Valley of the Alps_ is about 5 mile wide and 70 or 80
long: it is remarkably flat and free from _debris_, though the mountains
on each side rise like walls to the height of at least 10,000
feet.--Over the whole surface of our Earth I know of no natural
phenomenon that can be at all compared with it."

"Another wonder almost in front of us!" cried Ardan. "I see a vast lake
black as pitch and round as a crater; it is surrounded by such lofty
mountains that their shadows reach clear across, rendering the interior
quite invisible!"

"That's _Plato_;" said M'Nicholl; "I know it well; it's the darkest spot
on the Moon: many a night I gazed at it from my little observatory in
Broad Street, Philadelphia."

"Right, Captain," said Barbican; "the crater _Plato_, is, indeed,
generally considered the blackest spot on the Moon, but I am inclined to
consider the spots _Grimaldi_ and _Riccioli_ on the extreme eastern edge
to be somewhat darker. If you take my glass, Ardan, which is of somewhat
greater power than yours, you will distinctly see the bottom of the
crater. The reflective power of its plateau probably proceeds from the
exceedingly great number of small craters that you can detect there."

"I think I see something like them now," said Ardan. "But I am sorry the
Projectile's course will not give us a vertical view."

"Can't be helped!" said Barbican; "we must go where it takes us. The day
may come when man can steer the projectile or the balloon in which he is
shut up, in any way he pleases, but that day has not come yet!"

Towards five in the morning, the northern limit of _Mare Imbrium_ was
finally passed, and _Mare Frigoris_ spread its frost-colored plains
far to the right and left. On the east the travellers could easily see
the ring-mountain _Condamine_, about 4000 feet high, while a little
ahead on the right they could plainly distinguish _Fontenelle_ with an
altitude nearly twice as great. _Mare Frigoris_ was soon passed, and the
whole lunar surface beneath the travellers, as far as they could see in
all directions, now bristled with mountains, crags, and peaks. Indeed,
at the 70th parallel the "Seas" or plains seem to have come to an end.
The spy-glasses now brought the surface to within about three miles, a
distance less than that between the hotel at Chamouni and the summit of
Mont Blanc. To the left, they had no difficulty in distinguishing the
ramparts of _Philolaus_, about 12,000 feet high, but though the crater
had a diameter of nearly thirty miles, the black shadows prevented the
slightest sign of its interior from being seen. The Sun was now sinking
very low, and the illuminated surface of the Moon was reduced to a
narrow rim.

By this time, too, the bird's eye view to which the observations had so
far principally confined, decidedly altered its character. They could
now look back at the lunar mountains that they had been just sailing
over--a view somewhat like that enjoyed by a tourist standing on the
summit of Mt. St. Gothard as he sees the sun setting behind the peaks of
the Bernese Oberland. The lunar landscapes however, though seen under
these new and ever varying conditions, "hardly gained much by the
change," according to Ardan's expression. On the contrary, they looked,
if possible, more dreary and inhospitable than before.

The Moon having no atmosphere, the benefit of this gaseous envelope in
softening off and nicely shading the approaches of light and darkness,
heat and cold, is never felt on her surface. There, no twilight ever
softly ushers in the brilliant sun, or sweetly heralds the near approach
of night's dark shadow. Night follows day, and day night, with the
startling suddenness of a match struck or a lamp extinguished in a
cavern. Nor can it present any gradual transition from either extreme of
temperature. Hot jumps to cold, and cold jumps to hot. A moment after a
glacial midnight, it is a roasting noon. Without an instant's warning
the temperature falls from 212 deg. Fahrenheit to the icy winter of
interstellar space. The surface is all dazzling glare, or pitchy gloom.
Wherever the direct rays of the sun do not fall, darkness reigns
supreme. What we call diffused light on Earth, the grateful result of
refraction, the luminous matter held in suspension by the air, the
mother of our dawns and our dusks, of our blushing mornings and our dewy
eyes, of our shades, our penumbras, our tints and all the other magical
effects of _chiaro-oscuro_--this diffused light has absolutely no
existence on the surface of the Moon. Nothing is there to break the
inexorable contrast between intense white and intense black. At mid-day,
let a Selenite shade his eyes and look at the sky: it will appear to him
as black as pitch, while the stars still sparkle before him as vividly
as they do to us on the coldest and darkest night in winter.

From this you can judge of the impression made on our travellers by
those strange lunar landscapes. Even their decided novelty and very
strange character produced any thing but a pleasing effect on the organs
of sight. With all their enthusiasm, the travellers felt their eyes "get
out of gear," as Ardan said, like those of a man blind from his birth
and suddenly restored to sight. They could not adjust them so as to be
able to realize the different plains of vision. All things seemed in a
heap. Foreground and background were indistinguishably commingled. No
painter could ever transfer a lunar landscape to his canvas.

"Landscape," Ardan said; "what do you mean by a landscape? Can you call
a bottle of ink intensely black, spilled over a sheet of paper intensely
white, a landscape?"

At the eightieth degree, when the Projectile was hardly 100 miles
distant from the Moon, the aspect of things underwent no improvement. On
the contrary, the nearer the travellers approached the lunar surface,
the drearier, the more inhospitable, and the more _unearthly_,
everything seem to look. Still when five o'clock in the morning brought
our travellers to within 50 miles of _Mount Gioja_--which their
spy-glasses rendered as visible as if it was only about half a mile off,
Ardan could not control himself.

"Why, we're there" he exclaimed; "we can touch her with our hands! Open
the windows and let me out! Don't mind letting me go by myself. It is
not very inviting quarters I admit. But as we are come to the jumping
off place, I want to see the whole thing through. Open the lower window
and let me out. I can take care of myself!"

"That's what's more than any other man can do," said M'Nicholl drily,
"who wants to take a jump of 50 miles!"

"Better not try it, friend Ardan," said Barbican grimly: "think of
Satellite! The Moon is no more attainable by your body than by our
Projectile. You are far more comfortable in here than when floating
about in empty space like a bolide."

Ardan, unwilling to quarrel with his companions, appeared to give in;
but he secretly consoled himself by a hope which he had been
entertaining for some time, and which now looked like assuming the
appearance of a certainty. The Projectile had been lately approaching
the Moon's surface so rapidly that it at last seemed actually impossible
not to finally touch it somewhere in the neighborhood of the north pole,
whose dazzling ridges now presented themselves in sharp and strong
relief against the black sky. Therefore he kept silent, but quietly
bided his time.

The Projectile moved on, evidently getting nearer and nearer to the
lunar surface. The Moon now appeared to the travellers as she does to us
towards the beginning of her Second Quarter, that is as a bright
crescent instead of a hemisphere. On one side, glaring dazzling light;
on the other, cavernous pitchy darkness. The line separating both was
broken into a thousand bits of protuberances and concavities, dented,
notched, and jagged.

At six o'clock the travellers found themselves exactly over the north
pole. They were quietly gazing at the rapidly shifting features of the
wondrous view unrolling itself beneath them, and were silently wondering
what was to come next, when, suddenly, the Projectile passed the
dividing line. The Sun and Moon instantly vanished from view. The next
moment, without the slightest warning the travellers found themselves
plunged in an ocean of the most appalling darkness!




CHAPTER XIV.

A NIGHT OF FIFTEEN DAYS.


The Projectile being not quite 30 miles from the Moon's north pole when
the startling phenomenon, recorded in our last chapter, took place, a
few seconds were quite sufficient to launch it at once from the
brightest day into the unknown realms of night. The transition was so
abrupt, so unexpected, without the slightest shading off, from dazzling
effulgence to Cimmerian gloom, that the Moon seemed to have been
suddenly extinguished like a lamp when the gas is turned off.

"Where's the Moon?" cried Ardan in amazement.

"It appears as if she had been wiped out of creation!" cried M'Nicholl.

Barbican said nothing, but observed carefully. Not a particle, however,
could he see of the disc that had glittered so resplendently before his
eyes a few moments ago. Not a shadow, not a gleam, not the slightest
vestige could he trace of its existence. The darkness being profound,
the dazzling splendor of the stars only gave a deeper blackness to the
pitchy sky. No wonder. The travellers found themselves now in a night
that had plenty of time not only to become black itself, but to steep
everything connected with it in palpable blackness. This was the night
354-1/4 hours long, during which the invisible face of the Moon is
turned away from the Sun. In this black darkness the Projectile now
fully participated. Having plunged into the Moon's shadow, it was as
effectually cut off from the action of the solar rays as was every point
on the invisible lunar surface itself.

The travellers being no longer able to see each other, it was proposed
to light the gas, though such an unexpected demand on a commodity at
once so scarce and so valuable was certainly disquieting. The gas, it
will be remembered, had been intended for heating alone, not
illumination, of which both Sun and Moon had promised a never ending
supply. But here both Sun and Moon, in a single instant vanished from
before their eyes and left them in Stygian darkness.

"It's all the Sun's fault!" cried Ardan, angrily trying to throw the
blame on something, and, like every angry man in such circumstances,
bound to be rather nonsensical.

"Put the saddle on the right horse, Ardan," said M'Nicholl
patronizingly, always delighted at an opportunity of counting a point
off the Frenchman. "You mean it's all the Moon's fault, don't you, in
setting herself like a screen between us and the Sun?"

"No, I don't!" cried Ardan, not at all soothed by his friend's
patronizing tone, and sticking like a man to his first assertion right
or wrong. "I know what I say! It will be all the Sun's fault if we use
up our gas!"

"Nonsense!" said M'Nicholl. "It's the Moon, who by her interposition has
cut off the Sun's light."

"The Sun had no business to allow it to be cut off," said Ardan, still
angry and therefore decidedly loose in his assertions.

Before M'Nicholl could reply, Barbican interposed, and his even voice
was soon heard pouring balm on the troubled waters.

"Dear friends," he observed, "a little reflection on either side would
convince you that our present situation is neither the Moon's fault nor
the Sun's fault. If anything is to be blamed for it, it is our
Projectile which, instead of rigidly following its allotted course, has
awkwardly contrived to deviate from it. However, strict justice must
acquit even the Projectile. It only obeyed a great law of nature in
shifting its course as soon as it came within the sphere of that
inopportune bolide's influence."

"All right!" said Ardan, as usual in the best of humor after Barbican
had laid down the law. "I have no doubt it is exactly as you say; and,
now that all is settled, suppose we take breakfast. After such a hard
night spent in work, a little refreshment would not be out of place!"

Such a proposition being too reasonable even for M'Nicholl to oppose,
Ardan turned on the gas, and had everything ready for the meal in a few
minutes. But, this time, breakfast was consumed in absolute silence. No
toasts were offered, no hurrahs were uttered. A painful uneasiness had
seized the hearts of the daring travellers. The darkness into which
they were so suddenly plunged, told decidedly on their spirits. They
felt almost as if they had been suddenly deprived of their sight. That
thick, dismal savage blackness, which Victor Hugo's pen is so fond of
occasionally revelling in, surrounded them on all sides and crushed them
like an iron shroud.

It was felt worse than ever when, breakfast being over, Ardan carefully
turned off the gas, and everything within the Projectile was as dark as
without. However, though they could not see each other's faces, they
could hear each other's voices, and therefore they soon began to talk.
The most natural subject of conversation was this terrible night 354
hours long, which the laws of nature have imposed on the Lunar
inhabitants. Barbican undertook to give his friends some explanation
regarding the cause of the startling phenomenon, and the consequences
resulting from it.

"Yes, startling is the word for it," observed Barbican, replying to a
remark of Ardan's; "and still more so when we reflect that not only are
both lunar hemispheres deprived, by turns, of sun light for nearly 15
days, but that also the particular hemisphere over which we are at this
moment floating is all that long night completely deprived of
earth-light. In other words, it is only one side of the Moon's disc that
ever receives any light from the Earth. From nearly every portion of one
side of the Moon, the Earth is always as completely absent as the Sun is
from us at midnight. Suppose an analogous case existed on the Earth;
suppose, for instance, that neither in Europe, Asia or North America
was the Moon ever visible--that, in fact, it was to be seen only at our
antipodes. With what astonishment should we contemplate her for the
first time on our arrival in Australia or New Zealand!"

"Every man of us would pack off to Australia to see her!" cried Ardan.

"Yes," said M'Nicholl sententiously; "for a visit to the South Sea a
Turk would willingly forego Mecca; and a Bostonian would prefer Sidney
even to Paris."

"Well," resumed Barbican, "this interesting marvel is reserved for the
Selenite that inhabits the side of the Moon which is always turned away
from our globe."

"And which," added the Captain, "we should have had the unspeakable
satisfaction of contemplating if we had only arrived at the period when
the Sun and the Earth are not at the same side of the Moon--that is, 15
days sooner or later than now."

"For my part, however," continued Barbican, not heeding these
interruptions, "I must confess that, notwithstanding the magnificent
splendor of the spectacle when viewed for the first time by the Selenite
who inhabits the dark side of the Moon, I should prefer to be a resident
on the illuminated side. The former, when his long, blazing, roasting,
dazzling day is over, has a night 354 hours long, whose darkness, like
that, just now surrounding us, is ever unrelieved save by the cold
cheerless rays of the stars. But the latter has hardly seen his fiery
sun sinking on one horizon when he beholds rising on the opposite one an
orb, milder, paler, and colder indeed than the Sun, but fully as large
as thirteen of our full Moons, and therefore shedding thirteen times as
much light. This would be our Earth. It would pass through all its
phases too, exactly like our Satellite. The Selenites would have their
New Earth, Full Earth, and Last Quarter. At midnight, grandly
illuminated, it would shine with the greatest glory. But that is almost
as much as can be said for it. Its futile heat would but poorly
compensate for its superior radiance. All the calorie accumulated in the
lunar soil during the 354 hours day would have by this time radiated
completely into space. An intensity of cold would prevail, in comparison
to which a Greenland winter is tropical. The temperature of interstellar
space, 250 deg. below zero, would be reached. Our Selenite, heartily tired
of the cold pale Earth, would gladly see her sink towards the horizon,
waning as she sank, till at last she appeared no more than half full.
Then suddenly a faint rim of the solar orb reveals itself on the edge of
the opposite sky. Slowly, more than 14 times more slowly than with us,
does the Sun lift himself above the lunar horizon. In half an hour, only
half his disc is revealed, but that is more than enough to flood the
lunar landscape with a dazzling intensity of light, of which we have no
counterpart on Earth. No atmosphere refracts it, no hazy screen softens
it, no enveloping vapor absorbs it, no obstructing medium colors it. It
breaks on the eye, harsh, white, dazzling, blinding, like the electric
light seen a few yards off. As the hours wear away, the more blasting
becomes the glare; and the higher he rises in the black sky, but slowly,
slowly. It takes him seven of our days to reach the meridian. By that
time the heat has increased from an arctic temperature to double the
boiling water point, from 250 deg. below zero to 500 deg. above it, or the point
at which tin melts. Subjected to these extremes, the glassy rocks crack,
shiver and crumble away; enormous land slides occur; peaks topple over;
and tons of debris, crashing down the mountains, are swallowed up
forever in the yawing chasms of the bottomless craters."

"Bravo!" cried Ardan, clapping his hands softly: "our President is
sublime! He reminds me of the overture of _Guillaume Tell_!"

"Souvenir de Marston!" growled M'Nicholl.

"These phenomena," continued Barbican, heedless of interruption and his
voice betraying a slight glow of excitement, "these phenomena going on
without interruption from month to month, from year to year, from age to
age, from _eon_ to _eon_, have finally convinced me that--what?" he
asked his hearers, interrupting himself suddenly.

--"That the existence at the present time--" answered M'Nicholl.

--"Of either animal or vegetable life--" interrupted Ardan.

--"In the Moon is hardly possible!" cried both in one voice.

"Besides?" asked Barbican: "even if there _is_ any life--?"

--"That to live on the dark side would be much more inconvenient than on
the light side!" cried M'Nicholl promptly.

--"That there is no choice between them!" cried Ardan just as ready.
"For my part, I should think a residence on Mt. Erebus or in Grinnell
Land a terrestrial paradise in comparison to either. The _Earth shine_
might illuminate the light side of the Moon a little during the long
night, but for any practical advantage towards heat or life, it would be
perfectly useless!"

"But there is another serious difference between the two sides," said
Barbican, "in addition to those enumerated. The dark side is actually
more troubled with excessive variations of temperature than the light
one."

"That assertion of our worthy President," interrupted Ardan, "with all
possible respect for his superior knowledge, I am disposed to question."

"It's as clear as day!" said Barbican.

"As clear as mud, you mean, Mr. President;" interrupted Ardan, "the
temperature of the light side is excited by two objects at the same
time, the Earth and the Sun, whereas--"

--"I beg your pardon, Ardan--" said Barbican.

--"Granted, dear boy--granted with the utmost pleasure!" interrupted the
Frenchman.

"I shall probably have to direct my observations altogether to you,
Captain," continued Barbican; "friend Michael interrupts me so often
that I'm afraid he can hardly understand my remarks."

"I always admired your candor, Barbican," said Ardan; "it's a noble
quality, a grand quality!"

"Don't mention it," replied Barbican, turning towards M'Nicholl, still
in the dark, and addressing him exclusively; "You see, my dear Captain,
the period at which the Moon's invisible side receives at once its light
and heat is exactly the period of her _conjunction_, that is to say,
when she is lying between the Earth and the Sun. In comparison therefore
with the place which she had occupied at her _opposition_, or when her
visible side was fully illuminated, she is nearer to the Sun by double
her distance from the Earth, or nearly 480 thousand miles. Therefore, my
dear Captain, you can see how when the invisible side of the Moon is
turned towards the Sun, she is nearly half a million of miles nearer to
him than she had been before. Therefore, her heat should be so much the
greater."

"I see it at a glance," said the Captain.

"Whereas--" continued Barbican.

"One moment!" cried Ardan.

"Another interruption!" exclaimed Barbican; "What is the meaning of it,
Sir?"

"I ask my honorable friend the privilege of the floor for one moment,"
cried Ardan.

"What for?"

"To continue the explanation."

"Why so?"

"To show that I can understand as well as interrupt!"

"You have the floor!" exclaimed Barbican, in a voice no longer showing
any traces of ill humor.

"I expected no less from the honorable gentleman's well known courtesy,"
replied Ardan. Then changing his manner and imitating to the life
Barbican's voice, articulation, and gestures, he continued: "Whereas,
you see, my dear Captain, the period at which the Moon's visible side
receives at once its light and heat, is exactly the period of her
_opposition_, that is to say, when she is lying on one side of the Earth
and the Sun at the other. In comparison therefore with the point which
she had occupied in _conjunction_, or when her invisible side was fully
illuminated, she is farther from the Sun by double her distance from the
Earth, or nearly 480,000 miles. Therefore, my dear Captain, you can
readily see how when the Moon's invisible side is turned _from_ the Sun,
she is nearly half a million miles further from him than she had been
before. Therefore her heat should be so much the less."

"Well done, friend Ardan!" cried Barbican, clapping his hands with
pleasure. "Yes, Captain, he understood it as well as either of us the
whole time. Intelligence, not indifference, caused him to interrupt.
Wonderful fellow!"

"That's the kind of a man I am!" replied Ardan, not without some degree
of complacency. Then he added simply: "Barbican, my friend, if I
understand your explanations so readily, attribute it all to their
astonishing lucidity. If I have any faculity, it is that of being able
to scent common sense at the first glimmer. Your sentences are so
steeped in it that I catch their full meaning long before you end
them--hence my apparent inattention. But we're not yet done with the
visible face of the Moon: it seems to me you have not yet enumerated all
the advantages in which it surpasses the other side."

"Another of these advantages," continued Barbican, "is that it is from
the visible side alone that eclipses of the Sun can be seen. This is
self-evident, the interposition of the Earth being possible only between
this visible face and the Sun. Furthermore, such eclipses of the Sun
would be of a far more imposing character than anything of the kind to
be witnessed from our Earth. This is chiefly for two reasons: first,
when we, terrestrians, see the Sun eclipsed, we notice that, the discs
of the two orbs being of about the same apparent size, one cannot hide
the other except for a short time; second, as the two bodies are moving
in opposite directions, the total duration of the eclipse, even under
the most favorable circumstances, can't last longer than 7 minutes.
Whereas to a Selenite who sees the Earth eclipse the Sun, not only does
the Earth's disc appear four times larger than the Sun's, but also, as
his day is 14 times longer than ours, the two heavenly bodies must
remain several hours in contact. Besides, notwithstanding the apparent
superiority of the Earth's disc, the refracting power of the atmosphere
will never allow the Sun to be eclipsed altogether. Even when completely
screened by the Earth, he would form a beautiful circle around her of
yellow, red, and crimson light, in which she would appear to float like
a vast sphere of jet in a glowing sea of gold, rubies, sparkling
carbuncles and garnets."

"It seems to me," said M'Nicholl, "that, taking everything into
consideration, the invisible side has been rather shabbily treated."

"I know I should not stay there very long," said Ardan; "the desire of
seeing such a splendid sight as that eclipse would be enough to bring me
to the visible side as soon as possible."

"Yes, I have no doubt of that, friend Michael," pursued Barbican; "but
to see the eclipse it would not be necessary to quit the dark hemisphere
altogether. You are, of course, aware that in consequence of her
librations, or noddings, or wobblings, the Moon presents to the eyes of
the Earth a little more than the exact half of her disc. She has two
motions, one on her path around the Earth, and the other a shifting
around on her own axis by which she endeavors to keep the same side
always turned towards our sphere. This she cannot always do, as while
one motion, the latter, is strictly uniform, the other being eccentric,
sometimes accelerating her and sometimes retarding, she has not time to
shift herself around completely and with perfect correspondence of
movement. At her perigee, for instance, she moves forward quicker than
she can shift, so that we detect a portion of her western border before
she has time to conceal it. Similarly, at her apogee, when her rate of
motion is comparatively slow, she shifts a little too quickly for her
velocity, and therefore cannot help revealing a certain portion of her
eastern border. She shows altogether about 8 degrees of the dark side,
about 4 at the east and 4 at the west, so that, out of her 360 degrees,
about 188, in other words, a little more than 57 per cent., about 4/7 of
the entire surface, becomes visible to human eyes. Consequently a
Selenite could catch an occasional glimpse of our Earth, without
altogether quitting the dark side."

"No matter for that!" cried Ardan; "if we ever become Selenites we must
inhabit the visible side. My weak point is light, and that I must have
when it can be got."

"Unless, as perhaps in this case, you might be paying too dear for it,"
observed M'Nicholl. "How would you like to pay for your light by the
loss of the atmosphere, which, according to some philosophers, is piled
away on the dark side?"

"Ah! In that case I should consider a little before committing myself,"
replied Ardan, "I should like to hear your opinion regarding such a
notion, Barbican. Hey! Do your hear? Have astronomers any valid reasons
for supposing the atmosphere to have fled to the dark side of the Moon?"

"Defer that question till some other time, Ardan," whispered M'Nicholl;
"Barbican is just now thinking out something that interests him far more
deeply than any empty speculation of astronomers. If you are near the
window, look out through it towards the Moon. Can you see anything?"

"I can feel the window with my hand; but for all I can see, I might as
well be over head and ears in a hogshead of ink."

The two friends kept up a desultory conversation, but Barbican did not
hear them. One fact, in particular, troubled him, and he sought in vain
to account for it. Having come so near the Moon--about 30 miles--why had
not the Projectile gone all the way? Had its velocity been very great,
the tendency to fall could certainly be counteracted. But the velocity
being undeniably very moderate, how explain such a decided resistance to
Lunar attraction? Had the Projectile come within the sphere of some
strange unknown influence? Did the neighborhood of some mysterious body
retain it firmly imbedded in ether? That it would never reach the Moon,
was now beyond all doubt; but where was it going? Nearer to her or
further off? Or was it rushing resistlessly into infinity on the wings
of that pitchy night? Who could tell, know, calculate--who could even
guess, amid the horror of this gloomy blackness? Questions, like these,
left Barbican no rest; in vain he tried to grapple with them; he felt
like a child before them, baffled and almost despairing.

In fact, what could be more tantalizing? Just outside their windows,
only a few leagues off, perhaps only a few miles, lay the radiant planet
of the night, but in every respect as far off from the eyes of himself
and his companions as if she was hiding at the other side of Jupiter!
And to their ears she was no nearer. Earthquakes of the old Titanic type
might at that very moment be upheaving her surface with resistless
force, crashing mountain against mountain as fiercely as wave meets wave
around the storm-lashed cliffs of Cape Horn. But not the faintest far
off murmur even of such a mighty tumult could break the dead brooding
silence that surrounded the travellers. Nay, the Moon, realizing the
weird fancy of the Arabian poet, who calls her a "giant stiffening into
granite, but struggling madly against his doom," might shriek, in a
spasm of agony, loudly enough to be heard in Sirius. But our travellers
could not hear it. Their ears no sound could now reach. They could no
more detect the rending of a continent than the falling of a feather.
Air, the propagator and transmitter of sound, was absent from her
surface. Her cries, her struggles, her groans, were all smothered
beneath the impenetrable tomb of eternal silence!

These were some of the fanciful ideas by which Ardan tried to amuse his
companions in the present unsatisfactory state of affairs. His efforts,
however well meant, were not successful. M'Nicholl's growls were more
savage than usual, and even Barbican's patience was decidedly giving
way. The loss of the other face they could have easily borne--with most
of its details they had been already familiar. But, no, it must be the
dark face that now escaped their observation! The very one that for
numberless reasons they were actually dying to see! They looked out of
the windows once more at the black Moon beneath them.

There it lay below them, a round black spot, hiding the sweet faces of
the stars, but otherwise no more distinguishable by the travellers than
if they were lying in the depths of the Mammoth Cave of Kentucky. And
just think. Only fifteen days before, that dark face had been splendidly
illuminated by the solar beams, every crater lustrous, every peak
sparkling, every streak glistening under the vertical ray. In fifteen
days later, a day light the most brilliant would have replaced a
midnight the most Cimmerian. But in fifteen days later, where would the
Projectile be? In what direction would it have been drawn by the forces
innumerable of attractions incalculable? To such a question as this,
even Ardan would reply only by an ominous shake of the head.

We know already that our travellers, as well as astronomers generally,
judging from that portion of the dark side occasionally revealed by the
Moon's librations, were _pretty certain_ that there is no great
difference between her two sides, as far as regards their physical
constitutions. This portion, about the seventh part, shows plains and
mountains, circles and craters, all of precisely the same nature as
those already laid down on the chart. Judging therefore from analogy,
the other three-sevenths are, in all probability a world in every
respect exactly like the visible face--that is, arid, desert, dead. But
our travellers also knew that _pretty certain_ is far from _quite
certain_, and that arguing merely from analogy may enable you to give a
good guess, but can never lead you to an undoubted conclusion. What if
the atmosphere had really withdrawn to this dark face? And if air, why
not water? Would not this be enough to infuse life into the whole
continent? Why should not vegetation flourish on its plains, fish in its
seas, animals in its forests, and man in every one of its zones that
were capable of sustaining life? To these interesting questions, what a
satisfaction it would be to be able to answer positively one way or
another! For thousands of difficult problems a mere glimpse at this
hemisphere would be enough to furnish a satisfactory reply. How glorious
it would be to contemplate a realm on which the eye of man has never yet
rested!

Great, therefore, as you may readily conceive, was the depression of our
travellers' spirits, as they pursued their way, enveloped in a veil of
darkness the most profound. Still even then Ardan, as usual, formed
somewhat of an exception. Finding it impossible to see a particle of the
Lunar surface, he gave it up for good, and tried to console himself by
gazing at the stars, which now fairly blazed in the spangled heavens.
And certainly never before had astronomer enjoyed an opportunity for
gazing at the heavenly bodies under such peculiar advantages. How Fraye
of Paris, Chacornac of Lyons, and Father Secchi of Rome would have
envied him!

For, candidly and truly speaking, never before had mortal eye revelled
on such a scene of starry splendor. The black sky sparkled with lustrous
fires, like the ceiling of a vast hall of ebony encrusted with flashing
diamonds. Ardan's eye could take in the whole extent in an easy sweep
from the _Southern Cross_ to the _Little Bear_, thus embracing within
one glance not only the two polar stars of the present day, but also
_Campus_ and _Vega_, which, by reason of the _precession of the
Equinoxes_, are to be our polar stars 12,000 years hence. His
imagination, as if intoxicated, reeled wildly through these sublime
infinitudes and got lost in them. He forgot all about himself and all
about his companions. He forgot even the strangeness of the fate that
had sent them wandering through these forbidden regions, like a
bewildered comet that had lost its way. With what a soft sweet light
every star glowed! No matter what its magnitude, the stream that flowed
from it looked calm and holy. No twinkling, no scintillation, no
nictitation, disturbed their pure and lambent gleam. No atmosphere here
interposed its layers of humidity or of unequal density to interrupt the
stately majesty of their effulgence. The longer he gazed upon them, the
more absorbing became their attraction. He felt that they were great
kindly eyes looking down even yet with benevolence and protection on
himself and his companions now driving wildly through space, and lost
in the pathless depths of the black ocean of infinity!

He soon became aware that his friends, following his example, had
interested themselves in gazing at the stars, and were now just as
absorbed as himself in the contemplation of the transcendent spectacle.
For a long time all three continued to feast their eyes on all the
glories of the starry firmament; but, strange to say, the part that
seemed to possess the strangest and weirdest fascination for their
wandering glances was the spot where the vast disc of the Moon showed
like an enormous round hole, black and soundless, and apparently deep
enough to permit a glance into the darkest mysteries of the infinite.

A disagreeable sensation, however, against which they had been for some
time struggling, at last put an end to their contemplations, and
compelled them to think of themselves. This was nothing less than a
pretty sharp cold, at first somewhat endurable, but which soon covered
the inside surface of the window panes with a thick coating of ice. The
fact was that, the Sun's direct rays having no longer an opportunity of
warming up the Projectile, the latter began to lose rapidly by radiation
whatever heat it had stored away within its walls. The consequence was a
very decided falling of the thermometer, and so thick a condensation of
the internal moisture on the window glasses as to soon render all
external observations extremely difficult, if not actually impossible.

The Captain, as the oldest man in the party, claimed the privilege of
saying he could stand it no longer. Striking a light, he consulted the
thermometer and cried out:

"Seventeen degrees below zero, centigrade! that is certainly low enough
to make an old fellow like me feel rather chilly!"

"Just one degree and a half above zero, Fahrenheit!" observed Barbican;
"I really had no idea that it was so cold."

His teeth actually chattered so much that he could hardly articulate;
still he, as well as the others, disliked to entrench on their short
supply of gas.

"One feature of our journey that I particularly admire," said Ardan,
trying to laugh with freezing lips, "is that we can't complain of
monotony. At one time we are frying with the heat and blinded with the
light, like Indians caught on a burning prairie; at another, we are
freezing in the pitchy darkness of a hyperborean winter, like Sir John
Franklin's merry men in the Bay of Boothia. _Madame La Nature_, you
don't forget your devotees; on the contrary, you overwhelm us with your
attentions!"

"Our external temperature may be reckoned at how much?" asked the
Captain, making a desperate effort to keep up the conversation.

"The temperature outside our Projectile must be precisely the same as
that of interstellar space in general," answered Barbican.

"Is not this precisely the moment then," interposed Ardan, quickly,
"for making an experiment which we could never have made as long as we
were in the sunshine?"

"That's so!" exclaimed Barbican; "now or never! I'm glad you thought of
it, Ardan. We are just now in the position to find out the temperature
of space by actual experiment, and so see whose calculations are right,
Fourier's or Pouillet's."

"Let's see," asked Ardan, "who was Fourier, and who was Pouillet?"

"Baron Fourier, of the French Academy, wrote a famous treatise on
_Heat_, which I remember reading twenty years ago in Penington's book
store," promptly responded the Captain; "Pouillet was an eminent
professor of Physics at the Sorbonne, where he died, last year, I
think."

"Thank you, Captain," said Ardan; "the cold does not injure your memory,
though it is decidedly on the advance. See how thick the ice is already
on the window panes! Let it only keep on and we shall soon have our
breaths falling around us in flakes of snow."

"Let us prepare a thermometer," said Barbican, who had already set
himself to work in a business-like manner.

A thermometer of the usual kind, as may be readily supposed, would be of
no use whatever in the experiment that was now about to be made. In an
ordinary thermometer Mercury freezes hard when exposed to a temperature
of 40 deg. below zero. But Barbican had provided himself with a _Minimum_,
_self-recording_ thermometer, of a peculiar nature, invented by
Wolferdin, a friend of Arago's, which could correctly register
exceedingly low degrees of temperature. Before beginning the experiment,
this instrument was tested by comparison with one of the usual kind, and
then Barbican hesitated a few moments regarding the best means of
employing it.

"How shall we start this experiment?" asked the Captain.

"Nothing simpler," answered Ardan, always ready to reply; "you just open
your windows, and fling out your thermometer. It follows your
Projectile, as a calf follows her mother. In a quarter of an hour you
put out your hand--"

"Put out your hand!" interrupted Barbican.

"Put out your hand--" continued Ardan, quietly.

"You do nothing of the kind," again interrupted Barbican; "that is,
unless you prefer, instead of a hand, to pull back a frozen stump,
shapeless, colorless and lifeless!"

"I prefer a hand," said Ardan, surprised and interested.

"Yes," continued Barbican, "the instant your hand left the Projectile,
it would experience the same terrible sensations as is produced by
cauterizing it with an iron bar white hot. For heat, whether rushing
rapidly out of our bodies or rapidly entering them, is identically the
same force and does the same amount of damage. Besides I am by no means
certain that we are still followed by the objects that we flung out of
the Projectile."

"Why not?" asked M'Nicholl; "we saw them all outside not long ago."

"But we can't see them outside now," answered Barbican; "that may be
accounted for, I know, by the darkness, but it may be also by the fact
of their not being there at all. In a case like this, we can't rely on
uncertainties. Therefore, to make sure of not losing our thermometer, we
shall fasten it with a string and easily pull it in whenever we like."

This advice being adopted, the window was opened quickly, and the
instrument was thrown out at once by M'Nicholl, who held it fastened by
a short stout cord so that it could be pulled in immediately. The window
had hardly been open for longer than a second, yet that second had been
enough to admit a terrible icy chill into the interior of the
Projectile.

"Ten thousand ice-bergs!" cried Ardan, shivering all over; "it's cold
enough to freeze a white bear!"

Barbican waited quietly for half an hour; that time he considered quite
long enough to enable the instrument to acquire the temperature of the
interstellar space. Then he gave the signal, and it was instantly pulled
in.

It took him a few moments to calculate the quantity of mercury that had
escaped into the little diaphragm attached to the lower part of the
instrument; then he said:

"A hundred and forty degrees, centigrade, below zero!"

[Illustration: IT'S COLD ENOUGH TO FREEZE A WHITE BEAR.]

"Two hundred and twenty degrees, Fahrenheit, below zero!" cried
M'Nicholl; "no wonder that we should feel a little chilly!"

"Pouillet is right, then," said Barbican, "and Fourier wrong."

"Another victory for Sorbonne over the Academy!" cried Ardan. "_Vive la
Sorbonne!_ Not that I'm a bit proud of finding myself in the midst of a
temperature so very _distingue_--though it is more than three times
colder than Hayes ever felt it at Humboldt Glacier or Nevenoff at
Yakoutsk. If Madame the Moon becomes as cold as this every time that her
surface is withdrawn from the sunlight for fourteen days, I don't think,
boys, that her hospitality is much to hanker after!"




CHAPTER XV.

GLIMPSES AT THE INVISIBLE.


In spite of the dreadful condition in which the three friends now found
themselves, and the still more dreadful future that awaited them, it
must be acknowledged that Ardan bravely kept up his spirits. And his
companions were just as cheerful. Their philosophy was quite simple and
perfectly intelligible. What they could bear, they bore without
murmuring. When it became unbearable, they only complained, if
complaining would do any good. Imprisoned in an iron shroud, flying
through profound darkness into the infinite abysses of space, nearly a
quarter million of miles distant from all human aid, freezing with the
icy cold, their little stock not only of gas but of _air_ rapidly
running lower and lower, a near future of the most impenetrable
obscurity looming up before them, they never once thought of wasting
time in asking such useless questions as where they were going, or what
fate was about to befall them. Knowing that no good could possibly
result from inaction or despair, they carefully kept their wits about
them, making their experiments and recording their observations as
calmly and as deliberately as if they were working at home in the quiet
retirement of their own cabinets.

Any other course of action, however, would have been perfectly absurd
on their part, and this no one knew better than themselves. Even if
desirous to act otherwise, what could they have done? As powerless over
the Projectile as a baby over a locomotive, they could neither clap
brakes to its movement nor switch off its direction. A sailor can turn
his ship's head at pleasure; an aeronaut has little trouble, by means of
his ballast and his throttle-valve, in giving a vertical movement to his
balloon. But nothing of this kind could our travellers attempt. No helm,
or ballast, or throttle-valve could avail them now. Nothing in the world
could be done to prevent things from following their own course to the
bitter end.

If these three men would permit themselves to hazard an expression at
all on the subject, which they didn't, each could have done it by his
own favorite motto, so admirably expressive of his individual nature.
"_Donnez tete baissee!_" (Go it baldheaded!) showed Ardan's
uncalculating impetuosity and his Celtic blood. "_Fata quocunque
vocant!_" (To its logical consequence!) revealed Barbican's
imperturbable stoicism, culture hardening rather than loosening the
original British phlegm. Whilst M'Nicholl's "Screw down the valve and
let her rip!" betrayed at once his unconquerable Yankee coolness and his
old experiences as a Western steamboat captain.

Where were they now, at eight o'clock in the morning of the day called
in America the sixth of December? Near the Moon, very certainly; near
enough, in fact, for them to perceive easily in the dark the great round
screen which she formed between themselves and the Projectile on one
side, and the Earth, Sun, and stars on the other. But as to the exact
distance at which she lay from them--they had no possible means of
calculating it. The Projectile, impelled and maintained by forces
inexplicable and even incomprehensible, had come within less than thirty
miles from the Moon's north pole. But during those two hours of
immersion in the dark shadow, had this distance been increased or
diminished? There was evidently no stand-point whereby to estimate
either the Projectile's direction or its velocity. Perhaps, moving
rapidly away from the Moon, it would be soon out of her shadow
altogether. Perhaps, on the contrary, gradually approaching her surface,
it might come into contact at any moment with some sharp invisible peak
of the Lunar mountains--a catastrophe sure to put a sudden end to the
trip, and the travellers too.

An excited discussion on this subject soon sprang up, in which all
naturally took part. Ardan's imagination as usual getting the better of
his reason, he maintained very warmly that the Projectile, caught and
retained by the Moon's attraction, could not help falling on her
surface, just as an aerolite cannot help falling on our Earth.

"Softly, dear boy, softly," replied Barbican; "aerolites _can_ help
falling on the Earth, and the proof is, that few of them _do_ fall--most
of them don't. Therefore, even granting that we had already assumed the
nature of an aerolite, it does not necessarily follow that we should
fall on the Moon."

"But," objected Ardan, "if we approach only near enough, I don't see how
we can help--"

"You don't see, it may be," said Barbican, "but you can see, if you only
reflect a moment. Have you not often seen the November meteors, for
instance, streaking the skies, thousands at a time?"

"Yes; on several occasions I was so fortunate."

"Well, did you ever see any of them strike the Earth's surface?" asked
Barbican.

"I can't say I ever did," was the candid reply, "but--"

"Well, these shooting stars," continued Barbican, "or rather these
wandering particles of matter, shine only from being inflamed by the
friction of the atmosphere. Therefore they can never be at a greater
distance from the Earth than 30 or 40 miles at furthest, and yet they
seldom fall on it. So with our Projectile. It may go very close to the
Moon without falling into it."

"But our roving Projectile must pull up somewhere in the long run,"
replied Ardan, "and I should like to know where that somewhere can be,
if not in the Moon."

"Softly again, dear boy," said Barbican; "how do you know that our
Projectile must pull up somewhere?"

"It's self-evident," replied Ardan; "it can't keep moving for ever."

"Whether it can or it can't depends altogether on which one of two
mathematical curves it has followed in describing its course. According
to the velocity with which it was endowed at a certain moment, it must
follow either the one or the other; but this velocity I do not consider
myself just now able to calculate."

"Exactly so," chimed in M'Nicholl; "it must describe and keep on
describing either a parabola or a hyperbola."

"Precisely," said Barbican; "at a certain velocity it would take a
parabolic curve; with a velocity considerably greater it should describe
a hyperbolic curve."

"I always did like nice corpulent words," said Ardan, trying to laugh;
"bloated and unwieldy, they express in a neat handy way exactly what you
mean. Of course, I know all about the high--high--those high curves, and
those low curves. No matter. Explain them to me all the same. Consider
me most deplorably ignorant on the nature of these curves."

"Well," said the Captain, a little bumptiously, "a parabola is a curve
of the second order, formed by the intersection of a cone by a plane
parallel to one of its sides."

"You don't say so!" cried Ardan, with mouth agape. "Do tell!"

"It is pretty nearly the path taken by a shell shot from a mortar."

"Well now!" observed Ardan, apparently much surprised; "who'd have
thought it? Now for the high--high--bully old curve!"

"The hyperbola," continued the Captain, not minding Ardan's antics, "the
hyperbola is a curve of the second order, formed from the intersection
of a cone by a plane parallel to its axis, or rather parallel to its two
_generatrices_, constituting two separate branches, extending
indefinitely in both directions."

"Oh, what an accomplished scientist I'm going to turn out, if only left
long enough at your feet, illustrious _maestro_!" cried Ardan, with
effusion. "Only figure it to yourselves, boys; before the Captain's
lucid explanations, I fully expected to hear something about the high
curves and the low curves in the back of an Ancient Thomas! Oh, Michael,
Michael, why didn't you know the Captain earlier?"

But the Captain was now too deeply interested in a hot discussion with
Barbican to notice that the Frenchman was only funning him. Which of the
two curves had been the one most probably taken by the Projectile?
Barbican maintained it was the parabolic; M'Nicholl insisted that it was
the hyperbolic. Their tempers were not improved by the severe cold, and
both became rather excited in the dispute. They drew so many lines on
the table, and crossed them so often with others, that nothing was left
at last but a great blot. They covered bits of paper with _x_'s and
_y_'s, which they read out like so many classic passages, shouting them,
declaiming them, drawing attention to the strong points by gesticulation
so forcible and voice so loud that neither of the disputants could hear
a word that the other said. Possibly the very great difference in
temperature between the external air in contact with their skin and the
blood coursing through their veins, had given rise to magnetic currents
as potential in their effects as a superabundant supply of oxygen. At
all events, the language they soon began to employ in the enforcement of
their arguments fairly made the Frenchman's hair stand on end.

"You probably forget the important difference between a _directrix_ and
an _axis_," hotly observed Barbican.

"I know what an _abscissa_ is, any how!" cried the Captain. "Can you say
as much?"

"Did you ever understand what is meant by a _double ordinate_?" asked
Barbican, trying to keep cool.

"More than you ever did about a _transverse_ and a _conjugate!_" replied
the Captain, with much asperity.

"Any one not convinced at a glance that this _eccentricity_ is equal to
_unity_, must be blind as a bat!" exclaimed Barbican, fast losing his
ordinary urbanity.

"_Less_ than _unity_, you mean! If you want spectacles, here are mine!"
shouted the Captain, angrily tearing them off and offering them to his
adversary.

"Dear boys!" interposed Ardan--

--"The _eccentricity_ is _equal_ to _unity_!" cried Barbican.

--"The _eccentricity_ is _less_ than _unity_!" screamed M'Nicholl.

"Talking of eccentricity--" put in Ardan.

--"Therefore it's a _parabola_, and must be!" cried Barbican,
triumphantly.

--"Therefore it's _hyperbola_ and nothing shorter!" was the Captain's
quite as confident reply.

"For gracious sake!--" resumed Ardan.

"Then produce your _asymptote_!" exclaimed Barbican, with an angry
sneer.

"Let us see the _symmetrical point_!" roared the Captain, quite
savagely.

"Dear boys! old fellows!--" cried Ardan, as loud as his lungs would let
him.

"It's useless to argue with a Mississippi steamboat Captain," ejaculated
Barbican; "he never gives in till he blows up!"

"Never try to convince a Yankee schoolmaster," replied M'Nicholl; "he
has one book by heart and don't believe in any other!"

"Here, friend Michael, get me a cord, won't you? It's the only way to
convince him!" cried Barbican, hastily turning to the Frenchman.

"Hand me over that ruler, Ardan!" yelled the Captain. "The heavy one!
It's the only way now left to bring him to reason!"

"Look here, Barbican and M'Nicholl!" cried Ardan, at last making himself
heard, and keeping a tight hold both on the cord and the ruler. "This
thing has gone far enough! Come. Stop your talk, and answer me a few
questions. What do you want of this cord, Barbican?"

"To describe a parabolic curve!"

"And what are you going to do with the ruler, M'Nicholl!"

"To help draw a true hyperbola!"

"Promise me, Barbican, that you're not going to lasso the Captain!"

"Lasso the Captain! Ha! ha! ha!"

"You promise, M'Nicholl, that you're not going to brain the President!"

"I brain the President! Ho! ho! ho!"

"I want merely to convince him that it is a parabola!"

"I only want to make it clear as day that it is hyperbola!"

"Does it make any real difference whether it is one or the other?"
yelled Ardan.

"The greatest possible difference--in the Eye of Science."

"A radical and incontrovertible difference--in the Eye of Science!"

"Oh! Hang the Eye of Science--will either curve take us to the Moon?"

"No!"

"Will either take us back to the Earth?"

"No!"

"Will either take us anywhere that you know of?"

"No!"

"Why not?"

"Because they are both _open_ curves, and therefore can never end!"

"Is it of the slightest possible importance which of the two curves
controls the Projectile?"

"Not the slightest--except in the Eye of Science!"

"Then let the Eye of Science and her parabolas and hyperbolas, and
conjugates, and asymptotes, and the rest of the confounded nonsensical
farrago, all go to pot! What's the use of bothering your heads about
them here! Have you not enough to trouble you otherwise? A nice pair of
scientists you are? 'Stanislow' scientists, probably. Do _real_
scientists lose their tempers for a trifle? Am I ever to see my ideal of
a true scientific man in the flesh? Barbican came very near realizing my
idea perfectly; but I see that Science just has as little effect as
Culture in driving the Old Adam out of us! The idea of the only
simpleton in the lot having to lecture the others on propriety of
deportment! I thought they were going to tear each other's eyes out! Ha!
Ha! Ha! It's _impayable_! Give me that cord, Michael! Hand me the heavy
ruler, Ardan! It's the only way to bring him to reason! Ho! Ho! Ho! It's
too good! I shall never get over it!" and he laughed till his sides
ached and his cheeks streamed.

His laughter was so contagious, and his merriment so genuine, that there
was really no resisting it, and the next few minutes witnessed nothing
but laughing, and handshaking and rib-punching in the Projectile--though
Heaven knows there was very little for the poor fellows to be merry
about. As they could neither reach the Moon nor return to the Earth,
what _was_ to befall them? The immediate outlook was the very reverse of
exhilarating. If they did not die of hunger, if they did not die of
thirst, the reason would simply be that, in a few days, as soon as their
gas was exhausted, they would die for want of air, unless indeed the icy
cold had killed them beforehand!

By this time, in fact, the temperature had become so exceedingly cold
that a further encroachment on their little stock of gas could be put
off no longer. The light, of course, they could manage to do without;
but a little heat was absolutely necessary to prevent them from freezing
to death. Fortunately, however, the caloric developed by the Reiset and
Regnault process for purifying the air, raised the internal temperature
of the Projectile a little, so that, with an expenditure of gas much
less than they had expected, our travellers were able to maintain it at
a degree capable of sustaining human life.

By this time, also, all observations through the windows had become
exceedingly difficult. The internal moisture condensed so thick and
congealed so hard on the glass that nothing short of continued friction
could keep up its transparency. But this friction, however laborious
they might regard it at other times, they thought very little of just
now, when observation had become far more interesting and important than
ever.

If the Moon had any atmosphere, our travellers were near enough now to
strike any meteor that might be rushing through it. If the Projectile
itself were floating in it, as was possible, would not such a good
conductor of sound convey to their ears the reflexion of some lunar
echo, the roar of some storm raging among the mountains, the rattling of
some plunging avalanche, or the detonations of some eructating volcano?
And suppose some lunar Etna or Vesuvius was flashing out its fires, was
it not even possible that their eye could catch a glimpse of the lurid
gleam? One or two facts of this kind, well attested, would singularly
elucidate the vexatious question of a lunar atmosphere, which is still
so far from being decided. Full of such thoughts and intensely
interested in them, Barbican, M'Nicholl and Ardan, patient as
astronomers at a transit of Venus, watched steadily at their windows,
and allowed nothing worth noticing to escape their searching gaze.

Ardan's patience first gave out. He showed it by an observation natural
enough, for that matter, to a mind unaccustomed to long stretches of
careful thought:

"This darkness is absolutely killing! If we ever take this trip again,
it must be about the time of the New Moon!"

"There I agree with you, Ardan," observed the Captain. "That would be
just the time to start. The Moon herself, I grant, would be lost in the
solar rays and therefore invisible all the time of our trip, but in
compensation, we should have the Full Earth in full view. Besides--and
this is your chief point, no doubt, Ardan--if we should happen to be
drawn round the Moon, just as we are at the present moment, we should
enjoy the inestimable advantage of beholding her invisible side
magnificently illuminated!"

"My idea exactly, Captain," said Ardan. "What is your opinion on this
point, Barbican?"

"My opinion is as follows:" answered Barbican, gravely. "If we ever
repeat this journey, we shall start precisely at the same time and under
precisely the same circumstances. You forget that our only object is to
reach the Moon. Now suppose we had really landed there, as we expected
to do yesterday, would it not have been much more agreeable to behold
the lunar continents enjoying the full light of day than to find them
plunged in the dismal obscurity of night? Would not our first
installation of discovery have been under circumstances decidedly
extremely favorable? Your silence shows that you agree with me. As to
the invisible side, once landed, we should have the power to visit it
when we pleased, and therefore we could always choose whatever time
would best suit our purpose. Therefore, if we wanted to land in the
Moon, the period of the Full Moon was the best period to select. The
period was well chosen, the time was well calculated, the force was well
applied, the Projectile was well aimed, but missing our way spoiled
everything."

"That's sound logic, no doubt," said Ardan; "still I can't help thinking
that all for want of a little light we are losing, probably forever, a
splendid opportunity of seeing the Moon's invisible side. How about the
other planets, Barbican? Do you think that their inhabitants are as
ignorant regarding their satellites as we are regarding ours?"

"On that subject," observed M'Nicholl, "I could venture an answer
myself, though, of course, without pretending to speak dogmatically on
any such open question. The satellites of the other planets, by their
comparative proximity, must be much easier to study than our Moon. The
Saturnians, the Uranians, the Jovians, cannot have had very serious
difficulty in effecting some communication with their satellites.
Jupiter's four moons, for instance, though on an average actually 2-1/2
times farther from their planet's centre than the Moon is from us, are
comparatively four times nearer to him on account of his radius being
eleven times greater than the Earth's. With Saturn's eight moons, the
case is almost precisely similar. Their average distance is nearly three
times greater than that of our Moon; but as Saturn's diameter is about 9
times greater than the Earth's, his bodyguards are really between 3 and
4 times nearer to their principal than ours is to us. As to Uranus, his
first satellite, _Ariel_, half as far from him as our Moon is from the
Earth, is comparatively, though not actually, eight times nearer."

"Therefore," said Barbican, now taking up the subject, "an experiment
analogous to ours, starting from either of these three planets, would
have encountered fewer difficulties. But the whole question resolves
itself into this. _If_ the Jovians and the rest have been able to quit
their planets, they have probably succeeded in discovering the invisible
sides of their satellites. But if they have _not_ been able to do so,
why, they're not a bit wiser than ourselves--But what's the matter with
the Projectile? It's certainly shifting!"

Shifting it certainly was. While the path it described as it swung
blindly through the darkness, could not be laid down by any chart for
want of a starting point, Barbican and his companions soon became aware
of a decided modification of its relative position with regard to the
Moon's surface. Instead of its side, as heretofore, it now presented its
base to the Moon's disc, and its axis had become rigidly vertical to the
lunar horizon. Of this new feature in their journey, Barbican had
assured himself by the most undoubted proof towards four o'clock in the
morning. What was the cause? Gravity, of course. The heavier portion of
the Projectile gravitated towards the Moon's centre exactly as if they
were falling towards her surface.

But _were_ they falling? Were they at last, contrary to all
expectations, about to reach the goal that they had been so ardently
wishing for? No! A sight-point, just discovered by M'Nicholl, very soon
convinced Barbican that the Projectile was as far as ever from
approaching the Moon, but was moving around it in a curve pretty near
concentric.

M'Nicholl's discovery, a luminous gleam flickering on the distant verge
of the black disc, at once engrossed the complete attention of our
travellers and set them to divining its course. It could not possibly be
confounded with a star. Its glare was reddish, like that of a distant
furnace on a dark night; it kept steadily increasing in size and
brightness, thus showing beyond a doubt how the Projectile was
moving--in the direction of the luminous point, and _not_ vertically
falling towards the Moon's surface.

"It's a volcano!" cried the Captain, in great excitement; "a volcano in
full blast! An outlet of the Moon's internal fires! Therefore she can't
be a burnt out cinder!"

"It certainly looks like a volcano," replied Barbican, carefully
investigating this new and puzzling phenomenon with his night-glass. "If
it is not one, in fact, what can it be?"

"To maintain combustion," commenced Ardan syllogistically and
sententiously, "air is necessary. An undoubted case of combustion lies
before us. Therefore, this part of the Moon _must_ have an atmosphere!"

"Perhaps so," observed Barbican, "but not necessarily so. The volcano,
by decomposing certain substances, gunpowder for instance, may be able
to furnish its own oxygen, and thus explode in a vacuum. That blaze, in
fact, seems to me to possess the intensity and the blinding glare of
objects burning in pure oxygen. Let us therefore be not over hasty in
jumping at the conclusion of the existence of a lunar atmosphere."

This fire mountain was situated, according to the most plausible
conjecture, somewhere in the neighborhood of the 45th degree, south
latitude, of the Moon's invisible side. For a little while the
travellers indulged the fond hope that they were directly approaching
it, but, to their great disappointment, the path described by the
Projectile lay in a different direction. Its nature therefore they had
no opportunity of ascertaining. It began to disappear behind the dark
horizon within less than half an hour after the time that M'Nicholl had
signalled it. Still, the fact of the uncontested existence of such a
phenomenon was a grand one, and of considerable importance in
selenographic investigations. It proved that heat had not altogether
disappeared from the lunar world; and the existence of heat once
settled, who can say positively that the vegetable kingdom and even the
animal kingdom have not likewise resisted so far every influence tending
to destroy them? If terrestrial astronomers could only be convinced, by
undoubted evidence, of the existence of this active volcano on the
Moon's surface, they would certainly admit of very considerable
modifications in the present doubts regarding her inhabitability.

Thoughts of this kind continued to occupy the minds of our travellers
even for some time after the little spark of light had been extinguished
in the black gloom. But they said very little; even Ardan was silent,
and continued to look out of the window. Barbican surrendered himself up
to a reverie regarding the mysterious destinies of the lunar world. Was
its present condition a foreshadowing of what our Earth is to become?
M'Nicholl, too, was lost in speculation. Was the Moon older or younger
than the Earth in the order of Creation? Had she ever been a beautiful
world of life, and color, and magnificent variety? If so, had her
inhabitants--

Great Mercy, what a cry from Ardan! It sounded human, so seldom do we
hear a shriek so expressive at once of surprise and horror and even
terror! It brought back his startled companions to their senses in a
second. Nor did they ask him for the cause of his alarm. It was only too
clear. Right in their very path, a blazing ball of fire had suddenly
risen up before their eyes, the pitchy darkness all round it rendering
its glare still more blinding. Its phosphoric coruscation filled the
Projectile with white streams of lurid light, tinging the contents with
a pallor indescribably ghastly. The travellers' faces in particular,
gleamed with that peculiar livid and cadaverous tinge, blue and yellow,
which magicians so readily produce by burning table salt in alcohol.

"_Sacre!_" cried Ardan who always spoke his own language when much
excited. "What a pair of beauties you are! Say, Barbican! What
thundering thing is coming at us now?"

"Another bolide," answered Barbican, his eye as calm as ever, though a
faint tremor was quite perceptible in his voice.

"A bolide? Burning _in vacuo_? You are joking!"

"I was never more in earnest," was the President's quiet reply, as he
looked through his closed fingers.

He knew exactly what he was saying. The dazzling glitter did not deceive
_him_. Such a meteor seen from the Earth could not appear much brighter
than the Full Moon, but here in the midst of the black ether and
unsoftened by the veil of the atmosphere, it was absolutely blinding.
These wandering bodies carry in themselves the principle of their
incandescence. Oxygen is by no means necessary for their combustion.
Some of them indeed often take fire as they rush through the layers of
our atmosphere, and generally burn out before they strike the Earth. But
others, on the contrary, and the greater number too, follow a track
through space far more distant from the Earth than the fifty miles
supposed to limit our atmosphere. In October, 1844, one of these meteors
had appeared in the sky at an altitude calculated to be at least 320
miles; and in August, 1841, another had vanished when it had reached the
height of 450 miles. A few even of those seen from the Earth must have
been several miles in diameter. The velocity with which some of them
have been calculated to move, from east to west, in a direction contrary
to that of the Earth, is astounding enough to exceed belief--about fifty
miles in a second. Our Earth does not move quite 20 miles in a second,
though it goes a thousand times quicker than the fastest locomotive.

[Illustration: THEY COULD UTTER NO WORD.]

Barbican calculated like lightning that the present object of their
alarm was only about 250 miles distant from them, and could not be
less than a mile and a quarter in diameter. It was coming on at the rate
of more than a mile a second or about 75 miles a minute. It lay right in
the path of the Projectile, and in a very few seconds indeed a terrible
collision was inevitable. The enormous rate at which it grew in size,
showed the terrible velocity at which it was approaching.

You can hardly imagine the situation of our poor travellers at the sight
of this frightful apparition. I shall certainly not attempt to describe
it. In spite of their singular courage, wonderful coolness,
extraordinary fortitude, they were now breathless, motionless, almost
helpless; their muscles were tightened to their utmost tension; their
eyes stared out of their sockets; their faces were petrified with
horror. No wonder. Their Projectile, whose course they were powerless as
children to guide, was making straight for this fiery mass, whose glare
in a few seconds had become more blinding than the open vent of a
reverberating furnace. Their own Projectile was carrying them headlong
into a bottomless abyss of fire!

Still, even in this moment of horror, their presence of mind, or at
least their consciousness, never abandoned them. Barbican had grasped
each of his friends by the hand, and all three tried as well as they
could to watch through half-closed eyelids the white-hot asteroid's
rapid approach. They could utter no word, they could breathe no prayer.
They gave themselves up for lost--in the agony of terror that partially
interrupted the ordinary functions of their brains, this was absolutely
all they could do! Hardly three minutes had elapsed since Ardan had
caught the first glimpse of it--three ages of agony! Now it was on them!
In a second--in less than a second, the terrible fireball had burst like
a shell! Thousands of glittering fragments were flying around them in
all directions--but with no more noise than is made by so many light
flakes of thistle-down floating about some warm afternoon in summer. The
blinding, blasting steely white glare of the explosion almost bereft the
travellers of the use of their eyesight forever, but no more report
reached their ears than if it had taken place at the bottom of the Gulf
of Mexico. In an atmosphere like ours, such a crash would have burst the
ear-membranes of ten thousand elephants!

In the middle of the commotion another loud cry was suddenly heard. It
was the Captain who called this time. His companions rushed to his
window and all looked out together in the same direction.

What a sight met their eyes! What pen can describe it? What pencil can
reproduce the magnificence of its coloring? It was a Vesuvius at his
best and wildest, at the moment just after the old cone has fallen in.
Millions of luminous fragments streaked the sky with their blazing
fires. All sizes and shapes of light, all colors and shades of colors,
were inextricably mingled together. Irradiations in gold, scintillations
in crimson, splendors in emerald, lucidities in ultramarine--a dazzling
girandola of every tint and of every hue. Of the enormous fireball, an
instant ago such an object of dread, nothing now remained but these
glittering pieces, shooting about in all directions, each one an
asteroid in its turn. Some flew out straight and gleaming like a steel
sword; others rushed here and there irregularly like chips struck off a
red-hot rock; and others left long trails of glittering cosmical dust
behind them like the nebulous tail of Donati's comet.

These incandescent blocks crossed each other, struck each other, crushed
each other into still smaller fragments, one of which, grazing the
Projectile, jarred it so violently that the very window at which the
travellers were standing, was cracked by the shock. Our friends felt, in
fact, as if they were the objective point at which endless volleys of
blazing shells were aimed, any of them powerful enough, if it only hit
them fair, to make as short work of the Projectile as you could of an
egg-shell. They had many hairbreadth escapes, but fortunately the
cracking of the glass proved to be the only serious damage of which they
could complain.

This extraordinary illumination lasted altogether only a few seconds;
every one of its details was of a most singular and exciting nature--but
one of its greatest wonders was yet to come. The ether, saturated with
luminous matter, developed an intensity of blazing brightness unequalled
by the lime light, the magnesium light, the electric light, or any other
dazzling source of illumination with which we are acquainted on earth.
It flashed out of these asteroids in all directions, and downwards, of
course, as well as elsewhere. At one particular instant, it was so very
vivid that Ardan, who happened to be looking downwards, cried out, as if
in transport:

"Oh!! The Moon! Visible at last!"

And the three companions, thrilling with indescribable emotion, shot a
hasty glance through the openings of the coruscating field beneath them.
Did they really catch a glimpse of the mysterious invisible disc that
the eye of man had never before lit upon? For a second or so they gazed
with enraptured fascination at all they could see. What did they see,
what could they see at a distance so uncertain that Barbican has never
been able even to guess at it? Not much. Ardan was reminded of the night
he had stood on the battlements of Dover Castle, a few years before,
when the fitful flashes of a thunder storm gave him occasional and very
uncertain glimpses of the French coast at the opposite side of the
strait. Misty strips long and narrow, extending over one portion of the
disc--probably cloud-scuds sustained by a highly rarefied
atmosphere--permitted only a very dreamy idea of lofty mountains
stretching beneath them in shapeless proportions, of smaller reliefs,
circuses, yawning craters, and the other capricious, sponge-like
formations so common on the visible side. Elsewhere the watchers became
aware for an instant of immense spaces, certainly not arid plains, but
seas, real oceans, vast and calm, reflecting from their placid depths
the dazzling fireworks of the weird and wildly flashing meteors.
Farther on, but very darkly as if behind a screen, shadowy continents
revealed themselves, their surfaces flecked with black cloudy masses,
probably great forests, with here and there a--

Nothing more! In less than a second the illumination had come to an end,
involving everything in the Moon's direction once more in pitchy
darkness.

But had the impression made on the travellers' eyes been a mere vision
or the result of a reality? an optical delusion or the shadow of a solid
fact? Could an observation so rapid, so fleeting, so superficial, be
really regarded as a genuine scientific affirmation? Could such a feeble
glimmer of the invisible disc justify them in pronouncing a decided
opinion on the inhabitability of the Moon? To such questions as these,
rising spontaneously and simultaneously in the minds of our travellers,
they could not reply at the moment; they could not reply to them long
afterwards; even to this day they can give them no satisfactory answer.
All they could do at the moment, they did. To every sight and sound they
kept their eyes and ears open, and, by observing the most perfect
silence, they sought to render their impressions too vivid to admit of
deception.

There was now, however, nothing to be heard, and very little more to be
seen. The few coruscations that flashed over the sky, gradually became
fewer and dimmer; the asteroids sought paths further and further apart,
and finally disappeared altogether. The ether resumed its original
blackness. The stars, eclipsed for a moment, blazed out again on the
firmament, and the invisible disc, that had flashed into view for an
instant, once more relapsed forever into the impenetrable depths of
night.




CHAPTER XVI.

THE SOUTHERN HEMISPHERE.


Exceedingly narrow and exceedingly fortunate had been the escape of the
Projectile. And from a danger too the most unlikely and the most
unexpected. Who would have ever dreamed of even the possibility of such
an encounter? And was all danger over? The sight of one of these erratic
bolides certainly justified the gravest apprehensions of our travellers
regarding the existence of others. Worse than the sunken reefs of the
Southern Seas or the snags of the Mississippi, how could the Projectile
be expected to avoid them? Drifting along blindly through the boundless
ethereal ocean, _her_ inmates, even if they saw the danger, were totally
powerless to turn her aside. Like a ship without a rudder, like a
runaway horse, like a collapsed balloon, like an iceberg in an Atlantic
storm, like a boat in the Niagara rapids, she moved on sullenly,
recklessly, mechanically, mayhap into the very jaws of the most
frightful danger, the bright intelligences within no more able to modify
her motions even by a finger's breadth than they were able to affect
Mercury's movements around the Sun.

But did our friends complain of the new perils now looming up before
them? They never thought of such a thing. On the contrary, they only
considered themselves (after the lapse of a few minutes to calm their
nerves) extremely lucky in having witnessed this fresh glory of
exuberant nature, this transcendent display of fireworks which not only
cast into absolute insignificance anything of the kind they had ever
seen on Earth, but had actually enabled them by its dazzling
illumination to gaze for a second or two at the Moon's mysterious
invisible disc. This glorious momentary glance, worth a whole lifetime
of ordinary existence, had revealed to mortal ken her continents, her
oceans, her forests. But did it also convince them of the existence of
an atmosphere on her surface whose vivifying molecules would render
_life_ possible? This question they had again to leave unanswered--it
will hardly ever be answered in a way quite satisfactory to human
curiosity. Still, infinite was their satisfaction at having hovered even
for an instant on the very verge of such a great problem's solution.

It was now half-past three in the afternoon. The Projectile still
pursued its curving but otherwise unknown path over the Moon's invisible
face. Had this path been disturbed by that dangerous meteor? There was
every reason to fear so--though, disturbance or no disturbance, the
curve it described should still be one strictly in accordance with the
laws of Mechanical Philosophy. Whether it was a parabola or a hyperbola,
however, or whether it was disturbed or not, made very little difference
as, in any case, the Projectile was bound to quit pretty soon the cone
of the shadow, at a point directly opposite to where it had entered it.
This cone could not possibly be of very great extent, considering the
very slight ratio borne by the Moon's diameter when compared with the
Sun's. Still, to all appearances, the Projectile seemed to be quite as
deeply immersed in the shadow as ever, and there was apparently not the
slightest sign of such a state of things coming soon to an end. At what
rate was the Projectile now moving? Hard to say, but certainly not
slowly, certainly rapidly enough to be out of the shadow by this time,
if describing a curve rigidly parabolic. Was the curve therefore _not_
parabolic? Another puzzling problem and sadly bewildering to poor
Barbican, who had now almost lost his reason by attempting to clear up
questions that were proving altogether too profound for his overworked
brains.

Not that he ever thought of taking rest. Not that his companions thought
of taking rest. Far from it. With senses as high-strung as ever, they
still watched carefully for every new fact, every unexpected incident
that might throw some light on the sidereal investigations. Even their
dinner, or what was called so, consisted of only a few bits of bread and
meat, distributed by Ardan at five o'clock, and swallowed mechanically.
They did not even turn on the gas full head to see what they were
eating; each man stood solidly at his window, the glass of which they
had enough to do in keeping free from the rapidly condensing moisture.

At about half-past five, however, M'Nicholl, who had been gazing for
some time with his telescope in a particular direction, called the
attention of his companions to some bright specks of light barely
discernible in that part of the horizon towards which the Projectile was
evidently moving. His words were hardly uttered when his companions
announced the same discovery. They could soon all see the glittering
specks not only becoming more and more numerous, but also gradually
assuming the shape of an extremely slender, but extremely brilliant
crescent. Rapidly more brilliant and more decided in shape the profile
gradually grew, till it soon resembled the first faint sketch of the New
Moon that we catch of evenings in the western sky, or rather the first
glimpse we get of her limb as it slowly moves out of eclipse. But it was
inconceivably brighter than either, and was furthermore strangely
relieved by the pitchy blackness both of sky and Moon. In fact, it soon
became so brilliant as to dispel in a moment all doubt as to its
particular nature. No meteor could present such a perfect shape; no
volcano, such dazzling splendor.

"The Sun!" cried Barbican.

"The Sun?" asked M'Nicholl and Ardan in some astonishment.

"Yes, dear friends; it is the Sun himself that you now see; these
summits that you behold him gilding are the mountains that lie on the
Moon's southern rim. We are rapidly nearing her south pole."

"After doubling her north pole!" cried Ardan; "why, we must be
circumnavigating her!"

"Exactly; sailing all around her."

"Hurrah! Then we're all right at last! There's nothing more to fear from
your hyperbolas or parabolas or any other of your open curves!"

"Nothing more, certainly, from an open curve, but every thing from a
closed one."

"A closed curve! What is it called? And what is the trouble?"

"An eclipse it is called; and the trouble is that, instead of flying off
into the boundless regions of space, our Projectile will probably
describe an elliptical orbit around the Moon--"

--"What!" cried M'Nicholl, in amazement, "and be her satellite for
ever!"

"All right and proper," said Ardan; "why shouldn't she have one of her
own?"

"Only, my dear friend," said Barbican to Ardan, "this change of curve
involves no change in the doom of the Projectile. We are as infallibly
lost by an ellipse as by a parabola."

"Well, there was one thing I never could reconcile myself to in the
whole arrangement," replied Ardan cheerfully; "and that was destruction
by an open curve. Safe from that, I could say, 'Fate, do your worst!'
Besides, I don't believe in the infallibility of your ellipsic. It may
prove just as unreliable as the hyperbola. And it is no harm to hope
that it may!"

From present appearances there was very little to justify Ardan's hope.
Barbican's theory of the elliptic orbit was unfortunately too well
grounded to allow a single reasonable doubt to be expressed regarding
the Projectile's fate. It was to gravitate for ever around the Moon--a
sub-satellite. It was a new born individual in the astral universe, a
microcosm, a little world in itself, containing, however, only three
inhabitants and even these destined to perish pretty soon for want of
air. Our travellers, therefore, had no particular reason for rejoicing
over the new destiny reserved for the Projectile in obedience to the
inexorable laws of the centripetal and centrifugal forces. They were
soon, it is true, to have the opportunity of beholding once more the
illuminated face of the Moon. They might even live long enough to catch
a last glimpse of the distant Earth bathed in the glory of the solar
rays. They might even have strength enough left to be able to chant one
solemn final eternal adieu to their dear old Mother World, upon whose
features their mortal eyes should never again rest in love and longing!
Then, what was their Projectile to become? An inert, lifeless, extinct
mass, not a particle better than the most defunct asteroid that wanders
blindly through the fields of ether. A gloomy fate to look forward to.
Yet, instead of grieving over the inevitable, our bold travellers
actually felt thrilled with delight at the prospect of even a momentary
deliverance from those gloomy depths of darkness and of once more
finding themselves, even if only for a few hours, in the cheerful
precincts illuminated by the genial light of the blessed Sun!

The ring of light, in the meantime, becoming brighter and brighter,
Barbican was not long in discovering and pointing out to his companions
the different mountains that lay around the Moon's south pole.

"There is _Leibnitz_ on your right," said he, "and on your left you can
easily see the peaks of _Doerfel_. Belonging rather to the Moon's dark
side than to her Earth side, they are visible to terrestrial astronomers
only when she is in her highest northern latitudes. Those faint peaks
beyond them that you can catch with such difficulty must be those of
_Newton_ and _Curtius_."

"How in the world can you tell?" asked Ardan.

"They are the highest mountains in the circumpolar regions," replied
Barbican. "They have been measured with the greatest care; _Newton_ is
23,000 feet high."

"More or less!" laughed Ardan. "What Delphic oracle says so?"

"Dear friend," replied Barbican quietly, "the visible mountains of the
Moon have been measured so carefully and so accurately that I should
hardly hesitate in affirming their altitude to be as well known as that
of Mont Blanc, or, at least, as those of the chief peaks in the
Himalayahs or the Rocky Mountain Range."

"I should like to know how people set about it," observed Ardan
incredulously.

"There are several well known methods of approaching this problem,"
replied Barbican; "and as these methods, though founded on different
principles, bring us constantly to the same result, we may pretty
safely conclude that our calculations are right. We have no time, just
now to draw diagrams, but, if I express myself clearly, you will no
doubt easily catch the general principle."

"Go ahead!" answered Ardan. "Anything but Algebra."

"We want no Algebra now," said Barbican, "It can't enable us to find
principles, though it certainly enables us to apply them. Well. The Sun
at a certain altitude shines on one side of a mountain and flings a
shadow on the other. The length of this shadow is easily found by means
of a telescope, whose object glass is provided with a micrometer. This
consists simply of two parallel spider threads, one of which is
stationary and the other movable. The Moon's real diameter being known
and occupying a certain space on the object glass, the exact space
occupied by the shadow can be easily ascertained by means of the movable
thread. This space, compared with the Moon's space, will give us the
length of the shadow. Now, as under the same circumstances a certain
height can cast only a certain shadow, of course a knowledge of the one
must give you that of the other, and _vice versa_. This method, stated
roughly, was that followed by Galileo, and, in our own day, by Beer and
Maedler, with extraordinary success."

"I certainly see some sense in this method," said Ardan, "if they took
extraordinary pains to observe correctly. The least carelessness would
set them wrong, not only by feet but by miles. We have time enough,
however, to listen to another method before we get into the full blaze
of the glorious old Sol."

"The other method," interrupted M'Nicholl laying down his telescope to
rest his eyes, and now joining in the conversation to give himself
something to do, "is called that of the _tangent rays_. A solar ray,
barely passing the edge of the Moon's surface, is caught on the peak of
a mountain the rest of which lies in shadow. The distance between this
starry peak and the line separating the light from the darkness, we
measure carefully by means of our telescope. Then--"

"I see it at a glance!" interrupted Ardan with lighting eye; "the ray,
being a tangent, of course makes right angles with the radius, which is
known: consequently we have two sides and one angle--quite enough to
find the other parts of the triangle. Very ingenious--but now, that I
think of it--is not this method absolutely impracticable for every
mountain except those in the immediate neighborhood of the light and
shadow line?"

"That's a defect easily remedied by patience," explained Barbican--the
Captain, who did not like being interrupted, having withdrawn to his
telescope--"As this line is continually changing, in course of time all
the mountains must come near it. A third method--to measure the mountain
profile directly by means of the micrometer--is evidently applicable
only to altitudes lying exactly on the lunar rim."

"That is clear enough," said Ardan, "and another point is also very
clear. In Full Moon no measurement is possible. When no shadows are
made, none can be measured. Measurements, right or wrong, are possible
only when the solar rays strike the Moon's surface obliquely with regard
to the observer. Am I right, Signor Barbicani, maestro illustrissimo?"

"Perfectly right," replied Barbican. "You are an apt pupil."

"Say that again," said Ardan. "I want Mac to hear it."

Barbican humored him by repeating the observation, but M'Nicholl would
only notice it by a grunt of doubtful meaning.

"Was Galileo tolerably successful in his calculations?" asked Ardan,
resuming the conversation.

Before answering this question, Barbican unrolled the map of the Moon,
which a faint light like that of day-break now enabled him to examine.
He then went on: "Galileo was wonderfully successful--considering that
the telescope which he employed was a poor instrument of his own
construction, magnifying only thirty times. He gave the lunar mountains
a height of about 26,000 feet--an altitude cut down by Hevelius, but
almost doubled by Riccioli. Herschel was the first to come pretty close
to the truth, but Beer and Maedler, whose _Mappa Selenographica_ now
lies before us, have left really nothing more to be done for lunar
astronomy--except, of course, to pay a personal visit to the
Moon--which we have tried to do, but I fear with a very poor prospect of
success."

"Cheer up! cheer up!" cried Ardan. "It's not all over yet by long odds.
Who can say what is still in store for us? Another bolide may shunt us
off our ellipse and even send us to the Moon's surface."

Then seeing Barbican shake his head ominously and his countenance become
more and more depressed, this true friend tried to brighten him up a bit
by feigning to take deep interest in a subject that to him was
absolutely the driest in the world.

"Meer and Baedler--I mean Beer and Maedler," he went on, "must have
measured at least forty or fifty mountains to their satisfaction."

"Forty or fifty!" exclaimed Barbican. "They measured no fewer than a
thousand and ninety-five lunar mountains and crater summits with a
perfect success. Six of these reach an altitude of upwards of 18,000
feet, and twenty-two are more than 15,000 feet high."

"Which is the highest in the lot?" asked Ardan, keenly relishing
Barbican's earnestness.

"_Doerfel_ in the southern hemisphere, the peak of which I have just
pointed out, is the highest of the lunar mountains so far measured,"
replied Barbican. "It is nearly 25,000 feet high."

"Indeed! Five thousand feet lower than Mount Everest--still for a lunar
mountain, it is quite a respectable altitude."

"Respectable! Why it's an enormous altitude, my dear friend, if you
compare it with the Moon's diameter. The Earth's diameter being more
than 3-1/2 times greater than the Moon's, if the Earth's mountains bore
the same ratio to those of the Moon, Everest should be more than sixteen
miles high, whereas it is not quite six."

"How do the general heights of the Himalayahs compare with those of the
highest lunar mountains?" asked Ardan, wondering what would be his next
question.

"Fifteen peaks in the eastern or higher division of the Himalayahs, are
higher than the loftiest lunar peaks," replied Barbican. "Even in the
western, or lower section of the Himalayahs, some of the peaks exceed
_Doerfel_."

"Which are the chief lunar mountains that exceed Mont Blanc in
altitude?" asked Ardan, bravely suppressing a yawn.

"The following dozen, ranged, if my memory does not fail me, in the
exact order of their respective heights;" replied Barbican, never
wearied in answering such questions: "_Newton_, _Curtius_, _Casatus_,
_Rheita_, _Short_, _Huyghens_, _Biancanus_, _Tycho_, _Kircher_,
_Clavius_, _Endymion_, and _Catharina_."

"Now those not quite up to Mont Blanc?" asked Ardan, hardly knowing what
to say.

"Here they are, about half a dozen of them: _Moretus_, _Theophilus_,
_Harpalus_, _Eratosthenes_, _Werner_, and _Piccolomini_," answered
Barbican as ready as a schoolboy reciting his lesson, and pointing them
out on the map as quickly as a compositor distributing his type.

"The next in rank?" asked Ardan, astounded at his friend's wonderful
memory.

"The next in rank," replied Barbican promptly, "are those about the size
of the Matterhorn, that is to say about 2-3/4 miles in height. They are
_Macrobius_, _Delambre_, and _Conon_. Come," he added, seeing Ardan
hesitating and at a loss what other question to ask, "don't you want to
know what lunar mountains are about the same height as the Peak of
Teneriffe? or as AEtna? or as Mount Washington? You need not be afraid of
puzzling me. I studied up the subject thoroughly, and therefore know all
about it."

"Oh! I could listen to you with delight all day long!" cried Ardan,
enthusiastically, though with some embarrassment, for he felt a twinge
of conscience in acting so falsely towards his beloved friend. "The fact
is," he went on, "such a rational conversation as the present, on such
an absorbing subject, with such a perfect master--"

"The Sun!" cried M'Nicholl starting up and cheering. "He's cleared the
disc completely, and he's now himself again! Long life to him! Hurrah!"

"Hurrah!" cried the others quite as enthusiastically (Ardan did not seem
a bit desirous to finish his sentence).

They tossed their maps aside and hastened to the window.




CHAPTER XVII.

TYCHO.


It was now exactly six o'clock in the evening. The Sun, completely clear
of all contact with the lunar disc, steeped the whole Projectile in his
golden rays. The travellers, vertically over the Moon's south pole,
were, as Barbican soon ascertained, about 30 miles distant from it, the
exact distance they had been from the north pole--a proof that the
elliptic curve still maintained itself with mathematical rigor.

For some time, the travellers' whole attention was concentrated on the
glorious Sun. His light was inexpressibly cheering; and his heat, soon
penetrating the walls of the Projectile, infused a new and sweet life
into their chilled and exhausted frames. The ice rapidly disappeared,
and the windows soon resumed their former perfect transparency.

"Oh! how good the pleasant sunlight is!" cried the Captain, sinking on a
seat in a quiet ecstasy of enjoyment. "How I pity Ardan's poor friends
the Selenites during that night so long and so icy! How impatient they
must be to see the Sun back again!"

"Yes," said Ardan, also sitting down the better to bask in the vivifying
rays, "his light no doubt brings them to life and keeps them alive.
Without light or heat during all that dreary winter, they must freeze
stiff like the frogs or become torpid like the bears. I can't imagine
how they could get through it otherwise."

"I'm glad _we're_ through it anyhow," observed M'Nicholl. "I may at once
acknowledge that I felt perfectly miserable as long as it lasted. I can
now easily understand how the combined cold and darkness killed Doctor
Kane's Esquimaux dogs. It was near killing me. I was so miserable that
at last I could neither talk myself nor bear to hear others talk."

"My own case exactly," said Barbican--"that is," he added hastily,
correcting himself, "I tried to talk because I found Ardan so
interested, but in spite of all we said, and saw, and had to think of,
Byron's terrible dream would continually rise up before me:

    "The bright Sun was extinguished, and the Stars
    Wandered all darkling in the eternal space,
    Rayless and pathless, and the icy Earth
    Swung blind and blackening in the Moonless air.
    Morn came and went, and came and brought no day!
    And men forgot their passions in the dread
    Of this their desolation, and all hearts
    Were chilled into a selfish prayer for _light_!"

As he pronounced these words in accents at once monotonous and
melancholy, Ardan, fully appreciative, quietly gesticulated in perfect
cadence with the rhythm. Then the three men remained completely silent
for several minutes. Buried in recollection, or lost in thought, or
magnetized by the bright Sun, they seemed to be half asleep while
steeping their limbs in his vitalizing beams.

Barbican was the first to dissolve the reverie by jumping up. His sharp
eye had noticed that the base of the Projectile, instead of keeping
rigidly perpendicular to the lunar surface, turned away a little, so as
to render the elliptical orbit somewhat elongated. This he made his
companions immediately observe, and also called their attention to the
fact that from this point they could easily have seen the Earth had it
been Full, but that now, drowned in the Sun's beams, it was quite
invisible. A more attractive spectacle, however, soon engaged their
undivided attention--that of the Moon's southern regions, now brought
within about the third of a mile by their telescopes. Immediately
resuming their posts by the windows, they carefully noted every feature
presented by the fantastic panorama that stretched itself out in endless
lengths beneath their wondering eyes.

[Illustration: THEY SEEMED HALF ASLEEP.]

Mount _Leibnitz_ and Mount _Doerfel_ form two separate groups developed
in the regions of the extreme south. The first extends westwardly from
the pole to the 84th parallel; the second, on the southeastern border,
starting from the pole, reaches the neighborhood of the 65th. In the
entangled valleys of their clustered peaks, appeared the dazzling sheets
of white, noted by Father Secchi, but their peculiar nature Barbican
could now examine with a greater prospect of certainty than the
illustrious Roman astronomer had ever enjoyed.

"They're beds of snow," he said at last in a decided tone.

"Snow!" exclaimed M'Nicholl.

"Yes, snow, or rather glaciers heavily coated with glittering ice. See
how vividly they reflect the Sun's rays. Consolidated beds of lava could
never shine with such dazzling uniformity. Therefore there must be both
water and air on the Moon's surface. Not much--perhaps very little if
you insist on it--but the fact that there is some can now no longer be
questioned."

This assertion of Barbican's, made so positively by a man who never
decided unless when thoroughly convinced, was a great triumph for Ardan,
who, as the gracious reader doubtless remembers, had had a famous
dispute with M'Nicholl on that very subject at Tampa.[D] His eyes
brightened and a smile of pleasure played around his lips, but, with a
great effort at self-restraint, he kept perfectly silent and would not
permit himself even to look in the direction of the Captain. As for
M'Nicholl, he was apparently too much absorbed in _Doerfel_ and
_Leibnitz_ to mind anything else.

These mountains rose from plains of moderate extent, bounded by an
indefinite succession of walled hollows and ring ramparts. They are the
only chains met in this region of ridge-brimmed craters and circles;
distinguished by no particular feature, they project a few pointed peaks
here and there, some of which exceed four miles and a half in height.
This altitude, however, foreshortened as it was by the vertical position
of the Projectile, could not be noticed just then, even if correct
observation had been permitted by the dazzling surface.

Once more again before the travellers' eyes the Moon's disc revealed
itself in all the old familiar features so characteristic of lunar
landscapes--no blending of tones, no softening of colors, no graduation
of shadows, every line glaring in white or black by reason of the total
absence of refracted light. And yet the wonderfully peculiar character
of this desolate world imparted to it a weird attraction as strangely
fascinating as ever.

Over this chaotic region the travellers were now sweeping, as if borne
on the wings of a storm; the peaks defiled beneath them; the yawning
chasms revealed their ruin-strewn floors; the fissured cracks untwisted
themselves; the ramparts showed all their sides; the mysterious holes
presented their impenetrable depths; the clustered mountain summits and
rings rapidly decomposed themselves: but in a moment again all had
become more inextricably entangled than ever. Everything appeared to be
the finished handiwork of volcanic agency, in the utmost purity and
highest perfection. None of the mollifying effects of air or water could
here be noticed. No smooth-capped mountains, no gently winding river
channels, no vast prairie-lands of deposited sediment, no traces of
vegetation, no signs of agriculture, no vestiges of a great city.
Nothing but vast beds of glistering lava, now rough like immense piles
of scoriae and clinker, now smooth like crystal mirrors, and reflecting
the Sun's rays with the same intolerable glare. Not the faintest speck
of life. A world absolutely and completely dead, fixed, still,
motionless--save when a gigantic land-slide, breaking off the vertical
wall of a crater, plunged down into the soundless depths, with all the
fury too of a crashing avalanche, with all the speed of a Niagara, but,
in the total absence of atmosphere, noiseless as a feather, as a snow
flake, as a grain of impalpable dust.

Careful observations, taken by Barbican and repeated by his companions,
soon satisfied them that the ridgy outline of the mountains on the
Moon's border, though perhaps due to different forces from those acting
in the centre, still presented a character generally uniform. The same
bulwark-surrounded hollows, the same abrupt projections of surface. Yet
a different arrangement, as Barbican pointed out to his companions,
might be naturally expected. In the central portion of the disc, the
Moon's crust, before solidification, must have been subjected to two
attractions--that of the Moon herself and that of the Earth--acting,
however, in contrary directions and therefore, in a certain sense,
serving to neutralize each other. Towards the border of her disc, on the
contrary, the terrestrial attraction, having acted in a direction
perpendicular to that of the lunar, should have exerted greater power,
and therefore given a different shape to the general contour. But no
remarkable difference had so far been perceived by terrestrial
observers; and none could now be detected by our travellers. Therefore
the Moon must have found in herself alone the principle of her shape and
of her superficial development--that is, she owed nothing to external
influences. "Arago was perfectly right, therefore," concluded Barbican,
"in the remarkable opinion to which he gave expression thirty years ago:

'No external action whatever has contributed to the formation of the
Moon's diversified surface.'"

"But don't you think, Barbican," asked the Captain, "that every force,
internal or external, that might modify the Moon's shape, has ceased
long ago?"

"I am rather inclined to that opinion," said Barbican; "it is not,
however, a new one. Descartes maintained that as the Earth is an extinct
Sun, so is the Moon an extinct Earth. My own opinion at present is that
the Moon is now the image of death, but I can't say if she has ever been
the abode of life."

"The abode of life!" cried Ardan, who had great repugnance in accepting
the idea that the Moon was no better than a heap of cinders and ashes;
"why, look there! If those are not as neat a set of the ruins of an
abandoned city as ever I saw, I should like to know what they are!"

[Illustration: ONCE MORE THE PIPES OF AN AQUEDUCT.]

He pointed to some very remarkable rocky formations in the
neighborhood of _Short_, a ring mountain rising to an altitude
considerably higher than that of Mont Blanc. Even Barbican and M'Nicholl
could detect some regularity and semblance of order in the arrangement
of these rocks, but this, of course, they looked on as a mere freak of
nature, like the Lurlei Rock, the Giant's Causeway, or the Old Man of
the Franconia Mountains. Ardan, however, would not accept such an easy
mode of getting rid of a difficulty.

"See the ruins on that bluff," he exclaimed; "those steep sides must
have been washed by a great river in the prehistoric times. That was the
fortress. Farther down lay the city. There are the dismantled ramparts;
why, there's the very coping of a portico still intact! Don't you see
three broken pillars lying beside their pedestals? There! a little to
the left of those arches that evidently once bore the pipes of an
aqueduct! You don't see them? Well, look a little to the right, and
there is something that you can see! As I'm a living man I have no
difficulty in discerning the gigantic butments of a great bridge that
formerly spanned that immense river!"

Did he really see all this? To this day he affirms stoutly that he did,
and even greater wonders besides. His companions, however, without
denying that he had good grounds for his assertion on this subject or
questioning the general accuracy of his observations, content themselves
with saying that the reason why they had failed to discover the
wonderful city, was that Ardan's telescope was of a strange and
peculiar construction. Being somewhat short-sighted, he had had it
manufactured expressly for his own use, but it was of such singular
power that his companions could not use it without hurting their eyes.

But, whether the ruins were real or not, the moments were evidently too
precious to be lost in idle discussion. The great city of the Selenites
soon disappeared on the remote horizon, and, what was of far greater
importance, the distance of the Projectile from the Moon's disc began to
increase so sensibly that the smaller details of the surface were soon
lost in a confused mass, and it was only the lofty heights, the wide
craters, the great ring mountains, and the vast plains that still
continued to give sharp, distinctive outlines.

A little to their left, the travellers could now plainly distinguish one
of the most remarkable of the Moon's craters, _Newton_, so well known to
all lunar astronomers. Its ramparts, forming a perfect circle, rise to
such a height, at least 22,000 feet, as to seem insurmountable.

"You can, no doubt, notice for yourselves," said Barbican, "that the
external height of this mountain is far from being equal to the depth of
its crater. The enormous pit, in fact, seems to be a soundless sea of
pitchy black, the bottom of which the Sun's rays have never reached.
There, as Humboldt says, reigns eternal darkness, so absolute that
Earth-shine or even Sunlight is never able to dispel it. Had Michael's
friends the old mythologists ever known anything about it, they would
doubtless have made it the entrance to the infernal regions. On the
whole surface of our Earth, there is no mountain even remotely
resembling it. It is a perfect type of the lunar crater. Like most of
them, it shows that the peculiar formation of the Moon's surface is due,
first, to the cooling of the lunar crust; secondly, to the cracking from
internal pressure; and, thirdly, to the violent volcanic action in
consequence. This must have been of a far fiercer nature than it has
ever been with us. The matter was ejected to a vast height till great
mountains were formed; and still the action went on, until at last the
floor of the crater sank to a depth far lower than the level of the
external plain."

"You may be right," said Ardan by way of reply; "as for me, I'm looking
out for another city. But I'm sorry to say that our Projectile is
increasing its distance so fast that, even if one lay at my feet at this
moment, I doubt very much if I could see it a bit better than either you
or the Captain."

_Newton_ was soon passed, and the Projectile followed a course that took
it directly over the ring mountain _Moretus_. A little to the west the
travellers could easily distinguish the summits of _Blancanus_, 7,000
feet high, and, towards seven o'clock in the evening, they were
approaching the neighborhood of _Clavius_.

This walled-plain, one of the most remarkable on the Moon, lies 55 deg. S.
by 15 deg. E. Its height is estimated at 16,000 feet, but it is considered
to be about a hundred and fifty miles in diameter. Of this vast crater,
the travellers now at a distance of 250 miles, reduced to 2-1/2 by their
telescopes, had a magnificent bird's-eye view.

"Our terrestrial volcanoes," said Barbican, "as you can now readily
judge for yourselves, are no more than molehills when compared with
those of the Moon. Measure the old craters formed by the early eruptions
of Vesuvius and AEtna, and you will find them little more than three
miles in diameter. The crater of Cantal in central France is only about
six miles in width; the famous valley in Ceylon, called the _Crater_,
though not at all due to volcanic action, is 44 miles across and is
considered to be the greatest in the world. But even this is very little
in comparison to the diameter of _Clavius_ lying beneath us at the
present moment."

"How much is its diameter?" asked the Captain.

"At least one hundred and forty-two miles," replied Barbican; "it is
probably the greatest in the Moon, but many others measure more than a
hundred miles across."

"Dear boys," said Ardan, half to himself, half to the others, "only
imagine the delicious state of things on the surface of the gentle Moon
when these craters, brimming over with hissing lava, were vomiting
forth, all at the same time, showers of melted stones, clouds of
blinding smoke, and sheets of blasting flame! What an intensely
overpowering spectacle was here presented once, but now, how are the
mighty fallen! Our Moon, as at present beheld, seems to be nothing more
than the skinny spectre left after a brilliant display of fireworks,
when the spluttering crackers, the glittering wheels, the hissing
serpents, the revolving suns, and the dazzling stars, are all 'played
out', and nothing remains to tell of the gorgeous spectacle but a few
blackened sticks and half a dozen half burned bits of pasteboard. I
should like to hear one of you trying to explain the cause, the reason,
the principle, the philosophy of such tremendous cataclysms!"

Barbican's only reply was a series of nods, for in truth he had not
heard a single word of Ardan's philosophic explosion. His ears were with
his eyes, and these were obstinately bent on the gigantic ramparts of
_Clavius_, formed of concentric mountain ridges, which were actually
leagues in depth. On the floor of the vast cavity, could be seen
hundreds of smaller craters, mottling it like a skimming dish, and
pierced here and there by sharp peaks, one of which could hardly be less
than 15,000 feet high.

All around, the plain was desolate in the extreme. You could not
conceive how anything could be barrener than these serrated outlines, or
gloomier than these shattered mountains--until you looked at the plain
that encircled them. Ardan hardly exaggerated when he called it the
scene of a battle fought thousands of years ago but still white with the
hideous bones of overthrown peaks, slaughtered mountains and mutilated
precipices!

    "Hills amid the air encountered hills,
    Hurled to and fro in jaculation dire,"

murmured M'Nicholl, who could quote you Milton quite as readily as the
Bible.

"This must have been the spot," muttered Barbican to himself, "where the
brittle shell of the cooling sphere, being thicker than usual, offered
greater resistance to an eruption of the red-hot nucleus. Hence these
piled up buttresses, and these orderless heaps of consolidated lava and
ejected scoriae."

The Projectile advanced, but the scene of desolation seemed to remain
unchanged. Craters, ring mountains, pitted plateaus dotted with
shapeless wrecks, succeeded each other without interruption. For level
plain, for dark "sea," for smooth plateau, the eye here sought in vain.
It was a Swiss Greenland, an Icelandic Norway, a Sahara of shattered
crust studded with countless hills of glassy lava.

At last, in the very centre of this blistered region, right too at its
very culmination, the travellers came on the brightest and most
remarkable mountain of the Moon. In the dazzling _Tycho_ they found it
an easy matter to recognize the famous lunar point, which the world will
for ever designate by the name of the distinguished astronomer of
Denmark.

This brilliant luminosity of the southern hemisphere, no one that ever
gazes at the Full Moon in a cloudless sky, can help noticing. Ardan, who
had always particularly admired it, now hailed it as an old friend, and
almost exhausted breath, imagination and vocabulary in the epithets with
which he greeted this cynosure of the lunar mountains.

"Hail!" he cried, "thou blazing focus of glittering streaks, thou
coruscating nucleus of irradiation, thou starting point of rays
divergent, thou egress of meteoric flashes! Hub of the silver wheel that
ever rolls in silent majesty over the starry plains of Night! Paragon of
jewels enchased in a carcanet of dazzling brilliants! Eye of the
universe, beaming with heavenly resplendescence!

"Who shall say what thou art? Diana's nimbus? The golden clasp of her
floating robes? The blazing head of the great bolt that rivets the lunar
hemispheres in union inseverable? Or cans't thou have been some errant
bolide, which missing its way, butted blindly against the lunar face,
and there stuck fast, like a Minie ball mashed against a cast-iron
target? Alas! nobody knows. Not even Barbican is able to penetrate thy
mystery. But one thing _I_ know. Thy dazzling glare so sore my eyes hath
made that longer on thy light to gaze I do not dare. Captain, have you
any smoked glass?"

In spite of this anti-climax, Ardan's companions could hardly consider
his utterings either as ridiculous or over enthusiastic. They could
easily excuse his excitement on the subject. And so could we, if we only
remember that _Tycho_, though nearly a quarter of a million miles
distant, is such a luminous point on the lunar disc, that almost any
moonlit night it can be easily perceived by the unaided terrestrial eye.
What then must have been its splendor in the eyes of our travellers
whose telescopes brought it actually four thousand times nearer! No
wonder that with smoked glasses, they endeavored to soften off its
effulgent glare! Then in hushed silence, or at most uttering at
intervals a few interjections expressive of their intense admiration,
they remained for some time completely engrossed in the overwhelming
spectacle. For the time being, every sentiment, impression, thought,
feeling on their part, was concentrated in the eye, just as at other
times under violent excitement every throb of our life is concentrated
in the heart.

_Tycho_ belongs to the system of lunar craters that is called
_radiating_, like _Aristarchus_ or _Copernicus_, which had been already
seen and highly admired by our travellers at their first approach to the
Moon. But it is decidedly the most remarkable and conspicuous of them
all. It occupies the great focus of disruption, whence it sends out
great streaks thousands of miles in length; and it gives the most
unmistakable evidence of the terribly eruptive nature of those forces
that once shattered the Moon's solidified shell in this portion of the
lunar surface.

Situated in the southern latitude of 43 deg. by an eastern longitude of 12 deg.,
_Tycho's_ crater, somewhat elliptical in shape, is 54 miles in diameter
and upwards of 16,000 feet in depth. Its lofty ramparts are buttressed
by other mountains, Mont Blancs in size, all grouped around it, and all
streaked with the great divergent fissures that radiate from it as a
centre.

Of what this incomparable mountain really is, with all these lines of
projections converging towards it and with all these prominent points
of relief protruding within its crater, photography has, so far, been
able to give us only a very unsatisfactory idea. The reason too is very
simple: it is only at Full Moon that _Tycho_ reveals himself in all his
splendor. The shadows therefore vanishing, the perspective
foreshortenings disappear and the views become little better than a dead
blank. This is the more to be regretted as this wonderful region is well
worthy of being represented with the greatest possible photographic
accuracy. It is a vast agglomeration of holes, craters, ring formations,
a complicated intersection of crests--in short, a distracting volcanic
network flung over the blistered soil. The ebullitions of the central
eruption still evidently preserve their original form. As they first
appeared, so they lie. Crystallizing as they cooled, they have
stereotyped in imperishable characters the aspect formerly presented by
the whole Moon's surface under the influences of recent plutonic
upheaval.

Our travellers were far more fortunate than the photographers. The
distance separating them from the peaks of _Tycho's_ concentric terraces
was not so considerable as to conceal the principal details from a very
satisfactory view. They could easily distinguish the annular ramparts of
the external circumvallation, the mountains buttressing the gigantic
walls internally as well as externally, the vast esplanades descending
irregularly and abruptly to the sunken plains all around. They could
even detect a difference of a few hundred feet in altitude in favor of
the western or right hand side over the eastern. They could also see
that these dividing ridges were actually inaccessible and completely
unsurmountable, at least by ordinary terrestrian efforts. No system of
castrametation ever devised by Polybius or Vauban could bear the
slightest comparison with such vast fortifications, A city built on the
floor of the circular cavity could be no more reached by the outside
Lunarians than if it had been built in the planet Mars.

This idea set Ardan off again. "Yes," said he, "such a city would be at
once completely inaccessible, and still not inconveniently situated in a
plateau full of aspects decidedly picturesque. Even in the depths of
this immense crater, Nature, as you can see, has left no flat and empty
void. You can easily trace its special oreography, its various mountain
systems which turn it into a regular world on a small scale. Notice its
cones, its central hills, its valleys, its substructures already cut and
dry and therefore quietly prepared to receive the masterpieces of
Selenite architecture. Down there to the left is a lovely spot for a
Saint Peter's; to the right, a magnificent site for a Forum; here a
Louvre could be built capable of entrancing Michael Angelo himself;
there a citadel could be raised to which even Gibraltar would be a
molehill! In the middle rises a sharp peak which can hardly be less than
a mile in height--a grand pedestal for the statue of some Selenite
Vincent de Paul or George Washington. And around them all is a mighty
mountain-ring at least 3 miles high, but which, to an eye looking from
the centre of our vast city, could not appear to be more than five or
six hundred feet. Enormous circus, where mighty Rome herself in her
palmiest days, though increased tenfold, would have no reason to
complain for want of room!"

He stopped for a few seconds, perhaps to take breath, and then resumed:

"Oh what an abode of serene happiness could be constructed within this
shadow-fringed ring of the mighty mountains! O blessed refuge,
unassailable by aught of human ills! What a calm unruffled life could be
enjoyed within thy hallowed precincts, even by those cynics, those
haters of humanity, those disgusted reconstructors of society, those
misanthropes and misogynists old and young, who are continually writing
whining verses in odd corners of the newspapers!"

"Right at last, Ardan, my boy!" cried M'Nicholl, quietly rubbing the
glass of his spectacles; "I should like to see the whole lot of them
carted in there without a moment's delay!"

"It couldn't hold the half of them!" observed Barbican drily.

[Footnote D: BALTIMORE GUN CLUB, pp. 295 _et seq._]




CHAPTER XVIII.

PUZZLING QUESTIONS.


It was not until the Projectile had passed a little beyond _Tycho's_
immense concavity that Barbican and his friends had a good opportunity
for observing the brilliant streaks sent so wonderfully flying in all
directions from this celebrated mountain as a common centre. They
examined them for some time with the closest attention.

What could be the nature of this radiating aureola? By what geological
phenomena could this blazing coma have been possibly produced? Such
questions were the most natural things in the world for Barbican and his
companions to propound to themselves, as indeed they have been to every
astronomer from the beginning of time, and probably will be to the end.

What _did_ they see? What you can see, what anybody can see on a clear
night when the Moon is full--only our friends had all the advantages of
a closer view. From _Tycho_, as a focus, radiated in all directions, as
from the head of a peeled orange, more than a hundred luminous streaks
or channels, edges raised, middle depressed--or perhaps _vice versa_,
owing to an optical illusion--some at least twelve miles wide, some
fully thirty. In certain directions they ran for a distance of at least
six hundred miles, and seemed--especially towards the west, northwest,
and north--to cover half the southern hemisphere. One of these flashes
extended as far as _Neander_ on the 40th meridian; another, curving
around so as to furrow the _Mare Nectaris_, came to an end on the chain
of the _Pyrenees_, after a course of perhaps a little more than seven
hundred miles. On the east, some of them barred with luminous network
the _Mare Nubium_ and even the _Mare Humorum_.

The most puzzling feature of these glittering streaks was that they ran
their course directly onward, apparently neither obstructed by valley,
crater, or mountain ridge however high. They all started, as said
before, from one common focus, _Tycho's_ crater. From this they
certainly all seemed to emanate. Could they be rivers of lava once
vomited from that centre by resistless volcanic agency and afterwards
crystallized into glassy rock? This idea of Herschel's, Barbican had no
hesitation in qualifying as exceedingly absurd. Rivers running in
perfectly straight lines, across plains, and _up_ as well as _down_
mountains!

"Other astronomers," he continued, "have looked on these streaks as a
peculiar kind of _moraines_, that is, long lines of erratic blocks
belched forth with mighty power at the period of _Tycho's_ own
upheaval."

"How do you like that theory, Barbican," asked the Captain.

"It's not a particle better than Herschel's," was the reply; "no
volcanic action could project rocks to a distance of six or seven
hundred miles, not to talk of laying them down so regularly that we
can't detect a break in them."

"Happy thought!" cried Ardan suddenly; "it seems to me that I can tell
the cause of these radiating streaks!"

"Let us hear it," said Barbican.

"Certainly," was Ardan's reply; "these streaks are all only the parts of
what we call a 'star,' as made by a stone striking ice; or by a ball, a
pane of glass."

"Not bad," smiled Barbican approvingly; "only where is the hand that
flung the stone or threw the ball?"

"The hand is hardly necessary," replied Ardan, by no means disconcerted;
"but as for the ball, what do you say to a comet?"

Here M'Nicholl laughed so loud that Ardan was seriously irritated.
However, before he could say anything cutting enough to make the Captain
mind his manners, Barbican had quickly resumed:

"Dear friend, let the comets alone, I beg of you; the old astronomers
fled to them on all occasions and made them explain every difficulty--"

--"The comets were all used up long ago--" interrupted M'Nicholl.

--"Yes," went on Barbican, as serenely as a judge, "comets, they said,
had fallen on the surface in meteoric showers and crushed in the crater
cavities; comets had dried up the water; comets had whisked off the
atmosphere; comets had done everything. All pure assumption! In your
case, however, friend Michael, no comet whatever is necessary. The shock
that gave rise to your great 'star' may have come from the interior
rather than the exterior. A violent contraction of the lunar crust in
the process of cooling may have given birth to your gigantic 'star'
formation."

"I accept the amendment," said Ardan, now in the best of humor and
looking triumphantly at M'Nicholl.

"An English scientist," continued Barbican, "Nasmyth by name, is
decidedly of your opinion, especially ever since a little experiment of
his own has confirmed him in it. He filled a glass globe with water,
hermetically sealed it, and then plunged it into a hot bath. The
enclosed water, expanding at a greater rate than the glass, burst the
latter, but, in doing so, it made a vast number of cracks all diverging
in every direction from the focus of disruption. Something like this he
conceives to have taken place around _Tycho_. As the crust cooled, it
cracked. The lava from the interior, oozing out, spread itself on both
sides of the cracks. This certainly explains pretty satisfactorily why
those flat glistening streaks are of much greater width than the
fissures through which the lava had at first made its way to the
surface."

"Well done for an Englishman!" cried Ardan in great spirits.

"He's no Englishman," said M'Nicholl, glad to have an opportunity of
coming off with some credit. "He is the famous Scotch engineer who
invented the steam hammer, the steam ram, and discovered the 'willow
leaves' in the Sun's disc."

"Better and better," said Ardan--"but, powers of Vulcan! What makes it
so hot? I'm actually roasting!"

This observation was hardly necessary to make his companions conscious
that by this time they felt extremely uncomfortable. The heat had become
quite oppressive. Between the natural caloric of the Sun and the
reflected caloric of the Moon, the Projectile was fast turning into a
regular bake oven. This transition from intense cold to intense heat was
already about quite as much as they could bear.

"What shall we do, Barbican?" asked Ardan, seeing that for some time no
one else appeared inclined to say a word.

"Nothing, at least yet awhile, friend Ardan," replied Barbican, "I have
been watching the thermometer carefully for the last few minutes, and,
though we are at present at 38 deg. centigrade, or 100 deg. Fahrenheit, I have
noticed that the mercury is slowly falling. You can also easily remark
for yourself that the floor of the Projectile is turning away more and
more from the lunar surface. From this I conclude quite confidently, and
I see that the Captain agrees with me, that all danger of death from
intense heat, though decidedly alarming ten minutes ago, is over for the
present and, for some time at least, it may be dismissed from further
consideration."

"I'm not very sorry for it," said Ardan cheerfully; "neither to be
baked like a pie in an oven nor roasted like a fat goose before a fire
is the kind of death I should like to die of."

"Yet from such a death you would suffer no more than your friends the
Selenites are exposed to every day of their lives," said the Captain,
evidently determined on getting up an argument.

"I understand the full bearing of your allusion, my dear Captain,"
replied Ardan quickly, but not at all in a tone showing that he was
disposed to second M'Nicholl's expectations.

He was, in fact, fast losing all his old habits of positivism. Latterly
he had seen much, but he had reflected more. The deeper he had
reflected, the more inclined he had become to accept the conclusion that
the less he knew. Hence he had decided that if M'Nicholl wanted an
argument it should not be with him. All speculative disputes he should
henceforth avoid; he would listen with pleasure to all that could be
urged on each side; he might even skirmish a little here and there as
the spirit moved him; but a regular pitched battle on a subject purely
speculative he was fully determined never again to enter into.

"Yes, dear Captain," he continued, "that pointed arrow of yours has by
no means missed its mark, but I can't deny that my faith is beginning to
be what you call a little 'shaky' in the existence of my friends the
Selenites. However, I should like to have your square opinion on the
matter. Barbican's also. We have witnessed many strange lunar phenomena
lately, closer and clearer than mortal eye ever rested on them before.
Has what we have seen confirmed any theory of yours or confounded any
hypothesis? Have you seen enough to induce you to adopt decided
conclusions? I will put the question formally. Do you, or do you not,
think that the Moon resembles the Earth in being the abode of animals
and intelligent beings? Come, answer, _messieurs_. Yes, or no?"

"I think we can answer your question categorically," replied Barbican,
"if you modify its form a little."

"Put the question any way you please," said Ardan; "only you answer it!
I'm not particular about the form."

"Good," said Barbican; "the question, being a double one, demands a
double answer. First: _Is the Moon inhabitable?_ Second: _Has the Moon
ever been inhabited?_"

"That's the way to go about it," said the Captain. "Now then, Ardan,
what do _you_ say to the first question? Yes, or no?"

"I really can't say anything," replied Ardan. "In the presence of such
distinguished scientists, I'm only a listener, a 'mere looker on in
Vienna' as the Divine Williams has it. However, for the sake of
argument, suppose I reply in the affirmative, and say that _the Moon is
inhabitable_."

"If you do, I shall most unhesitatingly contradict you," said Barbican,
feeling just then in splendid humor for carrying on an argument, not, of
course, for the sake of contradicting or conquering or crushing or
showing off or for any other vulgar weakness of lower minds, but for the
noble and indeed the only motive that should impel a philosopher--that
of _enlightening_ and _convincing_, "In taking the negative side,
however, or saying that the Moon is not inhabitable, I shall not be
satisfied with merely negative arguments. Many words, however, are not
required. Look at her present condition: her atmosphere dwindled away to
the lowest ebb; her 'seas' dried up or very nearly so; her waters
reduced to next to nothing; her vegetation, if existing at all, existing
only on the scantiest scale; her transitions from intense heat to
intense cold, as we ourselves can testify, sudden in the extreme; her
nights and her days each nearly 360 hours long. With all this positively
against her and nothing at all that we know of positively for her, I
have very little hesitation in saying that the Moon appears to me to be
absolutely uninhabitable. She seems to me not only unpropitious to the
development of the animal kingdom but actually incapable of sustaining
life at all--that is, in the sense that we usually attach to such a
term."

"That saving clause is well introduced, friend Barbican," said
M'Nicholl, who, seeing no chance of demolishing Ardan, had not yet made
up his mind as to having another little bout with the President. "For
surely you would not venture to assert that the Moon is uninhabitable by
a race of beings having an organization different from ours?"

"That question too, Captain," replied Barbican, "though a much more
difficult one, I shall try to answer. First, however, let us see,
Captain, if we agree on some fundamental points. How do we detect the
existence of life? Is it not by _movement_? Is not _motion_ its result,
no matter what may be its organization?"

"Well," said the Captain in a drawling way, "I guess we may grant that."

"Then, dear friends," resumed Barbican, "I must remind you that, though
we have had the privilege of observing the lunar continents at a
distance of not more than one-third of a mile, we have never yet caught
sight of the first thing moving on her surface. The presence of
humanity, even of the lowest type, would have revealed itself in some
form or other, by boundaries, by buildings, even by ruins. Now what
_have_ we seen? Everywhere and always, the geological works of _nature_;
nowhere and never, the orderly labors of _man_. Therefore, if any
representatives of animal life exist in the Moon, they must have taken
refuge in those bottomless abysses where our eyes were unable to track
them. And even this I can't admit. They could not always remain in these
cavities. If there is any atmosphere at all in the Moon, it must be
found in her immense low-lying plains. Over those plains her inhabitants
must have often passed, and on those plains they must in some way or
other have left some mark, some trace, some vestige of their existence,
were it even only a road. But you both know well that nowhere are any
such traces visible: therefore, they don't exist; therefore, no lunar
inhabitants exist--except, of course, such a race of beings, if we can
imagine any such, as could exist without revealing their existence by
_movement_."

"That is to say," broke in Ardan, to give what he conceived a sharper
point to Barbican's cogent arguments, "such a race of beings as could
exist without existing!"

"Precisely," said Barbican: "Life without movement, and no life at all,
are equivalent expressions."

"Captain," said Ardan, with all the gravity he could assume, "have you
anything more to say before the Moderator of our little Debating Society
gives his opinion on the arguments regarding the question before the
house?"

"No more at present," said the Captain, biding his time.

"Then," resumed Ardan, rising with much dignity, "the Committee on Lunar
Explorations, appointed by the Honorable Baltimore Gun Club, solemnly
assembled in the Projectile belonging to the aforesaid learned and
respectable Society, having carefully weighed all the arguments advanced
on each side of the question, and having also carefully considered all
the new facts bearing on the case that have lately come under the
personal notice of said Committee, unanimously decides negatively on the
question now before the chair for investigation--namely, 'Is the Moon
inhabitable?' Barbican, as chairman of the Committee, I empower you to
duly record our solemn decision--_No, the Moon is not inhabitable_."

Barbican, opening his note-book, made the proper entry among the minutes
of the meeting of December 6th.

"Now then, gentlemen," continued Ardan, "if you are ready for the second
question, the necessary complement of the first, we may as well approach
it at once. I propound it for discussion in the following form: _Has the
Moon ever been inhabited?_ Captain, the Committee would be delighted to
hear your remarks on the subject."

"Gentlemen," began the Captain in reply, "I had formed my opinion
regarding the ancient inhabitability of our Satellite long before I ever
dreamed of testing my theory by anything like our present journey. I
will now add that all our observations, so far made, have only served to
confirm me in my opinion. I now venture to assert, not only with every
kind of probability in my favor but also on what I consider most
excellent arguments, that the Moon was once inhabited by a race of
beings possessing an organization similar to our own, that she once
produced animals anatomically resembling our terrestrial animals, and
that all these living organizations, human and animal, have had their
day, that that day vanished ages and ages ago, and that, consequently,
_Life_, extinguished forever, can never again reveal its existence there
under any form."

"Is the Chair," asked Ardan, "to infer from the honorable gentleman's
observations that he considers the Moon to be a world much older than
the Earth?"

"Not exactly that," replied the Captain without hesitation; "I rather
mean to say that the Moon is a world that grew old more rapidly than the
Earth; that it came to maturity earlier; that it ripened quicker, and
was stricken with old age sooner. Owing to the difference of the volumes
of the two worlds, the organizing forces of matter must have been
comparatively much more violent in the interior of the Moon than in the
interior of the Earth. The present condition of its surface, as we see
it lying there beneath us at this moment, places this assertion beyond
all possibility of doubt. Wrinkled, pitted, knotted, furrowed, scarred,
nothing that we can show on Earth resembles it. Moon and Earth were
called into existence by the Creator probably at the same period of
time. In the first stages of their existence, they do not seem to have
been anything better than masses of gas. Acted upon by various forces
and various influences, all of course directed by an omnipotent
intelligence, these gases by degrees became liquid, and the liquids grew
condensed into solids until solidity could retain its shape. But the two
heavenly bodies, though starting at the same time, developed at a very
different ratio. Most undoubtedly, our globe was still gaseous or at
most only liquid, at the period when the Moon, already hardened by
cooling, began to become inhabitable."

"_Most undoubtedly_ is good!" observed Ardan admiringly.

"At this period," continued the learned Captain, "an atmosphere
surrounded her. The waters, shut in by this gaseous envelope, could no
longer evaporate. Under the combined influences of air, water, light,
and solar heat as well as internal heat, vegetation began to overspread
the continents by this time ready to receive it, and most undoubtedly--I
mean--a--incontestably--it was at this epoch that _life_ manifested
itself on the lunar surface. I say _incontestably_ advisedly, for Nature
never exhausts herself in producing useless things, and therefore a
world, so wonderfully inhabitable, _must_ of necessity have had
inhabitants."

"I like _of necessity_ too," said Ardan, who could never keep still; "I
always did, when I felt my arguments to be what you call a little
shaky."

"But, my dear Captain," here observed Barbican, "have you taken into
consideration some of the peculiarities of our Satellite which are
decidedly opposed to the development of vegetable and animal existence?
Those nights and days, for instance, 354 hours long?"

"I have considered them all," answered the brave Captain. "Days and
nights of such an enormous length would at the present time, I grant,
give rise to variations in temperature altogether intolerable to any
ordinary organization. But things were quite different in the era
alluded to. At that time, the atmosphere enveloped the Moon in a gaseous
mantle, and the vapors took the shape of clouds. By the screen thus
formed by the hand of nature, the heat of the solar rays was tempered
and the nocturnal radiation retarded. Light too, as well as heat, could
be modified, tempered, and _genialized_ if I may use the expression, by
the air. This produced a healthy counterpoise of forces, which, now that
the atmosphere has completely disappeared, of course exists no longer.
Besides--friend Ardan, you will excuse me for telling you something new,
something that will surprise you--"

--"Surprise me, my dear boy, fire away surprising me!" cried Ardan. "I
like dearly to be surprised. All I regret is that you scientists have
surprised me so much already that I shall never have a good, hearty,
genuine surprise again!"

--"I am most firmly convinced," continued the Captain, hardly waiting
for Ardan to finish, "that, at the period of the Moon's occupancy by
living creatures, her days and nights were by no means 354 hours long."

"Well! if anything could surprise me," said Ardan quickly, "such an
assertion as that most certainly would. On what does the honorable
gentleman base his _most firm conviction_?"

"We know," replied the Captain, "that the reason of the Moon's present
long day and night is the exact equality of the periods of her rotation
on her axis and of her revolution around the Earth. When she has turned
once around the Earth, she has turned once around herself. Consequently,
her back is turned to the Sun during one-half of the month; and her face
during the other half. Now, I don't believe that this state of things
existed at the period referred to."

"The gentleman does not believe!" exclaimed Ardan. "The Chair must be
excused for reminding the honorable gentleman that it can not accept his
incredulity as a sound and valid argument. These two movements have
certainly equal periods now; why not always?"

"For the simple reason that this equality of periods is due altogether
to the influence of terrestrial attraction," replied the ready Captain.
"This attraction at present, I grant, is so great that it actually
disables the Moon from revolving on herself; consequently she must
always keep the same face turned towards the Earth. But who can assert
that this attraction was powerful enough to exert the same influence at
the epoch when the Earth herself was only a fluid substance? In fact,
who can even assert that the Moon has always been the Earth's
satellite?"

"Ah, who indeed?" exclaimed Ardan. "And who can assert that the Moon did
not exist long before the Earth was called into being at all? In fact,
who can assert that the Earth itself is not a great piece broken off the
Moon? Nothing like asking absurd questions! I've often found them
passing for the best kind of arguments!"

"Friend Ardan," interposed Barbican, who noticed that the Captain was a
little too disconcerted to give a ready reply; "Friend Ardan, I must say
you are not quite wrong in showing how certain methods of reasoning,
legitimate enough in themselves, may be easily abused by being carried
too far. I think, however, that the Captain might maintain his position
without having recourse to speculations altogether too gigantic for
ordinary intellect. By simply admitting the insufficiency of the
primordeal attraction to preserve a perfect balance between the
movements of the lunar rotation and revolution, we can easily see how
the nights and days could once succeed each other on the Moon exactly as
they do at present on the Earth."

"Nothing can be clearer!" resumed the brave Captain, once more rushing
to the charge. "Besides, even without this alternation of days and
nights, life on the lunar surface was quite possible."

"Of course it was possible," said Ardan; "everything is possible except
what contradicts itself. It is possible too that every possibility is a
fact; therefore, it _is_ a fact. However," he added, not wishing to
press the Captain's weak points too closely, "let all these logical
niceties pass for the present. Now that you have established the
existence of your humanity in the Moon, the Chair would respectfully ask
how it has all so completely disappeared?"

"It disappeared completely thousands, perhaps millions, of years ago,"
replied the unabashed Captain. "It perished from the physical
impossibility of living any longer in a world where the atmosphere had
become by degrees too rare to be able to perform its functions as the
great resuscitating medium of dependent existences. What took place on
the Moon is only what is to take place some day or other on the Earth,
when it is sufficiently cooled off."

"Cooled off?"

"Yes," replied the Captain as confidently and with as little hesitation
as if he was explaining some of the details of his great machine-shop in
Philadelphia; "You see, according as the internal fire near the surface
was extinguished or was withdrawn towards the centre, the lunar shell
naturally cooled off. The logical consequences, of course, then
gradually took place: extinction of organized beings; and then
extinction of vegetation. The atmosphere, in the meantime, became
thinner and thinner--partly drawn off with the water evaporated by the
terrestrial attraction, and partly sinking with the solid water into the
crust-cracks caused by cooling. With the disappearance of air capable of
respiration, and of water capable of motion, the Moon, of course, became
uninhabitable. From that day it became the abode of death, as completely
as it is at the present moment."

"That is the fate in store for our Earth?"

"In all probability."

"And when is it to befall us?"

"Just as soon as the crust becomes cold enough to be uninhabitable."

"Perhaps your philosophership has taken the trouble to calculate how
many years it will take our unfortunate _Terra Mater_ to cool off?"

"Well; I have."

"And you can rely on your figures?"

"Implicitly."

"Why not tell it at once then to a fellow that's dying of impatience to
know all about it? Captain, the Chair considers you one of the most
tantalizing creatures in existence!"

"If you only listen, you will hear," replied M'Nicholl quietly. "By
careful observations, extended through a series of many years, men have
been able to discover the average loss of temperature endured by the
Earth in a century. Taking this as the ground work of their
calculations, they have ascertained that our Earth shall become an
uninhabitable planet in about--"

"Don't cut her life too short! Be merciful!" cried Ardan in a pleading
tone half in earnest. "Come, a good long day, your Honor! A good long
day!"

"The planet that we call the Earth," continued the Captain, as grave as
a judge, "will become uninhabitable to human beings, after a lapse of
400 thousand years from the present time."

"Hurrah!" cried Ardan, much relieved. "_Vive la Science!_ Henceforward,
what miscreant will persist in saying that the Savants are good for
nothing? Proudly pointing to this calculation, can't they exclaim to all
defamers: 'Silence, croakers! Our services are invaluable! Haven't we
insured the Earth for 400 thousand years?' Again I say _vive la
Science!_"

"Ardan," began the Captain with some asperity, "the foundations on
which Science has raised--"

"I'm half converted already," interrupted Ardan in a cheery tone; "I do
really believe that Science is not altogether unmitigated homebogue!
_Vive_--"

--"But what has all this to do with the question under discussion?"
interrupted Barbican, desirous to keep his friends from losing their
tempers in idle disputation.

"True!" said Ardan. "The Chair, thankful for being called to order,
would respectfully remind the house that the question before it is: _Has
the Moon been inhabited?_ Affirmative has been heard. Negative is called
on to reply. Mr. Barbican has the _parole_."

But Mr. Barbican was unwilling just then to enter too deeply into such
an exceedingly difficult subject. "The probabilities," he contented
himself with saying, "would appear to be in favor of the Captain's
speculations. But we must never forget that they _are_
speculations--nothing more. Not the slightest evidence has yet been
produced that the Moon is anything else than 'a dead and useless waste
of extinct volcanoes.' No signs of cities, no signs of buildings, not
even of ruins, none of anything that could be reasonably ascribed to the
labors of intelligent creatures. No sign of change of any kind has been
established. As for the agreement between the Moon's rotation and her
revolution, which compels her to keep the same face constantly turned
towards the Earth, we don't know that it has not existed from the
beginning. As for what is called the effect of volcanic agency upon her
surface, we don't know that her peculiar blistered appearance may not
have been brought about altogether by the bubbling and spitting that
blisters molten iron when cooling and contracting. Some close observers
have even ventured to account for her craters by saying they were due to
pelting showers of meteoric rain. Then again as to her atmosphere--why
should she have lost her atmosphere? Why should it sink into craters?
Atmosphere is gas, great in volume, small in matter; where would there
be room for it? Solidified by the intense cold? Possibly in the night
time. But would not the heat of the long day be great enough to thaw it
back again? The same trouble attends the alleged disappearance of the
water. Swallowed up in the cavernous cracks, it is said. But why are
there cracks? Cooling is not always attended by cracking. Water cools
without cracking; cannon balls cool without cracking. Too much stress
has been laid on the great difference between the _nucleus_ and the
_crust_: it is really impossible to say where one ends and the other
begins. In fact, no theory explains satisfactorily anything regarding
the present state of the Moon's surface. In fact, from the day that
Galileo compared her clustering craters to 'eyes on a peacock's tail' to
the present time, we must acknowledge that we know nothing more than we
can actually see, not one particle more of the Moon's history than our
telescopes reveal to our corporal eyes!"

"In the lucid opinion of the honorable and learned gentleman who spoke
last," said Ardan, "the Chair is compelled to concur. Therefore, as to
the second question before the house for deliberation, _Has the Moon
been ever inhabited?_ the Chair gets out of its difficulty, as a Scotch
jury does when it has not evidence enough either way, by returning a
solemn verdict of _Not Proven!_"

"And with this conclusion," said Barbican, hastily rising, "of a subject
on which, to tell the truth, we are unable as yet to throw any light
worth speaking of, let us be satisfied for the present. Another question
of greater moment to us just now is: where are we? It seems to me that
we are increasing our distance from the Moon very decidedly and very
rapidly."

It was easy to see that he was quite right in this observation. The
Projectile, still following a northerly course and therefore approaching
the lunar equator, was certainly getting farther and farther from the
Moon. Even at 30 deg. S., only ten degrees farther north than the latitude
of _Tycho_, the travellers had considerable difficulty, comparatively,
in observing the details of _Pitatus_, a walled mountain on the south
shores of the _Mare Nubium_. In the "sea" itself, over which they now
floated, they could see very little, but far to the left, on the 20th
parallel, they could discern the vast crater of _Bullialdus_, 9,000
feet deep. On the right, they had just caught a glimpse of _Purbach_, a
depressed valley almost square in shape with a round crater in the
centre, when Ardan suddenly cried out:

"A Railroad!"

And, sure enough, right under them, a little northeast of _Purbach_, the
travellers easily distinguished a long line straight and black, really
not unlike a railroad cutting through a low hilly country.

This, Barbican explained, was of course no railway, but a steep cliff,
at least 1,000 feet high, casting a very deep shadow, and probably the
result of the caving in of the surface on the eastern edge.

Then they saw the immense crater of _Arzachel_ and in its midst a cone
mountain shining with dazzling splendor. A little north of this, they
could detect the outlines of another crater, _Alphonse_, at least 70
miles in diameter. Close to it they could easily distinguish the immense
crater or, as some observers call it, Ramparted Plain, _Ptolemy_, so
well known to lunar astronomers, occupying, as it does, such a favorable
position near the centre of the Moon, and having a diameter fully, in
one direction at least, 120 miles long.

The travellers were now in about the same latitude as that at which they
had at first approached the Moon, and it was here that they began most
unquestionably to leave her. They looked and looked, readjusting their
glasses, but the details were becoming more and more difficult to catch.
The reliefs grew more and more blurred and the outlines dimmer and
dimmer. Even the great mountain profiles began to fade away, the
dazzling colors to grow duller, the jet black shadows greyer, and the
general effect mistier.

At last, the distance had become so great that, of this lunar world so
wonderful, so fantastic, so weird, so mysterious, our travellers by
degrees lost even the consciousness, and their sensations, lately so
vivid, grew fainter and fainter, until finally they resembled those of a
man who is suddenly awakened from a peculiarly strange and impressive
dream.




CHAPTER XIX.

IN EVERY FIGHT, THE IMPOSSIBLE WINS.


No matter what we have been accustomed to, it is sad to bid it farewell
forever. The glimpse of the Moon's wondrous world imparted to Barbican
and his companions had been, like that of the Promised Land to Moses on
Mount Pisgah, only a distant and a dark one, yet it was with
inexpressibly mournful eyes that, silent and thoughtful, they now
watched her fading away slowly from their view, the conviction
impressing itself deeper and deeper in their souls that, slight as their
acquaintance had been, it was never to be renewed again. All doubt on
the subject was removed by the position gradually, but decidedly,
assumed by the Projectile. Its base was turning away slowly and steadily
from the Moon, and pointing surely and unmistakably towards the Earth.

Barbican had been long carefully noticing this modification, but without
being able to explain it. That the Projectile should withdraw a long
distance from the Moon and still be her satellite, he could understand;
but, being her satellite, why not present towards her its heaviest
segment, as the Moon does towards the Earth? That was the point which he
could not readily clear up.

By carefully noting its path, he thought he could see that the
Projectile, though now decidedly leaving the Moon, still followed a
curve exactly analogous to that by which it had approached her. It must
therefore be describing a very elongated ellipse, which might possibly
extend even to the neutral point where the lunar and terrestrial
attractions were mutually overcome.

With this surmise of Barbican's, his companions appeared rather disposed
to agree, though, of course, it gave rise to new questions.

"Suppose we reach this dead point," asked Ardan; "what then is to become
of us?"

"Can't tell!" was Barbican's unsatisfactory reply.

"But you can form a few hypotheses?"

"Yes, two!"

"Let us have them."

"The velocity will be either sufficient to carry us past the dead point,
or it will not: sufficient, we shall keep on, just as we are now,
gravitating forever around the Moon--"

--"Hypothesis number two will have at least one point in its favor,"
interrupted as usual the incorrigible Ardan; "it can't be worse than
hypothesis number one!"

--"Insufficient," continued Barbican, laying down the law, "we shall
rest forever motionless on the dead point of the mutually neutralizing
attractions."

"A pleasant prospect!" observed Ardan: "from the worst possible to no
better! Isn't it, Barbican?"

"Nothing to say," was Barbican's only reply.

"Have you nothing to say either, Captain?" asked Ardan, beginning to be
a little vexed at the apparent apathy of his companions.

"Nothing whatever," replied M'Nicholl, giving point to his words by a
despairing shake of his head.

"You don't mean surely that we're going to sit here, like bumps on a
log, doing nothing until it will be too late to attempt anything?"

"Nothing whatever can be done," said Barbican gloomily. "It is vain to
struggle against the impossible."

"Impossible! Where did you get that word? I thought the American
schoolboys had cut it out of their dictionaries!"

"That must have been since my time," said Barbican smiling grimly.

"It still sticks in a few old copies anyhow," drawled M'Nicholl drily,
as he carefully wiped his glasses.

"Well! it has no business _here_!" said Ardan. "What! A pair of live
Yankees and a Frenchman, of the nineteenth century too, recoil before an
old fashioned word that hardly scared our grandfathers!"

"What can we do?"

"Correct the movement that's now running away with us!"

"Correct it?"

"Certainly, correct it! or modify it! or clap brakes on it! or take
some advantage of it that will be in our favor! What matters the exact
term so you comprehend me?"

"Easy talking!"

"As easy doing!"

"Doing what? Doing how?"

"The what, and the how, is your business, not mine! What kind of an
artillery man is he who can't master his bullets? The gunner who cannot
command his own gun should be rammed into it head foremost himself and
blown from its mouth! A nice pair of savants _you_ are! There you sit as
helpless as a couple of babies, after having inveigled me--"

"Inveigled!!" cried Barbican and M'Nicholl starting to their feet in an
instant; "WHAT!!!"

"Come, come!" went on Ardan, not giving his indignant friends time to
utter a syllable; "I don't want any recrimination! I'm not the one to
complain! I'll even let up a little if you consider the expression too
strong! I'll even withdraw it altogether, and assert that the trip
delights me! that the Projectile is a thing after my own heart! that I
was never in better spirits than at the present moment! I don't
complain, I only appeal to your own good sense, and call upon you with
all my voice to do everything possible, so that we may go _somewhere_,
since it appears we can't get to the Moon!"

"But that's exactly what we want to do ourselves, friend Ardan," said
Barbican, endeavoring to give an example of calmness to the impatient
M'Nicholl; "the only trouble is that we have not the means to do it."

"Can't we modify the Projectile's movement?"

"No."

"Nor diminish its velocity?"

"No."

"Not even by lightening it, as a heavily laden ship is lightened, by
throwing cargo overboard?"

"What can we throw overboard? We have no ballast like balloon-men."

"I should like to know," interrupted M'Nicholl, "what would be the good
of throwing anything at all overboard. Any one with a particle of common
sense in his head, can see that the lightened Projectile should only
move the quicker!"

"Slower, you mean," said Ardan.

"Quicker, I mean," replied the Captain.

"Neither quicker nor slower, dear friends," interposed Barbican,
desirous to stop a quarrel; "we are floating, you know, in an absolute
void, where specific gravity never counts."

"Well then, my friends," said Ardan in a resigned tone that he evidently
endeavored to render calm, "since the worst is come to the worst, there
is but one thing left for us to do!"

"What's that?" said the Captain, getting ready to combat some new piece
of nonsense.

"To take our breakfast!" said the Frenchman curtly.

It was a resource he had often fallen back on in difficult
conjunctures. Nor did it fail him now.

Though it was not a project that claimed to affect either the velocity
or the direction of the Projectile, still, as it was eminently
practicable and not only unattended by no inconvenience on the one hand
but evidently fraught with many advantages on the other, it met with
decided and instantaneous success. It was rather an early hour for
breakfast, two o'clock in the morning, yet the meal was keenly relished.
Ardan served it up in charming style and crowned the dessert with a few
bottles of a wine especially selected for the occasion from his own
private stock. It was a _Tokay Imperial_ of 1863, the genuine _Essenz_,
from Prince Esterhazy's own wine cellar, and the best brain stimulant
and brain clearer in the world, as every connoisseur knows.

It was near four o'clock in the morning when our travellers, now well
fortified physically and morally, once more resumed their observations
with renewed courage and determination, and with a system of recording
really perfect in its arrangements.

Around the Projectile, they could still see floating most of the objects
that had been dropped out of the window. This convinced them that,
during their revolution around the Moon, they had not passed through any
atmosphere; had anything of the kind been encountered, it would have
revealed its presence by its retarding effect on the different objects
that now followed close in the wake of the Projectile. One or two that
were missing had been probably struck and carried off by a fragment of
the exploded bolide.

Of the Earth nothing as yet could be seen. She was only one day Old,
having been New the previous evening, and two days were still to elapse
before her crescent would be sufficiently cleared of the solar rays to
be capable of performing her ordinary duty of serving as a time-piece
for the Selenites. For, as the reflecting reader need hardly be
reminded, since she rotates with perfect regularity on her axis, she can
make such rotations visible to the Selenites by bringing some particular
point on her surface once every twenty-four hours directly over the same
lunar meridian.

Towards the Moon, the view though far less distinct, was still almost as
dazzling as ever. The radiant Queen of Night still glittered in all her
splendor in the midst of the starry host, whose pure white light seemed
to borrow only additional purity and silvery whiteness from the gorgeous
contrast. On her disc, the "seas" were already beginning to assume the
ashy tint so well known to us on Earth, but the rest of her surface
sparkled with all its former radiation, _Tycho_ glowing like a sun in
the midst of the general resplendescence.

Barbican attempted in vain to obtain even a tolerable approximation of
the velocity at which the Projectile was now moving. He had to content
himself with the knowledge that it was diminishing at a uniform rate--of
which indeed a little reflection on a well known law of Dynamics readily
convinced him. He had not much difficulty even in explaining the matter
to his friends.

"Once admitting," said he, "the Projectile to describe an orbit round
the Moon, that orbit must of necessity be an ellipse. Every moving body
circulating regularly around another, describes an ellipse. Science has
proved this incontestably. The satellites describe ellipses around the
planets, the planets around the Sun, the Sun himself describes an
ellipse around the unknown star that serves as a pivot for our whole
solar system. How can our Baltimore Gun Club Projectile then escape the
universal law?

"Now what is the consequence of this law? If the orbit were a _circle_,
the satellite would always preserve the same distance from its primary,
and its velocity should therefore be constant. But the orbit being an
_ellipse_, and the attracting body always occupying one of the foci, the
satellite must evidently lie nearer to this focus in one part of its
orbit than in another. The Earth when nearest to the Sun, is in her
_perihelion_; when most distant, in her _aphelion_. The Moon, with
regard to the Earth, is similarly in her _perigee_, and her _apogee_.
Analogous expressions denoting the relations of the Projectile towards
the Moon, would be _periselene_ and _aposelene_. At its _aposelene_ the
Projectile's velocity would have reached its minimum; at
the _periselene_, its maximum. As it is to the former point that we are
now moving, clearly the velocity must keep on diminishing until that
point is reached. Then, _if it does not die out altogether_, it must
spring up again, and even accelerate as it reapproaches the Moon. Now
the great trouble is this: If the _Aposelenetic_ point should coincide
with the point of lunar attraction, our velocity must certainly become
_nil_, and the Projectile must remain relatively motionless forever!"

"What do you mean by 'relatively motionless'?" asked M'Nicholl, who was
carefully studying the situation.

"I mean, of course, not absolutely motionless," answered Barbican;
"absolute immobility is, as you are well aware, altogether impossible,
but motionless with regard to the Earth and the--"

"By Mahomet's jackass!" interrupted Ardan hastily, "I must say we're a
precious set of _imbeciles_!"

"I don't deny it, dear friend," said Barbican quietly, notwithstanding
the unceremonious interruption; "but why do you say so just now?"

"Because though we are possessed of the power of retarding the velocity
that takes us from the Moon, we have never thought of employing it!"

"What do you mean?"

"Do you forget the rockets?"

"It's a fact!" cried M'Nicholl. "How have we forgotten them?"

"I'm sure I can't tell," answered Barbican, "unless, perhaps, because we
had too many other things to think about. Your thought, my dear friend,
is a most happy one, and, of course, we shall utilize it."

"When? How soon?"

"At the first favorable opportunity, not sooner. For you can see for
yourselves, dear friends," he went on explaining, "that with the present
obliquity of the Projectile with regard to the lunar disc, a discharge
of our rockets would be more likely to send us away from the Moon than
towards her. Of course, you are both still desirous of reaching the
Moon?"

"Most emphatically so!"

"Then by reserving our rockets for the last chance, we may possibly get
there after all. In consequence of some force, to me utterly
inexplicable, the Projectile still seems disposed to turn its base
towards the Earth. In fact, it is likely enough that at the neutral
point its cone will point vertically to the Moon. That being the moment
when its velocity will most probably be _nil_, it will also be the
moment for us to discharge our rockets, and the possibility is that we
may force a direct fall on the lunar disc."

"Good!" cried Ardan, clapping hands.

"Why didn't we execute this grand manoeuvre the first time we reached
the neutral point?" asked M'Nicholl a little crustily.

"It would be useless," answered Barbican; "the Projectile's velocity at
that time, as you no doubt remember, not only did not need rockets, but
was actually too great to be affected by them."

"True!" chimed in Ardan; "a wind of four miles an hour is very little
use to a steamer going ten."

"That assertion," cried M'Nicholl, "I am rather dis--"

--"Dear friends," interposed Barbican, his pale face beaming and his
clear voice ringing with the new excitement; "let us just now waste no
time in mere words. We have one more chance, perhaps a great one. Let us
not throw it away! We have been on the brink of despair--"

--"Beyond it!" cried Ardan.

--"But I now begin to see a possibility, nay, a very decided
probability, of our being able to attain the great end at last!"

"Bravo!" cried Ardan.

"Hurrah!" cried M'Nicholl.

"Yes! my brave boys!" cried Barbican as enthusiastically as his
companions; "all's not over yet by a long shot!"

What had brought about this great revulsion in the spirits of our bold
adventurers? The breakfast? Prince Esterhazy's Tokay? The latter, most
probably. What had become of the resolutions they had discussed so ably
and passed so decidedly a few hours before? _Was the Moon inhabited? No!
Was the Moon habitable? No!_ Yet in the face of all this--or rather as
coolly as if such subjects had never been alluded to--here were the
reckless scientists actually thinking of nothing but how to work heaven
and earth in order to get there!

One question more remained to be answered before they played their last
trump, namely: "At what precise moment would the Projectile reach the
neutral point?"

To this Barbican had very little trouble in finding an answer. The time
spent in proceeding from the south pole to the dead point being
evidently equal to the time previously spent in proceeding from the dead
point to the north pole--to ascertain the former, he had only to
calculate the latter. This was easily done. To refer to his notes, to
check off the different rates of velocity at which they had readied the
different parallels, and to turn these rates into time, required only a
very few minutes careful calculation. The Projectile then was to reach
the point of neutral attraction at one o'clock in the morning of
December 8th. At the present time, it was five o'clock in the morning of
the 7th; therefore, if nothing unforeseen should occur in the meantime,
their great and final effort was to be made about twenty hours later.

The rockets, so often alluded to as an idea of Ardan's and already fully
described, had been originally provided to break the violence of the
Projectile's fall on the lunar surface; but now the dauntless travellers
were about to employ them for a purpose precisely the reverse. In any
case, having been put in proper order for immediate use, nothing more
now remained to be done till the moment should come for firing them off.

"Now then, friends," said M'Nicholl, rubbing his eyes but hardly able to
keep them open, "I'm not over fond of talking, but this time I think I
may offer a slight proposition."

"We shall be most happy to entertain it, my dear Captain," said
Barbican.

[Illustration: ARDAN GAZED ON THE PAIR.]

"I propose we lie down and take a good nap."

"Good gracious!" protested Ardan; "What next?"

"We have not had a blessed wink for forty hours," continued the Captain;
"a little sleep would recuperate us wonderfully."

"No sleep now!" exclaimed Ardan.

"Every man to his taste!" said M'Nicholl; "mine at present is certainly
to turn in!" and suiting the action to the word, he coiled himself on
the sofa, and in a few minutes his deep regular breathing showed his
slumber to be as tranquil as an infant's.

Barbican looked at him in a kindly way, but only for a very short time;
his eyes grew so filmy that he could not keep them open any longer. "The
Captain," he said, "may not be without his little faults, but for good
practical sense he is worth a ship-load like you and me, Ardan. By Jove,
I'm going to imitate him, and, friend Michael, you might do worse!"

In a short time he was as unconscious as the Captain.

Ardan gazed on the pair for a few minutes, and then began to feel quite
lonely. Even his animals were fast asleep. He tried to look out, but
observing without having anybody to listen to your observations, is dull
work. He looked again at the sleeping pair, and then he gave in.

"It can't be denied," he muttered, slowly nodding his head, "that even
your practical men sometimes stumble on a good idea."

Then curling up his long legs, and folding his arms under his head, his
restless brain was soon forming fantastic shapes for itself in the
mysterious land of dreams.

But his slumbers were too much disturbed to last long. After an uneasy,
restless, unrefreshing attempt at repose, he sat up at about half-past
seven o'clock, and began stretching himself, when he found his
companions already awake and discussing the situation in whispers.

The Projectile, they were remarking, was still pursuing its way from the
Moon, and turning its conical point more and more in her direction. This
latter phenomenon, though as puzzling as ever, Barbican regarded with
decided pleasure: the more directly the conical summit pointed to the
Moon at the exact moment, the more directly towards her surface would
the rockets communicate their reactionary motion.

Nearly seventeen hours, however, were still to elapse before that
moment, that all important moment, would arrive.

The time began to drag. The excitement produced by the Moon's vicinity
had died out. Our travellers, though as daring and as confident as ever,
could not help feeling a certain sinking of heart at the approach of the
moment for deciding either alternative of their doom in this
world--their fall to the Moon, or their eternal imprisonment in a
changeless orbit. Barbican and M'Nicholl tried to kill time by revising
their calculations and putting their notes in order; Ardan, by
feverishly walking back and forth from window to window, and stopping
for a second or two to throw a nervous glance at the cold, silent and
impassive Moon.

Now and then reminiscences of our lower world would flit across their
brains. Visions of the famous Gun Club rose up before them the oftenest,
with their dear friend Marston always the central figure. What was his
bustling, honest, good-natured, impetuous heart at now? Most probably he
was standing bravely at his post on the Rocky Mountains, his eye glued
to the great Telescope, his whole soul peering through its tube. Had he
seen the Projectile before it vanished behind the Moon's north pole?
Could he have caught a glimpse of it at its reappearance? If so, could
he have concluded it to be the satellite of a satellite! Could Belfast
have announced to the world such a startling piece of intelligence? Was
that all the Earth was ever to know of their great enterprise? What were
the speculations of the Scientific World upon the subject? etc., etc.

In listless questions and desultory conversation of this kind the day
slowly wore away, without the occurrence of any incident whatever to
relieve its weary monotony. Midnight arrived, December the seventh was
dead. As Ardan said: "_Le Sept Decembre est mort; vive le Huit!_" In one
hour more, the neutral point would be reached. At what velocity was the
Projectile now moving? Barbican could not exactly tell, but he felt
quite certain that no serious error had slipped into his calculations.
At one o'clock that night, _nil_ the velocity was to be, and _nil_ it
would be!

Another phenomenon, in any case, was to mark the arrival of the exact
moment. At the dead point, the two attractions, terrestrial and lunar,
would again exactly counterbalance each other. For a few seconds,
objects would no longer possess the slightest weight. This curious
circumstance, which had so much surprised and amused the travellers at
its first occurrence, was now to appear again as soon as the conditions
should become identical. During these few seconds then would come the
moment for striking the decisive blow.

They could soon notice the gradual approach of this important instant.
Objects began to weigh sensibly lighter. The conical point of the
Projectile had become almost directly under the centre of the lunar
surface. This gladdened the hearts of the bold adventurers. The recoil
of the rockets losing none of its power by oblique action, the chances
pronounced decidedly in their favor. Now, only supposing the
Projectile's velocity to be absolutely annihilated at the dead point,
the slightest force directing it towards the Moon would be _certain_ to
cause it finally to fall on her surface.

Supposing!--but supposing the contrary!

--Even these brave adventurers had not the courage to suppose the
contrary!

"Five minutes to one o'clock," said M'Nicholl, his eyes never quitting
his watch.

"Ready?" asked Barbican of Ardan.

"Ay, ay, sir!" was Ardan's reply, as he made sure that the electric
apparatus to discharge the rockets was in perfect working order.

"Wait till I give the word," said Barbican, pulling out his chronometer.

The moment was now evidently close at hand. The objects lying around had
no weight. The travellers felt their bodies to be as buoyant as a
hydrogen balloon. Barbican let go his chronometer, but it kept its place
as firmly in empty space before his eyes as if it had been nailed to the
wall!

"One o'clock!" cried Barbican in a solemn tone.

Ardan instantly touched the discharging key of the little electric
battery. A dull, dead, distant report was immediately heard,
communicated probably by the vibration of the Projectile to the internal
air. But Ardan saw through the window a long thin flash, which vanished
in a second. At the same moment, the three friends became
instantaneously conscious of a slight shock experienced by the
Projectile.

They looked at each other, speechless, breathless, for about as long as
it would take you to count five: the silence so intense that they could
easily hear the pulsation of their hearts. Ardan was the first to break
it.

"Are we falling or are we not?" he asked in a loud whisper.

"We're not!" answered M'Nicholl, also hardly speaking above his breath.
"The base of the Projectile is still turned away as far as ever from the
Moon!"

Barbican, who had been looking out of the window, now turned hastily
towards his companions. His face frightened them. He was deadly pale;
his eyes stared, and his lips were painfully contracted.

"We _are_ falling!" he shrieked huskily.

"Towards the Moon?" exclaimed his companions.

"No!" was the terrible reply. "Towards the Earth!"

"_Sacre!_" cried Ardan, as usually letting off his excitement in French.

"Fire and fury!" cried M'Nicholl, completely startled out of his
habitual _sang froid_.

"Thunder and lightning!" swore the usually serene Barbican, now
completely stunned by the blow. "I had never expected this!"

Ardan was the first to recover from the deadening shock: his levity came
to his relief.

"First impressions are always right," he muttered philosophically. "The
moment I set eyes on the confounded thing, it reminded me of the
Bastille; it is now proving its likeness to a worse place: easy enough
to get into, but no redemption out of it!"

There was no longer any doubt possible on the subject. The terrible fall
had begun. The Projectile had retained velocity enough not only to carry
it beyond the dead point, but it was even able to completely overcome
the feeble resistance offered by the rockets. It was all clear now. The
same velocity that had carried the Projectile beyond the neutral point
on its way to the Moon, was still swaying it on its return to the Earth.
A well known law of motion required that, in the path which it was now
about to describe, _it should repass, on its return through all the
points through which it had already passed during its departure_.

No wonder that our friends were struck almost senseless when the fearful
fall they were now about to encounter, flashed upon them in all its
horror. They were to fall a clear distance of nearly 200 thousand miles!
To lighten or counteract such a descent, the most powerful springs,
checks, rockets, screens, deadeners, even if the whole Earth were
engaged in their construction--would produce no more effect than so many
spiderwebs. According to a simple law in Ballistics, _the Projectile was
to strike the Earth with a velocity equal to that by which it had been
animated when issuing from the mouth of the Columbiad_--a velocity of at
least seven miles a second!

To have even a faint idea of this enormous velocity, let us make a
little comparison. A body falling from the summit of a steeple a hundred
and fifty feet high, dashes against the pavement with a velocity of
fifty five miles an hour. Falling from the summit of St. Peter's, it
strikes the earth at the rate of 300 miles an hour, or five times
quicker than the rapidest express train. Falling from the neutral
point, the Projectile should strike the Earth with a velocity of more
than 25,000 miles an hour!

"We are lost!" said M'Nicholl gloomily, his philosophy yielding to
despair.

"One consolation, boys!" cried Ardan, genial to the last. "We shall die
together!"

"If we die," said Barbican calmly, but with a kind of suppressed
enthusiasm, "it will be only to remove to a more extended sphere of our
investigations. In the other world, we can pursue our inquiries under
far more favorable auspices. There the wonders of our great Creator,
clothed in brighter light, shall be brought within a shorter range. We
shall require no machine, nor projectile, nor material contrivance of
any kind to be enabled to contemplate them in all their grandeur and to
appreciate them fully and intelligently. Our souls, enlightened by the
emanations of the Eternal Wisdom, shall revel forever in the blessed
rays of Eternal Knowledge!"

"A grand view to take of it, dear friend Barbican;" replied Ardan, "and
a consoling one too. The privilege of roaming at will through God's
great universe should make ample amends for missing the Moon!"

M'Nicholl fixed his eyes on Barbican admiringly, feebly muttering with
hardly moving lips:

"Grit to the marrow! Grit to the marrow!"

Barbican, head bowed in reverence, arms folded across his breast, meekly
and uncomplainingly uttered with sublime resignation:

"Thy will be done!"

"Amen!" answered his companions, in a loud and fervent whisper.

       *       *       *       *       *

They were soon falling through the boundless regions of space with
inconceivable rapidity!




CHAPTER XX.

OFF THE PACIFIC COAST.


"Well, Lieutenant, how goes the sounding?"

"Pretty lively, Captain; we're nearly through;" replied the Lieutenant.
"But it's a tremendous depth so near land. We can't be more than 250
miles from the California coast."

"The depression certainly is far deeper than I had expected," observed
Captain Bloomsbury. "We have probably lit on a submarine valley
channelled out by the Japanese Current."

"The Japanese Current, Captain?"

"Certainly; that branch of it which breaks on the western shores of
North America and then flows southeast towards the Isthmus of Panama."

"That may account for it, Captain," replied young Brownson; "at least, I
hope it does, for then we may expect the valley to get shallower as we
leave the land. So far, there's no sign of a Telegraphic Plateau in this
quarter of the globe."

"Probably not, Brownson. How is the line now?"

"We have paid out 3500 fathoms already, Captain, but, judging from the
rate the reel goes at, we are still some distance from bottom."

As he spoke, he pointed to a tall derrick temporarily rigged up at the
stern of the vessel for the purpose of working the sounding apparatus,
and surrounded by a group of busy men. Through a block pulley strongly
lashed to the derrick, a stout cord of the best Italian hemp, wound off
a large reel placed amidships, was now running rapidly and with a slight
whirring noise.

"I hope it's not the 'cup-lead' you are using, Brownson?" said the
Captain, after a few minutes observation.

"Oh no, Captain, certainly not," replied the Lieutenant. "It's only
Brooke's apparatus that is of any use in such depths."

"Clever fellow that Brooke," observed the Captain; "served with him
under Maury. His detachment of the weight is really the starting point
for every new improvement in sounding gear. The English, the French, and
even our own, are nothing but modifications of that fundamental
principle. Exceedingly clever fellow!"

"Bottom!" sang out one of the men standing near the derrick and watching
the operations.

The Captain and the Lieutenant immediately advanced to question him.

"What's the depth, Coleman?" asked the Lieutenant.

"21,762 feet," was the prompt reply, which Brownson immediately
inscribed in his note-book, handing a duplicate to the Captain.

"All right, Lieutenant," observed the Captain, after a moment's
inspection of the figures. "While I enter it in the log, you haul the
line aboard. To do so, I need hardly remind you, is a task involving
care and patience. In spite of all our gallant little donkey engine can
do, it's a six hours job at least. Meanwhile, the Chief Engineer had
better give orders for firing up, so that we may be ready to start as
soon as you're through. It's now close on to four bells, and with your
permission I shall turn in. Let me be called at three. Good night!"

"Goodnight, Captain!" replied Brownson, who spent the next two hours
pacing backward and forward on the quarter deck, watching the hauling in
of the sounding line, and occasionally casting a glance towards all
quarters of the sky.

It was a glorious night. The innumerable stars glittered with the
brilliancy of the purest gems. The ship, hove to in order to take the
soundings, swung gently on the faintly heaving ocean breast. You felt
you were in a tropical clime, for, though no breath fanned your cheek,
your senses easily detected the delicious odor of a distant garden of
sweet roses. The sea sparkled with phosphorescence. Not a sound was
heard except the panting of the hard-worked little donkey-engine and the
whirr of the line as it came up taut and dripping from the ocean depths.
The lamp, hanging from the mast, threw a bright glare on deck,
presenting the strongest contrast with the black shadows, firm and
motionless as marble. The 11th day of December was now near its last
hour.

The steamer was the _Susquehanna_, a screw, of the United States Navy,
4,000 in tonnage, and carrying 20 guns. She had been detached to take
soundings between the Pacific coast and the Sandwich Islands, the
initiatory movement towards laying down an Ocean Cable, which the
_Pacific Cable Company_ contemplated finally extending to China. She lay
just now a few hundred miles directly south of San Diego, an old Spanish
town in southwestern California, and the point which is expected to be
the terminus of the great _Texas and Pacific Railroad_.

The Captain, John Bloomsbury by name, but better known as 'High-Low
Jack' from his great love of that game--the only one he was ever known
to play--was a near relation of our old friend Colonel Bloomsbury of the
Baltimore Gun Club. Of a good Kentucky family, and educated at
Annapolis, he had passed his meridian without ever being heard of, when
suddenly the news that he had run the gauntlet in a little gunboat past
the terrible batteries of Island Number Ten, amidst a perfect storm of
shell, grape and canister discharged at less than a hundred yards
distance, burst on the American nation on the sixth of April, 1862, and
inscribed his name at once in deep characters on the list of the giants
of the Great War. But war had never been his vocation. With the return
of peace, he had sought and obtained employment on the Western Coast
Survey, where every thing he did he looked on as a labor of love. The
Sounding Expedition he had particularly coveted, and, once entered upon
it, he discharged his duties with characteristic energy.

He could not have had more favorable weather than the present for a
successful performance of the nice and delicate investigations of
sounding. His vessel had even been fortunate enough to have lain
altogether out of the track of the terrible wind storm already alluded
to, which, starting from somewhere southwest of the Sierra Madre, had
swept away every vestige of mist from the summits of the Rocky Mountains
and, by revealing the Moon in all her splendor, had enabled Belfast to
send the famous despatch announcing that he had seen the Projectile.
Every feature of the expedition was, in fact, advancing so favorably
that the Captain expected to be able, in a month or two, to submit to
the _P.C. Company_ a most satisfactory report of his labors.

Cyrus W. Field, the life and soul of the whole enterprise, flushed with
honors still in full bloom (the Atlantic Telegraph Cable having been
just laid), could congratulate himself with good reason on having found
a treasure in the Captain. High-Low Jack was the congenial spirit by
whose active and intelligent aid he promised himself the pleasure of
seeing before long the whole Pacific Ocean covered with a vast
reticulation of electric cables. The practical part, therefore, being in
such safe hands, Mr. Field could remain with a quiet conscience in
Washington, New York or London, seeing after the financial part of the
grand undertaking, worthy of the Nineteenth Century, worthy of the Great
Republic, and eminently worthy of the illustrious CYRUS W. himself!

As already mentioned, the _Susquehanna_ lay a few hundred miles south
of San Diego, or, to be more accurate, in 27 deg. 7' North Latitude and 118 deg.
37' West Longitude (Greenwich).

It was now a little past midnight. The Moon, in her last quarter, was
just beginning to peep over the eastern horizon. Lieutenant Brownson,
leaving the quarter deck, had gone to the forecastle, where he found a
crowd of officers talking together earnestly and directing their glasses
towards her disc. Even here, out on the ocean, the Queen of the night,
was as great an object of attraction as on the North American Continent
generally, where, that very night and that very hour, at least 40
million pairs of eyes were anxiously gazing at her. Apparently forgetful
that even the very best of their glasses could no more see the
Projectile than angulate Sirius, the officers held them fast to their
eyes for five minutes at a time, and then took them away only to talk
with remarkable fluency on what they had not discovered.

"Any sign of them yet, gentlemen?" asked Brownson gaily as he joined the
group. "It's now pretty near time for them to put in an appearance.
They're gone ten days I should think."

"They're there, Lieutenant! not a doubt of it!" cried a young midshipman,
fresh from Annapolis, and of course "throughly posted" in the latest
revelations of Astronomy. "I feel as certain of their being there as I
am of our being here on the forecastle of the _Susquehanna_!"

"I must agree with you of course, Mr. Midshipman," replied Brownson
with a slight smile; "I have no grounds whatever for contradicting you."

"Neither have I," observed another officer, the surgeon of the vessel.
"The Projectile was to have reached the Moon when at her full, which was
at midnight on the 5th. To-day was the 11th. This gives them six days of
clear light--time enough in all conscience not only to land safely but
to install themselves quite comfortably in their new home. In fact, I
see them there already--"

"In my mind's eye, Horatio!" laughed one of the group. "Though the Doc
wears glasses, he can see more than any ten men on board."

--"Already"--pursued the Doctor, heedless of the interruption. "_Scene_,
a stony valley near a Selenite stream; the Projectile on the right, half
buried in volcanic _scoriae_, but apparently not much the worse for the
wear; ring mountains, craters, sharp peaks, etc. all around; old MAC
discovered taking observations with his levelling staff; BARBICAN
perched on the summit of a sharp pointed rock, writing up his note-book;
ARDAN, eye-glass on nose, hat under arm, legs apart, puffing at his
_Imperador_, like a--"

[Illustration: MAC DISCOVERED TAKING OBSERVATIONS.]

--"A locomotive!" interrupted the young Midshipman, his excitable
imagination so far getting the better of him as to make him forget his
manners. He had just finished Locke's famous MOON HOAX, and his brain
was still full of its pictures. "In the background," he went on, "can be
seen thousands of _Vespertiliones-Homines_ or _Man-Bats_, in all the
various attitudes of curiosity, alarm, or consternation; some of them
peeping around the rocks, some fluttering from peak to peak, all
gibbering a language more or less resembling the notes of birds. _Enter_
LUNATICO, King of the Selenites--"

"Excuse us, Mr. Midshipman," interrupted Brownson with an easy smile,
"Locke's authority may have great weight among the young Middies at
Annapolis, but it does not rank very high at present in the estimation
of practical scientists." This rebuff administered to the conceited
little Midshipman, a rebuff which the Doctor particularly relished,
Brownson continued: "Gentlemen, we certainly know nothing whatever
regarding our friends' fate; guessing gives no information. How we ever
are to hear from the Moon until we are connected with it by a lunar
cable, I can't even imagine. The probability is that we shall never--"

"Excuse me, Lieutenant," interrupted the unrebuffed little Midshipman;
"Can't Barbican write?"

A shout of derisive comments greeted this question.

"Certainly he can write, and send his letter by the Pony Express!" cried
one.

"A Postal Card would be cheaper!" cried another.

"The _New York Herald_ will send a reporter after it!" was the
exclamation of a third.

"Keep cool, just keep cool, gentlemen," persisted the little Midshipman,
not in the least abashed by the uproarious hilarity excited by his
remarks. "I asked if Barbican couldn't write. In that question I see
nothing whatever to laugh at. Can't a man write without being obliged to
send his letters?"

"This is all nonsense," said the Doctor. "What's the use of a man
writing to you if he can't send you what he writes?"

"What's the use of his sending it to you if he can have it read without
that trouble?" answered the little Midshipman in a confident tone. "Is
there not a telescope at Long's Peak? Doesn't it bring the Moon within a
few miles of the Rocky Mountains, and enable us to see on her surface,
objects as small as nine feet in diameter? Well! What's to prevent
Barbican and his friends from constructing a gigantic alphabet? If they
write words of even a few hundred yards and sentences a mile or two
long, what is to prevent us from reading them? Catch the idea now, eh?"

They did catch the idea, and heartily applauded the little Middy for his
smartness. Even the Doctor saw a certain kind of merit in it, and
Brownson acknowledged it to be quite feasible. In fact, expanding on it,
the Lieutenant assured his hearers that, by means of large parabolic
reflectors, luminous groups of rays could be dispatched from the Earth,
of sufficient brightness to establish direct communication even with
Venus or Mars, where these rays would be quite as visible as the planet
Neptune is from the Earth. He even added that those brilliant points of
light, which have been quite frequently observed in Mars and Venus, are
perhaps signals made to the Earth by the inhabitants of these planets.
He concluded, however, by observing that, though we might by these means
succeed in obtaining news from the Moon, we could not possibly send any
intelligence back in return, unless indeed the Selenites had at their
disposal optical instruments at least as good as ours.

All agreed that this was very true, and, as is generally the case when
one keeps all the talk to himself, the conversation now assumed so
serious a turn that for some time it was hardly worth recording.

At last the Chief Engineer, excited by some remark that had been made,
observed with much earnestness:

"You may say what you please, gentlemen, but I would willingly give my
last dollar to know what has become of those brave men! Have they done
anything? Have they seen anything? I hope they have. But I should dearly
like to know. Ever so little success would warrant a repetition of the
great experiment. The Columbiad is still to the good in Florida, as it
will be for many a long day. There are millions of men to day as curious
as I am upon the subject. Therefore it will be only a question of mere
powder and bullets if a cargo of visitors is not sent to the Moon every
time she passes our zenith.

"Marston would be one of the first of them," observed Brownson, lighting
his cigar.

"Oh, he would have plenty of company!" cried the Midshipman. "I should
be delighted to go if he'd only take me."

"No doubt you would, Mr. Midshipman," said Brownson, "the wise men, you
know, are not all dead yet."

"Nor the fools either, Lieutenant," growled old Frisby, the fourth
officer, getting tired of the conversation.

"There is no question at all about it," observed another; "every time a
Projectile started, it would take off as many as it could carry."

"I wish it would only start often enough to improve the breed!" growled
old Frisby.

"I have no doubt whatever," added the Chief Engineer, "that the thing
would get so fashionable at last that half the inhabitants of the Earth
would take a trip to the Moon."

"I should limit that privilege strictly to some of our friends in
Washington," said old Frisby, whose temper had been soured probably by a
neglect to recognize his long services; "and most of them I should by
all means insist on sending to the Moon. Every month I would ram a whole
raft of them into the Columbiad, with a charge under them strong enough
to blow them all to the--But--Hey!--what in creation's that?"

[Illustration: FOR A SECOND ONLY DID THEY CATCH ITS FLASH.]

Whilst the officer was speaking, his companions had suddenly caught a
sound in the air which reminded them immediately of the whistling scream
of a Lancaster shell. At first they thought the steam was escaping
somewhere, but, looking upwards, they saw that the strange noise
proceeded from a ball of dazzling brightness, directly over their heads,
and evidently falling towards them with tremendous velocity. Too
frightened to say a word, they could only see that in its light the
whole ship blazed like fireworks, and the whole sea glittered like a
silver lake. Quicker than tongue can utter, or mind can conceive, it
flashed before their eyes for a second, an enormous bolide set on fire
by friction with the atmosphere, and gleaming in its white heat like a
stream of molten iron gushing straight from the furnace. For a second
only did they catch its flash before their eyes; then striking the
bowsprit of the vessel, which it shivered into a thousand pieces, it
vanished in the sea in an instant with a hiss, a scream, and a roar, all
equally indescribable. For some time the utmost confusion reigned on
deck. With eyes too dazzled to see, ears still ringing with the
frightful combination of unearthly sounds, faces splashed with floods of
sea water, and noses stifled with clouds of scalding steam, the crew of
the _Susquehanna_ could hardly realize that their marvellous escape by a
few feet from instant and certain destruction was an accomplished fact,
not a frightful dream. They were still engaged in trying to open their
eyes and to get the hot water out of their ears, when they suddenly
heard the trumpet voice of Captain Bloomsbury crying, as he stood half
dressed on the head of the cabin stairs:

"What's up, gentlemen? In heaven's name, what's up?"

The little Midshipman had been knocked flat by the concussion and
stunned by the uproar. But before any body else could reply, his voice
was heard, clear and sharp, piercing the din like an arrow:

"It's THEY, Captain! Didn't I tell you so?"




CHAPTER XXI.

NEWS FOR MARSTON!


In a few minutes, consciousness had restored order on board the
_Susquehanna_, but the excitement was as great as ever. They had escaped
by a hairsbreadth the terrible fate of being both burned and drowned
without a moment's warning, without a single soul being left alive to
tell the fatal tale; but on this neither officer nor man appeared to
bestow the slightest thought. They were wholly engrossed with the
terrible catastrophe that had befallen the famous adventurers. What was
the loss of the _Susquehanna_ and all it contained, in comparison to the
loss experienced by the world at large in the terrible tragic
_denouement_ just witnessed? The worst had now come to the worst. At
last the long agony was over forever. Those three gallant men, who had
not only conceived but had actually executed the grandest and most
daring enterprise of ancient or modern times, had paid by the most
fearful of deaths, for their sublime devotion to science and their
unselfish desire to extend the bounds of human knowledge! Before such a
reflection as this, all other considerations were at once reduced to
proportions of the most absolute insignificance.

But was the death of the adventurers so very certain after all? Hope is
hard to kill. Consciousness had brought reflection, reflection doubt,
and doubt had resuscitated hope.

"It's they!" had exclaimed the little Midshipman, and the cry had
thrilled every heart on board as with an electric shock. Everybody had
instantly understood it. Everybody had felt it to be true. Nothing could
be more certain than that the meteor which had just flashed before their
eyes was the famous projectile of the Baltimore Gun Club. Nothing could
be truer than that it contained the three world renowned men and that it
now lay in the black depths of the Pacific Ocean.

But here opinions began to diverge. Some courageous breasts soon refused
to accept the prevalent idea.

"They're killed by the shock!" cried the crowd.

"Killed?" exclaimed the hopeful ones; "Not a bit of it! The water here
is deep enough to break a fall twice as great."

"They're smothered for want of air!" exclaimed the crowd.

"Their stock may not be run out yet!" was the ready reply. "Their air
apparatus is still on hand."

"They're burned to a cinder!" shrieked the crowd.

"They had not time to be burned!" answered the Band of Hope. "The
Projectile did not get hot till it reached the atmosphere, through which
it tore in a few seconds."

"If they're neither burned nor smothered nor killed by the shock,
they're sure to be drowned!" persisted the crowd, with redoubled
lamentations.

"Fish 'em up first!" cried the Hopeful Band. "Come! Let's lose no time!
Let's fish 'em up at once!"

The cries of Hope prevailed. The unanimous opinion of a council of the
officers hastily summoned together by the Captain was to go to work and
fish up the Projectile with the least possible delay. But was such an
operation possible? asked a doubter. Yes! was the overwhelming reply;
difficult, no doubt, but still quite possible. Certainly, however, such
an attempt was not immediately possible as the _Susquehanna_ had no
machinery strong enough or suitable enough for a piece of work involving
such a nicety of detailed operations, not to speak of its exceeding
difficulty. The next unanimous decision, therefore, was to start the
vessel at once for the nearest port, whence they could instantly
telegraph the Projectile's arrival to the Baltimore Gun Club.

But what _was_ the nearest port? A serious question, to answer which in
a satisfactory manner the Captain had to carefully examine his sailing
charts. The neighboring shores of the California Peninsula, low and
sandy, were absolutely destitute of good harbors. San Diego, about a
day's sail directly north, possessed an excellent harbor, but, not yet
having telegraphic communication with the rest of the Union, it was of
course not to be thought of. San Pedro Bay was too open to be approached
in winter. The Santa Barbara Channel was liable to the same objection,
not to mention the trouble often caused by kelp and wintry fogs. The bay
of San Luis Obispo was still worse in every respect; having no islands
to act as a breakwater, landing there in winter was often impossible.
The harbor of the picturesque old town of Monterey was safe enough, but
some uncertainty regarding sure telegraphic communications with San
Francisco, decided the council not to venture it. Half Moon Bay, a
little to the north, would be just as risky, and in moments like the
present when every minute was worth a day, no risk involving the
slightest loss of time could be ventured.

Evidently, therefore, the most advisable plan was to sail directly for
the bay of San Francisco, the Golden Gate, the finest harbor on the
Pacific Coast and one of the safest in the world. Here telegraphic
communication with all parts of the Union was assured beyond a doubt.
San Francisco, about 750 miles distant, the _Susquehanna_ could probably
make in three days; with a little increased pressure, possibly in two
days and a-half. The sooner then she started, the better.

The fires were soon in full blast. The vessel could get under weigh at
once. In fact, nothing delayed immediate departure but the consideration
that two miles of sounding line were still to be hauled up from the
ocean depths. Rut the Captain, after a moment's thought, unwilling that
any more time should be lost, determined to cut it. Then marking its
position by fastening its end to a buoy, he could haul it up at his
leisure on his return.

"Besides," said he, "the buoy will show us the precise spot where the
Projectile fell."

"As for that, Captain," observed Brownson, "the exact spot has been
carefully recorded already: 27 deg. 7' north latitude by 41 deg. 37' west
longitude, reckoning from the meridian of Washington."

"All right, Lieutenant," said the Captain curtly. "Cut the line!"

A large cone-shaped metal buoy, strengthened still further by a couple
of stout spars to which it was securely lashed, was soon rigged up on
deck, whence, being hoisted overboard, the whole apparatus was carefully
lowered to the surface of the sea. By means of a ring in the small end
of the buoy, the latter was then solidly attached to the part of the
sounding line that still remained in the water, and all possible
precautions were taken to diminish the danger of friction, caused by the
contrary currents, tidal waves, and the ordinary heaving swells of
ocean.

It was now a little after three o'clock in the morning. The Chief
Engineer announced everything to be in perfect readiness for starting.
The Captain gave the signal, directing the pilot to steer straight for
San Francisco, north-north by west. The waters under the stern began to
boil and foam; the ship very soon felt and yielded to the power that
animated her; and in a few minutes she was making at least twelve knots
an hour. Her sailing powers were somewhat higher than this, but it was
necessary to be careful in the neighborhood of such a dangerous coast as
that of California.

Seven hundred and fifty miles of smooth waters presented no very
difficult task to a fast traveller like the _Susquehanna_, yet it was
not till two days and a-half afterwards that she sighted the Golden
Gate. As usual, the coast was foggy; neither Point Lobos nor Point
Boneta could be seen. But Captain Bloomsbury, well acquainted with every
portion of this coast, ran as close along the southern shore as he
dared, the fog-gun at Point Boneta safely directing his course. Here
expecting to be able to gain a few hours time by signalling to the outer
telegraph station on Point Lobos, he had caused to be painted on a sail
in large black letters: "THE MOONMEN ARE BACK!" but the officers in
attendance, though their fog-horn could be easily heard--the distance
not being quite two miles--were unfortunately not able to see it.
Perhaps they did see it, but feared a hoax.

Giving the Fort Point a good wide berth, the _Susquehanna_ found the fog
gradually clearing away, and by half-past three the passengers, looking
under it, enjoyed the glorious view of the Contra Costa mountains east
of San Francisco, which had obtained for this entrance the famous and
well deserved appellation of the Golden Gate. In another half hour, they
had doubled Black Point, and were lying safely at anchor between the
islands of Alcatraz and Yerba Buena. In less than five minutes
afterwards the Captain was quickly lowered into his gig, and eight stout
pairs of arms were pulling him rapidly to shore.

The usual crowd of idlers had collected that evening on the summit of
Telegraph Hill to enjoy the magnificent view, which for variety, extent,
beauty and grandeur, is probably unsurpassed on earth. Of course, the
inevitable reporter, hot after an item, was not absent. The
_Susquehanna_ had hardly crossed the bar, when they caught sight of her.
A government vessel entering the bay at full speed, is something to look
at even in San Francisco. Even during the war, it would be considered
rather unusual. But they soon remarked that her bowsprit was completely
broken off. _Very_ unusual. Something decidedly is the matter. See! The
vessel is hardly anchored when the Captain leaves her and makes for
Megg's Wharf at North Point as hard as ever his men can pull! Something
_must_ be the matter--and down the steep hill they all rush as fast as
ever their legs can carry them to the landing at Megg's Wharf.

The Captain could hardly force his way through the dense throng, but he
made no attempt whatever to gratify their ill dissembled curiosity.

"Carriage!" he cried, in a voice seldom heard outside the din of battle.

In a moment seventeen able-bodied cabmen were trying to tear him limb
from limb.

"To the telegraph office! Like lightning!" were his stifled mutterings,
as he struggled in the arms of the Irish giant who had at last
succeeded in securing him.

"To the telegraph office!" cried most of the crowd, running after him
like fox hounds, but the more knowing ones immediately began questioning
the boatmen in the Captain's gig. These honest fellows, nothing loth to
tell all that they knew and more that they invented, soon had the
satisfaction of finding themselves the centrepoint of a wonder stricken
audience, greedily swallowing up every item of the extraordinary news
and still hungrily gaping for more.

By this time, however, an important dispatch was flying east, bearing
four different addresses: To the Secretary of the U.S. Navy, Washington;
To Colonel Joseph Wilcox, Vice-President _pro tem._, Baltimore Gun Club,
Md; To J.T. Marston, Esq. Long's Peak, Grand County, Colorado; and To
Professor Wenlock, Sub-Director of the Cambridge Observatory, Mass.

This dispatch read as follows:

     "In latitude twenty-seven degrees seven minutes north and longitude
     forty-one degrees thirty-seven minutes west shortly after one
     o'clock on the morning of twelfth instant Columbiad Projectile fell
     in Pacific--send instructions--

     BLOOMSBURY,

     _Captain_, SUSQUEHANNA."

In five minutes more all San Francisco had the news. An hour later, the
newspaper boys were shrieking it through the great cities of the
States. Before bed-time every man, woman, and child in the country had
heard it and gone into ecstasies over it. Owing to the difference in
longitude, the people of Europe could not hear it till after midnight.
But next morning the astounding issue of the great American enterprise
fell on them like a thunder clap.

We must, of course, decline all attempts at describing the effects of
this most unexpected intelligence on the world at large.

The Secretary of the Navy immediately telegraphed directions to the
_Susquehanna_ to keep a full head of steam up night and day so as to be
ready to give instant execution to orders received at any moment.

The Observatory authorities at Cambridge held a special meeting that
very evening, where, with all the serene calmness so characteristic of
learned societies, they discussed the scientific points of the question
in all its bearings. But, before committing themselves to any decided
opinion, they unanimously resolved to wait for the development of
further details.

At the rooms of the Gun Club in Baltimore there was a terrible time. The
kind reader no doubt remembers the nature of the dispatch sent one day
previously by Professor Belfast from the Long's Peak observatory,
announcing that the Projectile had been seen but that it had become the
Moon's satellite, destined to revolve around her forever and ever till
time should be no more. The reader is also kindly aware by this time
that such dispatch was not supported by the slightest foundations in
fact. The learned Professor, in a moment of temporary cerebral
excitation, to which even the greatest scientist is just as liable as
the rest of us, had taken some little meteor or, still more probably,
some little fly-speck in the telescope for the Projectile. The worst of
it was that he had not only boldly proclaimed his alleged discovery to
the world at large but he had even explained all about it with the well
known easy pomposity that "Science" sometimes ventures to assume. The
consequences of all this may be readily guessed. The Baltimore Gun Club
had split up immediately into two violently opposed parties. Those
gentlemen who regularly conned the scientific magazines, took every word
of the learned Professor's dispatch for gospel--or rather for something
of far higher value, and more strictly in accordance with the highly
advanced scientific developments of the day. But the others, who never
read anything but the daily papers and who could not bear the idea of
losing Barbican, laughed the whole thing to scorn. Belfast, they said,
had seen as much of the Projectile as he had of the "Open Polar Sea,"
and the rest of the dispatch was mere twaddle, though asserted with all
the sternness of a religious dogma and enveloped in the usual scientific
slang.

The meeting held in the Club House, 24 Monument Square, Baltimore, on
the evening of the 13th, had been therefore disorderly in the highest
degree. Long before the appointed hour, the great hall was densely
packed and the greatest uproar prevailed. Vice-President Wilcox took the
chair, and all was comparatively quiet until Colonel Bloomsbury, the
Honorary Secretary in Marston's absence, commenced to read Belfast's
dispatch. Then the scene, according to the account given in the next
day's _Sun_, from whose columns we condense our report, actually
"beggared description." Roars, yells, cheers, counter-cheers, clappings,
hissings, stampings, squallings, whistlings, barkings, mewings, cock
crowings, all of the most fearful and demoniacal character, turned the
immense hall into a regular pandemonium. In vain did President Wilcox
fire off his detonating bell, with a report on ordinary occasions as
loud as the roar of a small piece of ordnance. In the dreadful noise
then prevailing it was no more heard than the fizz of a lucifer match.

Some cries, however, made themselves occasionally heard in the pauses of
the din. "Read! Read!" "Dry up!" "Sit down!" "Give him an egg!" "Fair
play!" "Hurrah for Barbican!" "Down with his enemies!" "Free Speech!"
"Belfast won't bite you!" "He'd like to bite Barbican, but his teeth
aren't sharp enough!" "Barbican's a martyr to science, let's hear his
fate!" "Martyr be hanged; the Old Man is to the good yet!" "Belfast is
the grandest name in Science!" "Groans for the grandest name!" (Awful
groans.) "Three cheers for Old Man Barbican!" (The exceptional strength
alone of the walls saved the building, from being blown out by an
explosion in which at least 5,000 pairs of lungs participated.)

"Three cheers for M'Nicholl and the Frenchman!" This was followed by
another burst of cheering so hearty, vigorous and long continued that
the scientific party, or _Belfasters_ as they were now called, seeing
that further prolongation of the meet was perfectly useless, moved to
adjourn. It was carried unanimously. President Wilcox left the chair,
the meeting broke up in the wildest disorder--the scientists rather
crest fallen, but the Barbican men quite jubilant for having been so
successful in preventing the reading of that detested dispatch.

Little sleeping was done that night in Baltimore, and less business next
day. Even in the public schools so little work was done by the children
that S.T. Wallace, Esq., President of the Education Board, advised an
anticipation of the usual Christmas recess by a week. Every one talked
of the Projectile; nothing was heard at the corners but discussions
regarding its probable fate. All Baltimore was immediately rent into two
parties, the _Belfasters_ and the _Barbicanites_. The latter was the
most enthusiastic and noisy, the former decidedly the most numerous and
influential.

Science, or rather pseudo-science, always exerts a mysterious attraction
of an exceedingly powerful nature over the generality--that is, the more
ignorant portion of the human race. Assert the most absurd nonsense,
call it a scientific truth, and back it up with strange words which,
like _potentiality_, etc., sound as if they had a meaning but in
reality have none, and nine out of every ten men who read your book will
believe you. Acquire a remarkable name in one branch of human knowledge,
and presto! you are infallible in all. Who can contradict you, if you
only wrap up your assertions in specious phrases that not one man in a
million attempts to ascertain the real meaning of? We like so much to be
saved the trouble of thinking, that it is far easier and more
comfortable to be led than to contradict, to fall in quietly with the
great flock of sheep that jump blindly after their leader than to remain
apart, making one's self ridiculous by foolishly attempting to argue.
Real argument, in fact, is very difficult, for several reasons: first,
you must understand your subject _well_, which is hardly likely;
secondly, your opponent must also understand it well, which is even less
likely; thirdly, you must listen patiently to his arguments, which is
still less likely; and fourthly, he must listen to yours, the least
likely of all. If a quack advertises a panacea for all human ills at a
dollar a bottle, a hundred will buy the bottle, for one that will try
how many are killed by it. What would the investigator gain by charging
the quack with murder? Nobody would believe him, because nobody would
take the trouble to follow his arguments. His adversary, first in the
field, had gained the popular ear, and remained the unassailable master
of the situation. Our love of "Science" rests upon our admiration of
intellect, only unfortunately the intellect is too often that of other
people, not our own.

The very sound of Belfast's phrases, for instance, "satellite," "lunar
attraction," "immutable path of its orbit," etc, convinced the greater
part of the "intelligent" community that he who used them so flippantly
must be an exceedingly great man. Therefore, he had completely proved
his case. Therefore, the great majority of the ladies and gentlemen that
regularly attend the scientific lectures of the Peabody Institute,
pronounced Barbican's fate and that of his companions to be sealed. Next
morning's newspapers contained lengthy obituary notices of the Great
Balloon-attics as the witty man of the _New York Herald_ phrased it,
some of which might be considered quite complimentary. These, all
industriously copied into the evening papers, the people were carefully
reading over again, some with honest regret, some deriving a great moral
lesson from an attempt exceedingly reprehensible in every point of view,
but most, we are sorry to acknowledge, with a feeling of ill concealed
pleasure. Had not they always said how it was to end? Was there anything
more absurd ever conceived? Scientific men too! Hang such science! If
you want a real scientific man, no wind bag, no sham, take Belfast! _He_
knows what he's talking about! No taking _him_ in! Didn't he by means of
the Monster Telescope, see the Projectile, as large as life, whirling
round and round the Moon? Anyway, what else could have happened? Wasn't
it what anybody's common sense expected? Don't you remember a
conversation we had with you one day? etc., etc.

The _Barbicanites_ were very doleful, but they never though of giving
in. They would die sooner. When pressed for a scientific reply to a
scientific argument, they denied that there was any argument to reply
to. What! Had not Belfast seen the Projectile? No! Was not the Great
Telescope then good for anything? Yes, but not for everything! Did not
Belfast know his business? No! Did they mean to say that he had seen
nothing at all? Well, not exactly that, but those scientific gentlemen
can seldom be trusted; in their rage for discovery, they make a mountain
out of a molehill, or, what is worse, they start a theory and then
distort facts to support it. Answers of this kind either led directly to
a fight, or the _Belfasters_ moved away thoroughly disgusted with the
ignorance of their opponents, who could not see a chain of reasoning as
bright as the noonday sun.

Things were in this feverish state on the evening of the 14th, when, all
at once, Bloomsbury's dispatch arrived in Baltimore. I need not say that
it dropped like a spark in a keg of gun powder. The first question all
asked was: Is it genuine or bogus? real or got up by the stockbrokers?
But a few flashes backwards and forwards over the wires soon settled
that point. The stunning effects of the new blow were hardly over when
the _Barbicanites_ began to perceive that the wonderful intelligence was
decidedly in their favor. Was it not a distinct contradiction of the
whole story told by their opponents? If Barbican and his friends were
lying at the bottom of the Pacific, they were certainly not
circumgyrating around the Moon. If it was the Projectile that had broken
off the bowsprit of the _Susquehanna_, it could not certainly be the
Projectile that Belfast had seen only the day previous doing the duty
of a satellite. Did not the truth of one incident render the other an
absolute impossibility? If Bloomsbury was right, was not Belfast an ass?
Hurrah!

The new revelation did not improve poor Barbican's fate a bit--no matter
for that! Did not the _party_ gain by it? What would the _Belfasters_
say now? Would not they hold down their heads in confusion and disgrace?

The _Belfasters_, with a versatility highly creditable to human nature,
did nothing of the kind. Rapidly adopting the very line of tactics they
had just been so severely censuring, they simply denied the whole thing.
What! the truth of the Bloomsbury dispatch? Yes, every word of it! Had
not Bloomsbury seen the Projectile? No! Were not his eyes good for
anything? Yes, but not for everything! Did not the Captain know his
business? No! Did they mean to say that the bowsprit of the
_Susquehanna_ had not been broken off? Well, not exactly that, but those
naval gentlemen are not always to be trusted; after a pleasant little
supper, they often see the wrong light-house, or, what is worse, in
their desire to shield their negligence from censure, they dodge the
blame by trying to show that the accident was unavoidable. The
_Susquehanna's_ bowsprit had been snapped off, in all probability, by
some sudden squall, or, what was still more likely, some little aerolite
had struck it and frightened the crew into fits. When answers of this
kind did not lead to blows, the case was an exceptional one indeed. The
contestants were so numerous and so excited that the police at last
began to think of letting them fight it out without any interference.
Marshal O'Kane, though ably assisted by his 12 officers and 500
patrolmen, had a terrible time of it. The most respectable men in
Baltimore, with eyes blackened, noses bleeding, and collars torn, saw
the inside of a prison that night for the first time in all their lives.
Men that even the Great War had left the warmest of friends, now abused
each other like fishwomen. The prison could not hold the half of those
arrested. They were all, however, discharged next morning, for the
simple reason that the Mayor and the aldermen had been themselves
engaged in so many pugilistic combats during the night that they were
altogether disabled from attending to their magisterial duties next day.

Our readers, however, may be quite assured that, even in the wildest
whirl of the tremendous excitement around them, all the members of the
Baltimore Gun Club did not lose their heads. In spite of the determined
opposition of the _Belfasters_ who would not allow the Bloomsbury
dispatch to be read at the special meeting called that evening, a few
succeeded in adjourning to a committee-room, where Joseph Wilcox, Esq.,
presiding, our old friends Colonel Bloomsbury, Major Elphinstone, Tom
Hunter, Billsby the brave, General Morgan, Chief Engineer John Murphy,
and about as many more as were sufficient to form a quorum, declared
themselves to be in regular session, and proceeded quietly to debate on
the nature of Captain Bloomsbury's dispatch.

Was it of a nature to justify immediate action or not? Decided
unanimously in the affirmative. Why so? Because, whether actually true
or untrue, the incident it announced was not impossible. Had it indeed
announced the Projectile to have fallen in California or in South
America, there would have been good valid reasons to question its
accuracy. But by taking into consideration the Moon's distance, and the
time elapsed between the moment of the start and that of the presumed
fall (about 10 days), and also the Earth's revolution in the meantime,
it was soon calculated that the point at which the Projectile should
strike our globe, if it struck it at all, would be somewhere about 27 deg.
north latitude, and 42 deg. west longitude--the very identical spot given in
the Captain's dispatch! This certainly was a strong point in its favor,
especially as there was positively nothing valid whatever to urge
against it.

A decided resolution was therefore immediately taken. Everything that
man could do was to be done at once, in order to fish up their brave
associates from the depths of the Pacific. That very night, in fact,
whilst the streets of Baltimore were still resounding with the yells of
contending _Belfasters_ and _Barbicanites_, a committee of four, Morgan,
Hunter, Murphy, and Elphinstone, were speeding over the Alleghanies in a
special train, placed at their disposal by the _Baltimore and Ohio
Railroad Company_, and fast enough to land them in Chicago pretty early
on the following evening.

Here a fresh locomotive and a Pullman car taking charge of them, they
were whirled off to Omaha, reaching that busy locality at about supper
time on the evening of December 16th. The Pacific Train, as it was
called though at that time running no further west than Julesburg,
instead of waiting for the regular hour of starting, fired up that very
night, and was soon pulling the famous Baltimore Club men up the slopes
of the Nebraska at the rate of forty miles an hour. They were awakened
before light next morning by the guard, who told them that Julesburg,
which they were just entering, was the last point so far reached by the
rails. But their regret at this circumstance was most unexpectedly and
joyfully interrupted by finding their hands warmly clasped and their
names cheerily cried out by their old and beloved friend, J.T. Marston,
the illustrious Secretary of the Baltimore Gun Club.

At the close of the first volume of our entertaining and veracious
history, we left this most devoted friend and admirer of Barbican
established firmly at his post on the summit of Long's Peak, beside the
Great Telescope, watching the skies, night and day, for some traces of
his departed friends. There, as the gracious Reader will also remember,
he had come a little too late to catch that sight of the Projectile
which Belfast had at first reported so confidently, but of which the
Professor by degrees had begun to entertain the most serious doubts.

In these doubts, however, Marston, strange to say, would not permit
himself for one moment to share. Belfast might shake his head as much as
he pleased; he, Marston, was no fickle reed to be shaken by every wind;
he firmly believed the Projectile to be there before him, actually in
sight, if he could only see it. All the long night of the 13th, and even
for several hours of the 14th, he never quitted the telescope for a
single instant. The midnight sky was in magnificent order; not a speck
dimmed its azure of an intensely dark tint. The stars blazed out like
fires; the Moon refused none of her secrets to the scientists who were
gazing at her so intently that night from the platform on the summit of
Long's Peak. But no black spot crawling over her resplendent surface
rewarded their eager gaze. Marston indeed would occasionally utter a
joyful cry announcing some discovery, but in a moment after he was
confessing with groans that it was all a false alarm. Towards morning,
Belfast gave up in despair and went to take a sleep; but no sleep for
Marston. Though he was now quite alone, the assistants having also
retired, he kept on talking incessantly to himself, expressing the most
unbounded confidence in the safety of his friends, and the absolute
certainty of their return. It was not until some hours after the Sun
had risen and the Moon had disappeared behind the snowy peaks of the
west, that he at last withdrew his weary eye from the glass through
which every image formed by the great reflector was to be viewed. The
countenance he turned on Belfast, who had now come back, was rueful in
the extreme. It was the image of grief and despair.

"Did you see nothing whatever during the night, Professor?" he asked of
Belfast, though he knew very well the answer he was to get.

"Nothing whatever."

"But you saw them once, didn't you?"

"Them! Who?"

"Our friends."

"Oh! the Projectile--well--I think I must have made some oversight."

"Don't say that! Did not Mr. M'Connell see it also?"

"No. He only wrote out what I dictated."

"Why, you must have seen it! I have seen it myself!"

"You shall never see it again! It's shot off into space."

"You're as wrong now as you thought you were right yesterday."

"I'm sorry to say I was wrong yesterday; but I have every reason to
believe I'm right to-day."

"We shall see! Wait till to-night!"

"To-night! Too late! As far as the Projectile is concerned, night is now
no better than day."

The learned Professor was quite right, but in a way which he did not
exactly expect. That very evening, after a weary day, apparently a month
long, during which Marston sought in vain for a few hours' repose, just
as all hands, well wrapped up in warm furs, were getting ready to assume
their posts once more near the mouth of the gigantic Telescope, Mr.
M'Connell hastily presented himself with a dispatch for Belfast.

The Professor was listlessly breaking the envelope, when he uttered a
sharp cry of surprise.

"Hey!" cried Marston quickly. "What's up now?"

"Oh!! The Pro--pro--projectile!!"

"What of it? What? Oh what?? Speak!!"

"IT'S BACK!!"

Marston uttered a wild yell of mingled horror, surprise, and joy, jumped
a little into the air, and then fell flat and motionless on the
platform. Had Belfast shot him with a ten pound weight, right between
the two eyes, he could not have knocked him flatter or stiffer. Having
neither slept all night, nor eaten all day, the poor fellow's system had
become so weak that such unexpected news was really more than he could
bear. Besides, as one of the Cambridge men of the party, a young medical
student, remarked: the thin, cold air of these high mountains was
extremely enervating.

The astronomers, all exceedingly alarmed, did what they could to recover
their friend from his fit, but it was nearly ten minutes before they had
the satisfaction of seeing his limbs moving with a slight quiver and
his breast beginning to heave. At last the color came back to his face
and his eyes opened. He stared around for a few seconds at his friends,
evidently unconscious, but his senses were not long in returning.

"Say!" he uttered at last in a faint voice.

"Well!" replied Belfast.

"Where is that infernal Pro--pro--jectile?"

"In the Pacific Ocean."

"What??"

He was on his feet in an instant.

"Say that again!"

"In the Pacific Ocean."

"Hurrah! All right! Old Barbican's not made into mincemeat yet! No,
sirree! Let's start!"

"Where for?"

"San Francisco!"

"When?"

"This instant!"

"In the dark?"

"We shall soon have the light of the Moon! Curse her! it's the least she
can do after all the trouble she has given us!"




CHAPTER XXII.

ON THE WINGS OF THE WIND.


Leaving M'Connell and a few other Cambridge men to take charge of the
Great Telescope, Marston and Belfast in little more than an hour after
the receipt of the exciting dispatch, were scudding down the slopes of
Long's Peak by the only possible route--the inclined railroad. This
mode of travelling, however, highly satisfactory as far as it went,
ceased altogether at the mountain foot, at the point where the Dale
River formed a junction with Cache la Poudre Creek. But Marston, having
already mapped out the whole journey with some care and forethought, was
ready for almost every emergency. Instinctively feeling that the first
act of the Baltimore Gun Club would be to send a Committee to San
Francisco to investigate matters, he had determined to meet this
deputation on the route, and his only trouble now was to determine at
what point he would be most likely to catch them. His great start, he
knew perfectly well, could not put him more than a day in advance of
them: they having the advantage of a railroad nearly all the way, whilst
himself and Belfast could not help losing much time in struggling
through ravines, canyons, mountain precipices, and densely tangled
forests, not to mention the possibility of a brush or two with prowling
Indians, before they could strike the line of the Pacific Railroad,
along which he knew the Club men to be approaching. After a few hours
rest at La Porte, a little settlement lately started in the valley,
early in the morning they took the stage that passed through from Denver
to Cheyenne, a town at that time hardly a year old but already
flourishing, with a busy population of several thousand inhabitants.

Losing not a moment at Cheyenne, where they arrived much sooner than
they had anticipated, they took places in Wells, Fargo and Co.'s
_Overland Stage Mail_ bound east, and were soon flying towards Julesburg
at the rate of twelve miles an hour. Here Marston was anxious to meet
the Club men, as at this point the Pacific Railroad divided into two
branches--one bearing north, the other south of the Great Salt Lake
--and he feared they might take the wrong one.

But he arrived in Julesburg fully 10 hours before the Committee, so that
himself and Belfast had not only ample time to rest a little after their
rapid flight from Long's Peak, but also to make every possible
preparation for the terrible journey of more than fifteen hundred miles
that still lay before them.

This journey, undertaken at a most unseasonable period of the year, and
over one of the most terrible deserts in the world, would require a
volume for itself. Constantly presenting the sharpest points of contrast
between the most savage features of wild barbaric nature on the one
hand, and the most touching traits of the sweetest humanity on the
other, the story of our Club men's adventures, if only well told, could
hardly fail to be highly interesting. But instead of a volume, we can
give it only a chapter, and that a short one.

From Julesburg, the last station on the eastern end of the Pacific
Railroad, to Cisco, the last station on its western end, the distance is
probably about fifteen hundred miles, about as far as Constantinople is
from London, or Moscow from Paris. This enormous stretch of country had
to be travelled all the way by, at the best, a six horse stage tearing
along night and day at a uniform rate, road or no road, of ten miles an
hour. But this was the least of the trouble. Bands of hostile Indians
were a constant source of watchfulness and trouble, against which even a
most liberal stock of rifles and revolvers were not always a
reassurance. Whirlwinds of dust often overwhelmed the travellers so
completely that they could hardly tell day from night, whilst blasts of
icy chill, sweeping down from the snowy peaks of the Rocky Mountains,
often made them imagine themselves in the midst of the horrors of an
Arctic winter.

The predominant scenery gave no pleasure to the eye or exhilaration to
the mind. It was of the dreariest description. Days and days passed with
hardly a house to be seen, or a tree or a blade of grass. I might even
add, or a mountain or a river, for the one was too often a heap of
agglomerated sand and clay cut into unsightly chasms by the rain, and
the other generally degenerated into a mere stagnant swamp, its
shallowness and dryness increasing regularly with its length. The only
houses were log ranches, called Relays, hardly visible in their sandy
surroundings, and separate from each other by a mean distance of ten
miles. The only trees were either stunted cedars, so far apart, as to be
often denominated Lone Trees; and, besides wormwood, the only plant was
the sage plant, about two feet high, gray, dry, crisp, and emitting a
sharp pungent odor by no means pleasant.

In fact, Barbican and his companions had seen nothing drearier or
savager in the dreariest and savagest of lunar landscapes than the
scenes occasionally presented to Marston and his friends in their
headlong journey on the track of the great Pacific Railroad. Here,
bowlders, high, square, straight and plumb as an immense hotel, blocked
up your way; there, lay an endless level, flat as the palm of your hand,
over which your eye might roam in vain in search of something green like
a meadow, yellow like a cornfield, or black like ploughed ground--a mere
boundless waste of dirty white from the stunted wormwood, often rendered
misty with the clouds of smarting alkali dust.

Occasionally, however, this savage scenery decidedly changed its
character. Now, a lovely glen would smile before our travellers,
traversed by tinkling streams, waving with sweet grasses, dotted with
little groves, alive with hares, antelopes, and even elks, but
apparently never yet trodden by the foot of man. Now, our Club men felt
like travelling on clouds, as they careered along the great plateau
west of the Black Hills, fully 8,000 feet above the level of the sea,
though even there the grass was as green and fresh as if it grew in some
sequestered valley of Pennsylvania. Again,

    "In this untravelled world whose margin fades
    For ever and for ever as they moved,"

they would find themselves in an immense, tawny, treeless plain,
outlined by mountains so distant as to resemble fantastic cloud piles.
Here for days they would have to skirt the coasts of a Lake, vast,
unruffled, unrippled, apparently of metallic consistency, from whose
sapphire depths rose pyramidal islands to a height of fully three
thousand feet above the surface.

In a few days all would change. No more sand wastes, salt water flats,
or clouds of blinding alkali dust. The travellers' road, at the foot of
black precipitous cliffs, would wind along the brink of a roaring
torrent, whose devious course would lead them into the heart of the
Sierras, where misty peaks solemnly sentinelled the nestling vales still
smiling in genial summer verdure. Across these they were often whirled
through immense forests of varied character, here dense enough to
obscure the track, there swaying in the sweet sunlight and vocal with
joyous birds of bright and gorgeous plumage. Then tropical vegetation
would completely hide the trail, crystal lakes would obstruct it,
cascades shooting down from perpendicular rocks would obliterate it,
mountain passes barricaded by basaltic columns would render it
uncertain, and on one occasion it was completely covered up by a fall of
snow to a depth of more than twenty feet.

But nothing could oppose serious delay to our travellers. Their motto
was ever "onward!" and what they lost in one hour by some mishap they
endeavored to recover on the next by redoubled speed. They felt that
they would be no friends of Barbican's if they were discouraged by
impossibilities. Besides, what would have been real impossibilities at
another time, several concurrent circumstances now rendered
comparatively easy.

The surveys, the gradings, the cuttings, and the other preliminary
labors in the great Pacific Railroad, gave them incalculable aid.
Horses, help, carriages, provisions were always in abundance. Their
object being well known, they had the best wishes of every hand on the
road. People remained up for them all hours of the night, no matter at
what station they were expected. The warmest and most comfortable of
meals were always ready for them, for which no charge would be taken on
any account. In Utah, a deputation of Mormons galloped alongside them
for forty miles to help them over some points of the road that had been
often found difficult. The season was the finest known for many years.
In short, as an old Californian said as he saw them shooting over the
rickety bridge that crossed the Bear River at Corinne: "they had
everything in their favor--_luck_ as well as _pluck_!"

The rate at which they performed this terrible ride across the
Continent and the progress they made each day, some readers may consider
worthy of a few more items for the sake of future reference. Discarding
the ordinary overland mail stage as altogether too slow for their
purpose, they hired at Julesburg a strong, well built carriage, large
enough to hold them all comfortably; but this they had to replace twice
before they came to their journey's end. Their team always consisted of
the best six horses that could be found, and their driver was the famous
Hank Monk of California, who, happening to be in Julesburg about that
time, volunteered to see them safely landed in Cisco on the summit of
the Sierra Nevada. They were enabled to change horses as near as
possible every hour, by telegraphing ahead in the morning, during the
day, and often far into the hours of night.

Starting from Julesburg early in the morning of the 17th, their first
resting place for a few hours at night was Granite Canyon, twenty miles
west of Cheyenne, and just at the foot of the pass over the Black Hills.
On the 18th, night-fall found them entering St. Mary's, at the further
end of the pass between Rattle Snake Hills and Elk Mountain. It was
after 5 o'clock and already dark on the 19th, when the travellers,
hurrying with all speed through the gloomy gorge of slate formation
leading to the banks of the Green River, found the ford too deep to be
ventured before morning. The 20th was a clear cold day very favorable
for brisk locomotion, and the bright sun had not quite disappeared
behind the Wahsatch Mountains when the Club men, having crossed the
Bear River, began to leave the lofty plateau of the Rocky Mountains by
the great inclined plane marked by the lines of the Echo and the Weber
Rivers on their way to the valley of the Great American Desert.

Quitting Castle Rock early on the morning of the 21st, they soon came in
sight of the Great Salt Lake, along the northern shores of which they
sped all day, taking shelter after night-fall at Terrace, in a miserable
log cabin surrounded by piles of drifting sand. The 22d was a terrible
day. The sand was blinding, the alkali dust choking, the ride for five
or six hours was up considerable grade; still they had accomplished
their 150 miles before resting for the night at Elko, even at this
period a flourishing little village on the banks of the Humboldt. After
another smothering ride on the 23d, they rested, at Winnemucca, another
flourishing village, situated at the precise point in the desert where
the Little Humboldt joins Humboldt River, without, however, making the
channel fuller or wider. The 24th was decidedly the hardest day, their
course lying through the worst part of the terrible Nevada desert. But a
glimpse of the Sierras looming in the western horizon gave them courage
and strength enough to reach Wadsworth, at their foot, a little before
midnight. Our travellers had now but one day's journey more to make
before reaching the railroad at Cisco, but, this being a very steep
ascent nearly all the way up, each mile cost almost twice as much time
and exertion.

At last, late in the evening of Christmas Day, amidst the most
enthusiastic cheers of all the inhabitants of Cisco, who welcomed them
with a splendid pine brand procession, Marston and his friends,
thoroughly used up, feet swelled, limbs bruised, bones aching, stomachs
seasick, eyes bleared, ears ringing, and brains on fire for want of
rest, took their places in the State Car waiting for them, and started
without a moment's delay for Sacramento, about a hundred miles distant.
How delicious was the change to our poor travellers! Washed, refreshed,
and lying at full length on luxurious sofas, their sensations, as the
locomotive spun them down the ringing grooves of the steep Sierras, can
be more easily imagined than described. They were all fast asleep when
the train entered Sacramento, but the Mayor and the other city
authorities who had waited up to receive them, had them carried
carefully, so as not to disturb their slumbers, on board the _Yo
Semite_, a fine steamer belonging to the California Navigation Company,
which landed them safely at San Francisco about noon on the 26th, after
accomplishing the extraordinary winter journey of 1500 miles over land
in little more than nine days, only about 200 miles being done by steam.

Half-past two P.M. found our travellers bathed, dressed, shaved, dined,
and ready to receive company in the grand parlor of the _Occidental
Hotel_. Captain Bloomsbury was the first to call.

Marston hobbled eagerly towards him and asked:

"What have you done towards fishing them up, Captain?"

"A good deal, Mr. Marston; indeed almost everything is ready."

"Is that really the case, Captain?" asked all, very agreeably surprised.

"Yes, gentlemen, I am most happy to state that I am quite in earnest."

"Can we start to-morrow?" asked General Morgan. "We have not a moment to
spare, you know."

"We can start at noon to-morrow at latest," replied the Captain, "if the
foundry men do a little extra work to-night."

"We must start this very day, Captain Bloomsbury," cried Marston
resolutely; "Barbican has been lying two weeks and thirteen hours in the
depths of the Pacific! If he is still alive, no thanks to Marston! He
must by this time have given me up! The grappling irons must be got on
board at once, Captain, and let us start this evening!"

At half-past four that very evening, a shot from the Fort and a lowering
of the Stars and Stripes from its flagstaff saluted the _Susquehanna_,
as she steamed proudly out of the Golden Gate at the lively rate of
fifteen knots an hour.




CHAPTER XXIII.

THE CLUB MEN GO A FISHING.


Captain Bloomsbury was perfectly right when he said that almost
everything was ready for the commencement of the great work which the
Club men had to accomplish. Considering how much was required, this was
certainly saying a great deal; but here also, as on many other
occasions, fortune had singularly favored the Club men.

San Francisco Bay, as everybody knows, though one of the finest and
safest harbors in the world, is not without some danger from hidden
rocks. One of these in particular, the Anita Rock as it was called,
lying right in mid channel, had become so notorious for the wrecks of
which it was the cause, that, after much time spent in the consideration
of the subject, the authorities had at last determined to blow it up.
This undertaking having been very satisfactorily accomplished by means
of _dynamite_ or giant powder, another improvement in the harbor had
been also undertaken with great success. The wrecks of many vessels lay
scattered here and there pretty numerously, some, like that of the
_Flying Dragon_, in spots so shallow that they could be easily seen at
low water, but others sunk at least twenty fathoms deep, like that of
the _Caroline_, which had gone down in 1851, not far from Blossom Rock,
with a treasure on board of 20,000 ounces of gold. The attempt to clear
away these wrecks had also turned out very well; even sufficient
treasure had been recovered to repay all the expense, though the
preparations for the purpose by the contractors, M'Gowan and Co. had
been made on the most extensive scale, and in accordance with the latest
improvements in the apparatus for submarine operations.

Buoys, made of huge canvas sacks, coated with India rubber, and guarded
by a net work of strong cordage, had been manufactured and provided by
the _New York Submarine Company_. These buoys, when inflated and working
in pairs, had a lifting capacity of 30 tons a pair. Reservoirs of air,
provided with powerful compression pumps, always accompanied the buoys.
To attach the latter, in a collapsed condition, with strong chains to
the sides of the vessels which were to be lifted, a diving apparatus was
necessary. This also the _New York Company_ had provided, and it was so
perfect in its way that, by means of peculiar appliances of easy
management, the diver could walk about on the bottom, take his own
bearings, ascend to the surface at pleasure, and open his helmet without
assistance. A few sets likewise of Rouquayrol and Denayrouze's famous
submarine armor had been provided. These would prove of invaluable
advantage in all operations performed at great sea depths, as its
distinctive feature, "the regulator," could maintain, what is not done
by any other diving armor, a constant equality of pressure on the lungs
between the external and the internal air.

But perhaps the most useful article of all was a new form of diving bell
called the _Nautilus_, a kind of submarine boat, capable of lateral as
well as vertical movement at the will of its occupants. Constructed with
double sides, the intervening chambers could be filled either with water
or air according as descent or ascent was required. A proper supply of
water enabled the machine to descend to depths impossible to be reached
otherwise; this water could then be expelled by an ingenious
contrivance, which, replacing it with air, enabled the diver to rise
towards the surface as fast as he pleased.

All these and many other portions of the submarine apparatus which had
been employed that very year for clearing the channel, lifting the
wrecks and recovering the treasure, lay now at San Francisco, unused
fortunately on account of the season of the year, and therefore they
could be readily obtained for the asking. They had even been generously
offered to Captain Bloomsbury, who, in obedience to a telegram from
Washington, had kept his crew busily employed for nearly two weeks
night and day in transferring them all safely on board the
_Susquehanna_.

Marston was the first to make a careful inspection of every article
intended for the operation.

"Do you consider these buoys powerful enough to lift the Projectile,
Captain?" he asked next morning, as the vessel was briskly heading
southward, at a distance of ten or twelve miles from the coast on their
left.

"You can easily calculate that problem yourself, Mr. Marston," replied
the Captain. "It presents no difficulty. The Projectile weighs about 20
thousand pounds, or 10 tons?"

"Correct!"

"Well, a pair of these buoys when inflated can raise a weight of 30
tons."

"So far so good. But how do you propose attaching them to the
Projectile?"

"We simply let them descend in a state of collapse; the diver, going
down with them, will have no difficulty in making a fast connection. As
soon as they are inflated the Projectile will come up like a cork."

"Can the divers readily reach such depths?"

"That remains to be seen Mr. Marston."

"Captain," said Morgan, now joining the party, "you are a worthy member
of our Gun Club. You have done wonders. Heaven grant it may not be all
in vain! Who knows if our poor friends are still alive?"

"Hush!" cried Marston quickly. "Have more sense than to ask such
questions. Is Barbican alive! Am _I_ alive? They're all alive, I tell
you, only we must be quick about reaching them before the air gives out.
That's what's the matter! Air! Provisions, water--abundance! But
air--oh! that's their weak point! Quick, Captain, quick--They're
throwing the reel--I must see her rate!" So saying, he hurried off to
the stern, followed by General Morgan. Chief Engineer Murphy and the
Captain of the _Susquehanna_ were thus left for awhile together.

These two men had a long talk on the object of their journey and the
likelihood of anything satisfactory being accomplished. The man of the
sea candidly acknowledged his apprehensions. He had done everything in
his power towards collecting suitable machinery for fishing up the
Projectile, but he had done it all, he said, more as a matter of duty
than because he believed that any good could result from it; in fact, he
never expected to see the bold adventurers again either living or dead.
Murphy, who well understood not only what machinery was capable of
effecting, but also what it would surely fail in, at first expressed the
greatest confidence in the prosperous issue of the undertaking. But when
he learned, as he now did for the first time, that the ocean bed on
which the Projectile was lying could be hardly less than 20,000 feet
below the surface, he assumed a countenance as grave as the Captain's,
and at once confessed that, unless their usual luck stood by them, his
poor friends had not the slightest possible chance of ever being fished
up from the depths of the Pacific.

The conversation maintained among the officers and the others on board
the _Susquehanna_, was pretty much of the same nature. It is almost
needless to say that all heads--except Belfast's, whose scientific mind
rejected the Projectile theory with the most serene contempt--were
filled with the same idea, all hearts throbbed with the same emotion.
Wouldn't it be glorious to fish them up alive and well? What were they
doing just now? Doing? _Doing!_ Their bodies most probably were lying in
a shapeless pile on the floor of the Projectile, like a heap of clothes,
the uppermost man being the last smothered; or perhaps floating about in
the water inside the Projectile, like dead gold fish in an aquarium; or
perhaps burned to a cinder, like papers in a "champion" safe after a
great fire; or, who knows? perhaps at that very moment the poor fellows
were making their last and almost superhuman struggles to burst their
watery prison and ascend once more into the cheerful regions of light
and air! Alas! How vain must such puny efforts prove! Plunged into ocean
depths of three or four miles beneath the surface, subjected to an
inconceivable pressure of millions and millions of tons of sea water,
their metallic shroud was utterly unassailable from within, and utterly
unapproachable from without!

Early on the morning of December 29th, the Captain calculating from his
log that they must now be very near the spot where they had witnessed
the extraordinary phenomenon, the _Susquehanna_ hove to. Having to wait
till noon to find his exact position, he ordered the steamer to take a
short circular course of a few hours' duration, in hope of sighting the
buoy. But though at least a hundred telescopes scanned the calm ocean
breast for many miles in all directions, it was nowhere to be seen.

Precisely at noon, aided by his officers and in the presence of
Marston, Belfast, and the Gun Club Committee, the Captain took his
observations. After a moment or two of the most profound interest, it
was a great gratification to all to learn that the _Susquehanna_ was on
the right parallel, and only about 15 miles west of the precise spot
where the Projectile had disappeared beneath the waves. The steamer
started at once in the direction indicated, and a minute or two before
one o'clock the Captain said they were "there." No sign of the buoy
could yet be seen in any direction; it had probably been drifted
southward by the Mexican coast current which slowly glides along these
shores from December to April.

"At last!" cried Marston, with a sigh of great relief.

"Shall we commence at once?" asked the Captain.

"Without losing the twenty thousandth part of a second!" answered
Marston; "life or death depends upon our dispatch!"

The _Susquehanna_ again hove to, and this time all possible precautions
were taken to keep her in a state of perfect immobility--an operation
easily accomplished in these pacific latitudes, where cloud and wind and
water are often as motionless as if all life had died out of the world.
In fact, as the boats were quietly lowered, preparatory for beginning
the operations, the mirror like calmness of sea, sky, and ship so
impressed the Doctor, who was of a poetical turn of mind, that he could
not help exclaiming to the little Midshipman, who was standing nearest:

"Coleridge realized, with variations:

    The breeze drops down, the sail drops down,
      All's still as still can be;
    If we speak, it is only to break
      The silence of the sea.
    Still are the clouds, still are the shrouds,
      No life, no breath, no motion;
    Idle are all as a painted ship
      Upon a painted ocean!"

Chief Engineer Murphy now took command. Before letting down the buoys,
the first thing evidently to be done was to find out, if possible, the
precise point where the Projectile lay. For this purpose, the Nautilus
was clearly the only part of the machinery that could be employed with
advantage. Its chambers were accordingly soon filled with water, its air
reservoirs were also soon completely charged, and the Nautilus itself,
suspended by chains from the end of a yard, lay quietly on the ocean
surface, its manhole on the top remaining open for the reception of
those who were willing to encounter the dangers that awaited it in the
fearful depths of the Pacific. Every one looking on was well aware that,
after a few hundred feet below the surface, the pressure would grow more
and more enormous, until at last it became quite doubtful if any line
could bear the tremendous strain. It was even possible that at a certain
depth the walls of the Nautilus might be crushed in like an eggshell,
and the whole machine made as flat as two leaves of paper pasted
together.

Perfectly conscious of the nature of the tremendous risk they were about
to run, Marston, Morgan, and Murphy quietly bade their friends a short
farewell and were lowered into the manhole. The Nautilus having room
enough for four, Belfast had been expected to be of the party but,
feeling a little sea sick, the Professor backed out at the last moment,
to the great joy of Mr. Watkins, the famous reporter of the _N.Y.
Herald_, who was immediately allowed to take his place.

Every provision against immediate danger had been made. By means of
preconcerted signals, the inmates could have themselves drawn up, let
down, or carried laterally in whatever direction they pleased. By
barometers and other instruments they could readily ascertain the
pressure of the air and water, also how far they had descended and at
what rate they were moving. The Captain, from his bridge, carefully
superintended every detail of the operation. All signals he insisted on
attending to himself personally, transmitting them instantly by his bell
to the engineer below. The whole power of the steam engine had been
brought to bear on the windlass; the chains could withstand an enormous
strain. The wheels had been carefully oiled and tested beforehand; the
signalling apparatus had been subjected to the rigidest examination; and
every portion of the machinery had been proved to be in admirable
working order.

The chances of immediate and unforeseen danger, it is true, had been
somewhat diminished by all these precautions. The risk, nevertheless,
was fearful. The slightest accident or even carelessness might easily
lead to the most disastrous consequence.

Five minutes after two o'clock, the manhole being closed, the lamps lit,
and everything pronounced all right, the signal for the descent was
given, and the Nautilus immediately disappeared beneath the waters. A
double anxiety now possessed all on board the _Susquehanna_: the
prisoners in the Nautilus were in danger as well as the prisoners in the
Projectile. Marston and his friends, however, were anything but
disquieted on their own account, and, pencil in hand and noses flattened
on the glass plates, they examined carefully everything they could see
in the liquid masses through which they were descending.

For the first five hundred feet, the descent was accomplished with
little trouble. The Nautilus sank rather slowly, at a uniform rate of a
foot to the second. It had not been two minutes under water when the
light of day completely disappeared. But for this the occupants were
fully prepared, having provided themselves with powerful lamps, whose
brilliant light, radiating from polished reflectors, gave them an
opportunity of seeing clearly around it for a distance of eight or ten
feet in all directions. Owing to the superlatively excellent
construction of the Nautilus, also on account of the _scaphanders_, or
suits of diving armor, with which Marston and his friends had clothed
themselves, the disagreeable sensations to which divers are ordinarily
exposed, were hardly felt at all in the beginning of the descent.

Marston was about to congratulate his companions on the favorable
auspices inaugurating their trip, when Murphy, consulting the
instrument, discovered to his great surprise that the Nautilus was not
making its time. In reply to their signal "faster!" the downward
movement increased a little, but it soon relaxed again. Instead of less
than two minutes, as at the beginning, it now took twelve minutes to
make a hundred feet. They had gone only seven hundred feet in
thirty-seven minutes. In spite of repeated signalling, their progress
during the next hour was even still more alarming, one hundred feet
taking exactly 59 minutes. To shorten detail, it required two hours more
to make another hundred feet; and then the Nautilus, after taking ten
minutes to crawl an inch further, came to a perfect stand still. The
pressure of the water had evidently now become too enormous to allow
further descent.

The Clubmen's distress was very great; Marston's, in particular, was
indescribable. In vain, catching at straws, he signalled "eastwards!"
"westwards!" "northwards!" or "southwards!" the Nautilus moved readily
every way but downwards.

"Oh! what shall we do?" he cried in despair; "Barbican, must we really
give you up though separated from us by the short distance of only a few
miles?"

At last, nothing better being to be done, the unwilling signal "heave
upwards!" was given, and the hauling up commenced. It was done very
slowly, and with the greatest care. A sudden jerk might snap the chains;
an incautious twist might put a kink on the air tube; besides, it was
well known that the sudden removal of heavy pressure resulting from
rapid ascent, is attended by very disagreeable sensations, which have
sometimes even proved fatal.

It was near midnight when the Clubmen were lifted out of the manhole.
Their faces were pale, their eyes bloodshot, their figures stooped. Even
the _Herald_ Reporter seemed to have got enough of exploring. But
Marston was as confident as ever, and tried to be as brisk.

He had hardly swallowed the refreshment so positively enjoined in the
circumstances, when he abruptly addressed the Captain:

"What's the weight of your heaviest cannon balls?"

"Thirty pounds, Mr. Marston."

"Can't you attach thirty of them to the Nautilus and sink us again?"

"Certainly, Mr. Marston, if you wish it. It shall be the first thing
done to-morrow."

"To-night, Captain! At once! Barbican has not an instant to lose."

"At once then be it, Mr. Marston. Just as you say."

The new sinkers were soon attached to the Nautilus, which disappeared
once more with all its former occupants inside, except the _Herald_
Reporter, who had fallen asleep over his notes, or at least seemed to
be. He had probably made up his mind as to the likelihood of the
Nautilus ever getting back again.

The second descent was quicker than the first, but just as futile. At
1152 feet, the Nautilus positively refused to go a single inch further.
Marston looked like a man in a stupor. He made no objection to the
signal given by the others to return; he even helped to cut the ropes by
which the cannon balls had been attached. Not a single word was spoken
by the party, as they slowly rose to the surface. Marston seemed to be
struggling against despair. For the first time, the impossibility of the
great enterprise seemed to dawn upon him. He and his friends had
undertaken a great fight with the mighty Ocean, which now played with
them as a giant with a pigmy. To reach the bottom was evidently
completely out of their power; and what was infinitely worse, there was
nothing to be gained by reaching it. The Projectile was not on the
bottom; it could not even have got to the bottom. Marston said it all in
a few words to the Captain, as the Clubmen stepped on deck a few hours
later:

"Barbican is floating midway in the depths of the Pacific, like Mahomet
in his coffin!"

Blindly yielding, however, to the melancholy hope that is born of
despair, Marston and his friends renewed the search next day, the 30th,
but they were all too worn out with watching and excitement to be able
to continue it longer than a few hours. After a night's rest, it was
renewed the day following, the 31st, with some vigor, and a good part of
the ocean lying between Guadalupe and Benito islands was carefully
investigated to a depth of seven or eight hundred feet. No traces
whatever of the Projectile. Several California steamers, plying between
San Francisco and Panama, passed the _Susquehanna_ within hailing
distance. But to every question, the invariable reply one melancholy
burden bore:

"No luck!"

All hands were now in despair. Marston could neither eat nor drink. He
never even spoke the whole day, except on two occasions. Once, when
somebody heard him muttering:

"He's now seventeen days in the ocean!"

The second time he spoke, the words seemed to be forced out of him.
Belfast admitted, for the sake of argument, that the Projectile had
fallen into the ocean, but he strongly denounced the absurd idea of its
occupants being still alive. "Under such circumstances," went on the
learned Professor, "further prolongation of vital energy would be simply
impossible. Want of air, want of food, want of courage--"

"No, sir!" interrupted Marston quite savagely. "Want of air, of meat, of
drink, as much as you like! But when you speak of Barbican's want of
courage, you don't know what you are talking about! No holy martyr ever
died at the stake with a loftier courage than my noble friend
Barbican!"

That night he asked the Captain if he would not sail down as far as Cape
San Lucas. Bloomsbury saw that further search was all labor lost, but he
respected such heroic grief too highly to give a positive refusal. He
consented to devote the following day, New Year's, to an exploring
expedition as far as Magdalena Bay, making the most diligent inquiries
in all directions.

But New Year's was just as barren of results as any of its predecessors,
and, a little before sunset, Captain Bloomsbury, regardless of further
entreaties and unwilling to risk further delay, gave orders to 'bout
ship and return to San Francisco.

The _Susquehanna_ was slowly turning around in obedience to her wheel,
as if reluctant to abandon forever a search in which humanity at large
was interested, when the look-out man, stationed in the forecastle,
suddenly sang out:

"A buoy to the nor'east, not far from shore!"

All telescopes were instantly turned in the direction indicated. The
buoy, or whatever object it was, could be readily distinguished. It
certainly did look like one of those buoys used to mark out the channel
that ships follow when entering a harbor. But as the vessel slowly
approached it, a small flag, flapping in the dying wind--a strange
feature in a buoy--was seen to surmount its cone, which a nearer
approach showed to be emerging four or five feet from the water. And for
a buoy too it was exceedingly bright and shiny, reflecting the red rays
of the setting sun as strongly as if its surface was crystal or polished
metal!

"Call Mr. Marston on deck at once!" cried the Captain, his voice
betraying unwonted excitement as he put the glass again to his eye.

Marston, thoroughly worn out by his incessant anxiety during the day,
had been just carried below by his friends, and they were now trying to
make him take a little refreshment and repose. But the Captain's order
brought them all on deck like a flash.

They found the whole crew gazing in one direction, and, though speaking
in little more than whispers, evidently in a state of extraordinary
excitement.

What could all this mean? Was there any ground for hope? The thought
sent a pang of delight through Marston's wildly beating heart that
almost choked him.

The Captain beckoned to the Club men to take a place on the bridge
beside himself. They instantly obeyed, all quietly yielding them a
passage.

The vessel was now only about a quarter of a mile distant from the
object and therefore near enough to allow it to be distinguished without
the aid of a glass.

What! The flag bore the well known Stars and Stripes!

An electric shudder of glad surprise shot through the assembled crowd.
They still spoke, however, in whispers, hardly daring to utter their
thoughts aloud.

The silence was suddenly startled by a howl of mingled ecstasy and rage
from Marston.

He would have fallen off the bridge, had not the others held him firmly.
Then he burst into a laugh loud and long, and quite as formidable as his
howl.

Then he tore away from his friends, and began beating himself over the
head.

"Oh!" he cried in accents between a yell and a groan, "what chuckleheads
we are! What numskulls! What jackasses! What double-treble-barrelled
gibbering idiots!" Then he fell to beating himself over the head again.

"What's the matter, Marston, for heaven's sake!" cried his friends,
vainly trying to hold him.

"Speak for yourself!" cried others, Belfast among the number.

"No exception, Belfast! You're as bad as the rest of us! We're all a set
of unmitigated, demoralized, dog-goned old lunatics! Ha! Ha! Ha!"

"Speak plainly, Marston! Tell us what you mean!"

"I mean," roared the terrible Secretary, "that we are no better than a
lot of cabbage heads, dead beats, and frauds, calling ourselves
scientists! O Barbican, how you must blush for us! If we were
schoolboys, we should all be skinned alive for our ignorance! Do you
forget, you herd of ignoramuses, that the Projectile weighs only ten
tons?"

"We don't forget it! We know it well! What of it?"

"This of it: it can't sink in water without displacing its own volume
in water; its own volume in water weighs thirty tons! Consequently, it
can't sink; more consequently, it hasn't sunk; and, most consequently,
there it is before us, bobbing up and down all the time under our very
noses! O Barbican, how can we ever venture to look at you straight in
the face again!"

Marston's extravagant manner of showing it did not prevent him from
being perfectly right. With all their knowledge of physics, not a single
one of those scientific gentlemen had remembered the great fundamental
law that governs sinking or floating bodies. Thanks to its slight
specific gravity, the Projectile, after reaching unknown depths of ocean
through the terrific momentum of its fall, had been at last arrested in
its course and even obliged to return to the surface.

By this time, all the passengers of the _Susquehanna_ could easily
recognize the object of such weary longings and desperate searches,
floating quietly a short distance before them in the last rays of the
declining day!

The boats were out in an instant. Marston and his friends took the
Captain's gig. The rowers pulled with a will towards the rapidly nearing
Projectile. What did it contain? The living or the dead? The living
certainly! as Marston whispered to those around him; otherwise how could
they have ever run up that flag?

The boats approached in perfect silence, all hearts throbbing with the
intensity of newly awakened hope, all eyes eagerly watching for some
sign to confirm it. No part of the windows appeared over the water, but
the trap hole had been thrown open, and through it came the pole that
bore the American flag. Marston made for the trap hole and, as it was
only a few feet above the surface, he had no difficulty in looking in.

At that moment, a joyful shout of triumph rose from the interior, and
the whole boat's crew heard a dry drawling voice with a nasal twang
exclaiming:

"Queen! How is that for high?"

It was instantly answered by another voice, shriller, louder, quicker,
more joyous and triumphant in tone, but slightly tinged with a foreign
accent:

"King! My brave Mac! How is that for high?"

The deep, clear, calm voice that spoke next thrilled the listeners
outside with an emotion that we shall not attempt to portray. Except
that their ears could detect in it the faintest possible emotion of
triumph, it was in all respects as cool, resolute, and self-possessed as
ever:

"Ace! Dear friends, how is that for high?"

They were quietly enjoying a little game of High-Low-Jack!

[Illustration: HOW IS THAT FOR HIGH?]

How they must have been startled by the wild cheers that suddenly rang
around their ocean-prison! How madly were these cheers re-echoed from
the decks of the _Susquehanna_! Who can describe the welcome that
greeted these long lost, long beloved, long despaired of Sons of Earth,
now so suddenly and unexpectedly rescued from destruction, and
restored once more to the wonderstricken eyes of admiring humanity? Who
can describe the scenes of joy and exuberant happiness, and deep felt
gratitude, and roaring rollicking merriment, that were witnessed on
board the steamer that night and during the next three days!

As for Marston, it need hardly be said that he was simply ecstatic, but
it may interest both the psychologist and the philologist to learn that
the expression _How is that for high?_ struck him at once as with a kind
of frenzy. It became immediately such a favorite tongue morsel of his
that ever since he has been employing it on all occasions, appropriate
or otherwise. Thanks to his exertions in its behalf all over the
country, the phrase is now the most popular of the day, well known and
relished in every part of the Union. If we can judge from its present
hold on the popular ear it will continue to live and flourish for many a
long day to come; it may even be accepted as the popular expression of
triumph in those dim, distant, future years when the memory not only of
the wonderful occasion of its formation but also of the illustrious men
themselves who originated it, has been consigned forever to the dark
tomb of oblivion!




CHAPTER XXIV.

FAREWELL TO THE BALTIMORE GUN CLUB.


The intense interest of our extraordinary but most veracious history
having reached its culmination at the end of the last chapter, our
absorbing chronicle might with every propriety have been then and there
concluded; but we can't part from our gracious and most indulgent reader
before giving him a few more details which may be instructive perhaps,
if not amusing.

No doubt he kindly remembers the world-wide sympathy with which our
three famous travellers had started on their memorable trip to the Moon.
If so, he may be able to form some idea of the enthusiasm universally
excited by the news of their safe return. Would not the millions of
spectators that had thronged Florida to witness their departure, now
rush to the other extremity of the Union to welcome them back? Could
those innumerable Europeans, Africans and Asiatics, who had visited the
United States simply to have a look at M'Nicholl, Ardan and Barbican,
ever think of quitting the country without having seen those wonderful
men again? Certainly not! Nay, more--the reception and the welcome that
those heroes would everywhere be greeted with, should be on a scale
fully commensurate with the grandeur of their own gigantic enterprise.
The Sons of Earth who had fearlessly quitted this terrestrial globe and
who had succeeded in returning after accomplishing a journey
inconceivably wonderful, well deserved to be received with every
extremity of pride, pomp and glorious circumstance that the world is
capable of displaying.

To catch a glimpse of these demi-gods, to hear the sound of their
voices, perhaps even to touch their hands--these were the only emotions
with which the great heart of the country at large was now throbbing.

To gratify this natural yearning of humanity, to afford not only to
every foreigner but to every native in the land an opportunity of
beholding the three heroes who had reflected such indelible glory on the
American name, and to do it all in a manner eminently worthy of the
great American Nation, instantly became the desire of the American
People.

To desire a thing, and to have it, are synonymous terms with the great
people of the American Republic.

A little thinking simplified the matter considerably: as all the people
could not go to the heroes, the heroes should go to all the people.

So decided, so done.

It was nearly two months before Barbican and his friends could get back
to Baltimore. The winter travelling over the Rocky Mountains had been
very difficult on account of the heavy snows, and, even when they found
themselves in the level country, though they tried to travel as
privately as possible, and for the present positively declined all
public receptions, they were compelled to spend some time in the houses
of the warm friends near whom they passed in the course of their long
journey.

The rough notes of their Moon adventures--the only ones that they could
furnish just then--circulating like wild fire and devoured with
universal avidity, only imparted a keener whet to the public desire to
feast their eyes on such men. These notes were telegraphed free to every
newspaper in the country, but the longest and best account of the
"_Journey to the Moon_" appeared in the columns of the _New York
Herald_, owing to the fact that Watkins the reporter had had the
adventurers all to himself during the whole of the three days' trip of
the _Susquehanna_ back to San Francisco. In a week after their return,
every man, woman, and child in the United States knew by heart some of
the main facts and incidents in the famous journey; but, of course, it
is needless to say that they knew nothing at all about the finer points
and the highly interesting minor details of the astounding story. These
are now all laid before the highly favored reader for the first time. I
presume it is unnecessary to add that they are worthy of his most
implicit confidence, having been industriously and conscientiously
compiled from the daily journals of the three travellers, revised,
corrected, and digested very carefully by Barbican himself.

It was, of course, too early at this period for the critics to pass a
decided opinion on the nature of the information furnished by our
travellers. Besides, the Moon is an exceedingly difficult subject. Very
few newspaper men in the country are capable of offering a single
opinion regarding her that is worth reading. This is probably also the
reason why half-scientists talk so much dogmatic nonsense about her.

Enough, however, had appeared in the notes to warrant the general
opinion that Barbican's explorations had set at rest forever several pet
theories lately started regarding the nature of our satellite. He and
his friends had seen her with their own eyes, and under such favorable
circumstances as to be altogether exceptional. Regarding her formation,
her origin, her inhabitability, they could easily tell what system
_should_ be rejected and what _might_ be admitted. Her past, her
present, and her future, had been alike laid bare before their eyes. How
can you object to the positive assertion of a conscientious man who has
passed within a few hundred miles of _Tycho_, the culminating point in
the strangest of all the strange systems of lunar oreography? What reply
can you make to a man who has sounded the dark abysses of the _Plato_
crater? How can you dare to contradict those men whom the vicissitudes
of their daring journey had swept over the dark, Invisible Face of the
Moon, never before revealed to human eye? It was now confessedly the
privilege and the right of these men to set limits to that selenographic
science which had till now been making itself so very busy in
reconstructing the lunar world. They could now say, authoritatively,
like Cuvier lecturing over a fossil skeleton: "Once the Moon was this, a
habitable world, and inhabitable long before our Earth! And now the Moon
is that, an uninhabitable world, and uninhabitable ages and ages ago!"

We must not even dream of undertaking a description of the grand _fete_
by which the return of the illustrious members of the Gun Club was to be
adequately celebrated, and the natural curiosity of their countrymen to
see them was to be reasonably gratified. It was one worthy in every way
of its recipients, worthy of the Gun Club, worthy of the Great Republic,
and, best of all, every man, woman, and child in the United States could
take part in it. It required at least three months to prepare it: but
this was not to be regretted as its leading idea could not be properly
carried out during the severe colds of winter.

All the great railroads of the Union had been closely united by
temporary rails, a uniform gauge had been everywhere adopted, and every
other necessary arrangement had been made to enable a splendid palace
car, expressly manufactured for the occasion by Pullman himself, to
visit every chief point in the United States without ever breaking
connection. Through the principal street in each city, or streets if one
was not large enough, rails had been laid so as to admit the passage of
the triumphal car. In many cities, as a precaution against unfavorable
weather, these streets had been arched over with glass, thus becoming
grand arcades, many of which have been allowed to remain so to the
present day. The houses lining these streets, hung with tapestry,
decorated with flowers, waving with banners, were all to be illuminated
at night time in a style at once both the most brilliant and the most
tasteful. On the sidewalks, tables had been laid, often miles and miles
long, at the public expense; these were to be covered with every kind of
eatables, exquisitely cooked, in the greatest profusion, and free to
everyone for twelve hours before the arrival of the illustrious guests
and also for twelve hours after their departure. The idea mainly aimed
at was that, at the grand national banquet about to take place, every
inhabitant of the United States, without exception, could consider
Barbican and his companions as his own particular guests for the time
being, thus giving them a welcome the heartiest and most unanimous that
the world has ever yet witnessed.

Evergreens were to deck the lamp-posts; triumphal arches to span the
streets; fountains, squirting _eau de cologne_, to perfume and cool the
air; bands, stationed at proper intervals, to play the most inspiring
music; and boys and girls from public and private schools, dressed in
picturesque attire, to sing songs of joy and glory. The people, seated
at the banquetting tables, were to rise and cheer and toast the heroes
as they passed; the military companies, in splendid uniforms, were to
salute them with presented arms; while the bells pealed from the church
towers, the great guns roared from the armories, _feux de joie_
resounded from the ships in the harbor, until the day's wildest whirl of
excitement was continued far into the night by a general illumination
and a surpassing display of fireworks. Right in the very heart of the
city, the slowly moving triumphal car was always to halt long enough to
allow the Club men to join the cheering citizens at their meal, which
was to be breakfast, dinner or supper according to that part of the day
at which the halt was made.

The number of champagne bottles drunk on these occasions, or of the
speeches made, or of the jokes told, or of the toasts offered, or of the
hands shaken, of course, I cannot now weary my kind reader by detailing,
though I have the whole account lying before me in black and white,
written out day by day in Barbican's own bold hand. Yet I should like to
give a few extracts from this wonderful journal. It is a perfect model
of accuracy and system. Whether detailing his own doings or those of the
innumerable people he met, Caesar himself never wrote anything more
lucid or more pointed. But nothing sets the extraordinary nature of this
great man in a better light than the firm, commanding, masterly
character of the handwriting in which these records are made. The
elegant penmanship all through might easily pass for copper plate
engraving--except on one page, dated "_Boston, after dinner_," where,
candor compels me to acknowledge, the "Solid Men" appear to have
succeeded in rendering his iron nerves the least bit wabbly.

The palace car had been so constructed that, by turning a few cranks and
pulling out a few bolts, it was transformed at once into a highly
decorated and extremely comfortable open barouche. Marston took the seat
usually occupied by the driver: Ardan and M'Nicholl sat immediately
under him, face to face with Barbican, who, in order that everyone might
be able to distinguish him, was to keep all the back seat for himself,
the post of honor.

On Monday morning, the fifth of May, a month generally the pleasantest
in the United States, the grand national banquet commenced in Baltimore,
and lasted twenty-four hours. The Gun Club insisted on paying all the
expenses of the day, and the city compromised by being allowed to
celebrate in whatever way it pleased the reception of the Club men on
their return.

They started on their trip that same day in the midst of one of the
grandest ovations possible to conceive. They stopped for a little while
at Wilmington, but they took dinner in Philadelphia, where the splendor
of Broad Street (at present the finest boulevard in the world, being 113
feet wide and five miles long) can be more easily alluded to than even
partially described.

The house fronts glittered with flowers, flags, pictures, tapestries,
and other decorations; the chimneys and roofs swarmed with men and boys
cheerfully risking their necks every moment to get one glance at the
"Moon men"; every window was a brilliant bouquet of beautiful ladies
waving their scented handkerchiefs and showering their sweetest smiles;
the elevated tables on the sidewalks, groaning with an abundance of
excellent and varied food, were lined with men, women, and children,
who, however occupied in eating and drinking, never forgot to salute the
heroes, cheering them lustily as they slowly moved along; the spacious
street itself, just paved from end to end with smooth Belgian blocks,
was a living moving panorama of soldiers, temperance men, free masons,
and other societies, radiant in gorgeous uniforms, brilliant in flashing
banners, and simply perfect in the rhythmic cadence of their tread,
wings of delicious music seeming to bear them onward in their proud and
stately march.

A vast awning, spanning the street from ridge to ridge, had been so
prepared and arranged that, in case of rain or too strong a glare from
the summer sun, it could be opened out wholly or partially in the space
of a very few minutes. There was not, however, the slightest occasion
for using it, the weather being exceedingly fine, almost paradisiacal,
as Marston loved to phrase it.

[Illustration: THEIR ARRIVAL WAS WELCOMED WITH EQUAL _FURORE_.]

The "Moon men" supped and spent the night in New York, where they were
received with even greater enthusiasm than at Philadelphia. But no
detailed description can be given of their majestic progress from city
to city through all portions of the mighty Republic. It is enough to say
that they visited every important town from Portland to San Francisco,
from Salt Lake City to New Orleans, from Mobile to Charleston, and from
Saint Louis to Baltimore; that, in every section of the great country,
preparations for their reception were equally as enthusiastic, their
arrival was welcomed with equal _furore_, and their departure
accompanied with an equal amount of affectionate and touching sympathy.

The _New York Herald_ reporter, Mr. Watkins, followed them closely
everywhere in a palace car of his own, and kept the public fully
enlightened regarding every incident worth regarding along the route,
almost as soon as it happened. He was enabled to do this by means of a
portable telegraphic machine of new and most ingenious construction.
Though its motive power was electricity, it could dispense with the
ordinary instruments and even with wires altogether, yet it managed to
transmit messages to most parts of the world with an accuracy that,
considering how seldom it failed, is almost miraculous. The principle
actuating it, though guessed at by many shrewd scientists, is still a
profound secret and will probably remain so for some time longer, the
_Herald_ having purchased the right to its sole and exclusive use for
fifteen years, at an enormous cost.

Who shall say that the apotheosis of our three heroes was not worthy of
them, or that, had they lived in the old prehistoric times, they would
not have taken the loftiest places among the demi-gods?

As the tremendous whirl of excitement began slowly to die away, the
more thoughtful heads of the Great Republic began asking each other a
few questions:

Can this wonderful journey, unprecedented in the annals of wonderful
journeys, ever lead to any practical result?

Shall we ever live to see direct communication established with the
Moon?

Will any Air Line of space navigation ever undertake to start a system
of locomotion between the different members of the solar system?

Have we any reasonable grounds for ever expecting to see trains running
between planet and planet, as from Mars to Jupiter and, possibly
afterwards, from star to star, as from Polaris to Sirius?

Even to-day these are exceedingly puzzling questions, and, with all our
much vaunted scientific progress, such as "no fellow can make out." But
if we only reflect a moment on the audacious go-a-headiveness of the
Yankee branch of the Anglo Saxon race, we shall easily conclude that the
American people will never rest quietly until they have pushed to its
last result and to every logical consequence the astounding step so
daringly conceived and so wonderfully carried out by their great
countryman Barbican.

In fact, within a very few months after the return of the Club men from
the Continental Banquet, as it was called in the papers, the country was
flooded by a number of little books, like Insurance pamphlets, thrust
into every letter box and pushed under every door, announcing the
formation of a new company called _The Grand Interstellar Communication
Society_. The Capital was to be 100 million dollars, at a thousand
dollars a share: J.P. BARBICAN, ESQ., P.G.C. was to be President;
Colonel JOSHUA D. M'NICHOLL, Vice-President; Hon. J.T. MARSTON,
Secretary; Chevalier MICHAEL ARDAN, General Manager; JOHN MURPHY, ESQ.,
Chief Engineer; H. PHILLIPS COLEMAN, ESQ. (Philadelphia lawyer), Legal
Adviser; and the Astrological Adviser was to be Professor HENRY of
Washington. (Belfast's blunder had injured him so much in public
estimation, his former partisans having become his most merciless
revilers, that it was considered advisable to omit his name altogether
even in the list of the Directors.)

From the very beginning, the moneyed public looked on the G.I.C.S, with
decided favor, and its shares were bought up pretty freely. Conducted on
strictly honorable principles, keeping carefully aloof from all such
damaging connection as the _Credit Mobilier_, and having its books
always thrown open for public inspection, its reputation even to-day is
excellent and continually improving in the popular estimation. Holding
out no utopian inducements to catch the unwary, and making no wheedling
promises to blind the guileless, it states its great objects with all
their great advantages, without at the same time suppressing its
enormous and perhaps insuperable difficulties. People know exactly what
to think of it, and, whether it ever meets with perfect success or
proves a complete failure, no one in the country will ever think of
casting a slur on the bright name of its peerless President, J.P.
Barbican.

For a few years this great man devoted every faculty of his mind to the
furthering of the Company's objects. But in the midst of his labors, the
rapid approach of the CENTENNIAL surprised him. After a long and careful
consultation on the subject, the Directors and Stockholders of the
G.I.C.S. advised him to suspend all further labors in their behalf for a
few years, in order that he might be freer to devote the full energies
of his giant intellect towards celebrating the first hundredth
anniversary of his country's Independence--as all true Americans would
wish to see it celebrated--in a manner every way worthy of the GREAT
REPUBLIC OF THE WEST!

Obeying orders instantly and with the single-idea'd, unselfish
enthusiasm of his nature, he threw himself at once heart and soul into
the great enterprise. Though possessing no official prominence--this he
absolutely insists upon--he is well known to be the great fountain head
whence emanate all the life, order, dispatch, simplicity, economy, and
wonderful harmony which, so far, have so eminently characterized the
magnificent project. With all operations for raising the necessary
funds--further than by giving some sound practical advice--he positively
refused to connect himself (this may be the reason why subscriptions to
the Centennial stock are so slow in coming in), but in the proper
apportionment of expenses and the strict surveillance of the mechanical,
engineering, and architectural departments, his services have proved
invaluable. His experience in the vast operations at Stony Hill has
given him great skill in the difficult art of managing men. His voice is
seldom heard at the meetings, but when it is, people seem to take a
pleasure in readily submitting to its dictates.

In wet weather or dry, in hot weather or cold, he may still be seen
every day at Fairmount Park, Philadelphia, leisurely strolling from
building to building, picking his steps quietly through the bustling
crowds of busy workmen, never speaking a word, not even to Marston his
faithful shadow, often pencilling something in his pocket book, stopping
occasionally to look apparently nowhere, but never, you may be sure,
allowing a single detail in the restless panorama around him to escape
the piercing shaft of his eagle glance.

He is evidently determined on rendering the great CENTENNIAL of his
country a still greater and more wonderful success than even his own
world-famous and never to be forgotten JOURNEY through the boundless
fields of ether, and ALL AROUND THE MOON!

END.





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