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Full text of "Works of Jules Verne"

iCO 




THIS IS VOLUME 9 
OF A COMPLETE SET 
OF THE WORKS OF 



Jules 
Verne 



consisting of fifteen vol- 
umes, issued strictly as a 
limited edition. In Volume 
One will be found a certif- 
icate as to the limitation 
of the edition and the reg- 
istered number of this set. 




ULES 




WALKING OR FLYING. 

The orderly was now some yards ahead of his master, and had 
reached a ditch full of water, and about ten feet wide. With the in- 
tention of clearing it, he made a spring, when a loud cry burst from 
Servadac. "Ben Zoof, you idiot! What are you about? You will 
break your back!" 

And well might he be alarmed, for Ben Zoof had sprung to a 
height of forty feet into the air. Fearful of the consequences that would 
attend {^ft^ <&$3.4&i^ $ I"? ffrvant to terra firma, Servadac bounded 
forwards, to be on the other side of the ditch in time to break his fall. 
But the muscular effort that he made c/.irried him in his turn to an 
altitude of thirty feet; in his ascent he- passed Hen Zoof, who had 
already commenced his downward course. Page 18. 




Vol. 9. 



VINCENT PARKE AND COMPANY 

NEW YORK LONDON 




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EDITED BY 

CHARLES F. HORNE, Ph.D. 

Professor of English, College of the City of New York; 
Author of "The Technique of the Novel," etc. 




VINCENT PARKE AND COMPANY 



NEW YORK 



LONDON 



COPYRIGHT, 1911, 
BY VINCENT PARKE AND COMPANY. 




CONTENTS 
VOLUME NINE 

PAGE 

INTRODUCTION ....... 1 

OFF ON A COMET 3 

THE UNDERGROUND CITY 277 



ILLUSTRATIONS 

VOLUME NINE 

PACK 

WALKING OR FLYING . Frontispiece 
A NIGHT VIEW ON SATURN ... .176 
APPROACH TO EARTH 272 



vii 




INTRODUCTION TO VOLUME NINE 

MONG so many effective and artistic tales, it is 
difficult to give a preference to one over all the 
rest. Yet, certainly, even amid Verne's re- 
markable works, his " Off on a Comet" must 
be given high rank. Perhaps this story will 
be remembered when even "Round the World in Eighty 
Days" and "Michael Strogoff" have been obliterated by 
centuries of time. 'At least, of the many books since writ- 
ten upon the same theme as Verne's, no one has yet suc- 
ceeded in equaling or even approaching it. 

In one way " Off on a Comet *' shows a marked contrast 
to Verne's earlier books. Not only does it invade a region 
more remote than even the " Trip to the Moon," but the 
author here abandons his usual scrupulously scientific atti- 
tude. In order that he may escort us through the depths 
of immeasurable space, show us what astronomy really 
knows of conditions there and upon the other planets, Verne 
asks us to accept a situation frankly impossible. The earth 
and a comet are brought twice into collision without man- 
kind in general, or even our astronomers, becoming con- 
scious of the fact. Moreover several people from widely 
scattered places are carried off by the comet and returned 
uninjured. Yet further, the comet snatches for the con- 
venience of its travelers, both air and water. Little, useful 
tracts of earth are picked up and, as it were, turned over 
and clapped down right side up again upon the comet's sur- 
face. Even ships pass uninjured through this remarkable 
somersault. These events all belong frankly to the realm 
of fairyland. 

u*// the situation were reproduced in actuality, if ever a 
comet should come into collision with the earth, we can con- 
ceive two scientifically possible results. If the comet were 



2 INTRODUCTION 

of such attenuation, such almost infinitesimal mass as some 
of these celestial wanderers seem to be, we can imagine our 
earth self-protective and possibly unharmed. If, on the 
other hand, the comet had even a hundredth part of the size 
and solidity and weight which Verne confers upon his mon- 
ster so as to give his travelers a home in that case the 
collision would be unspeakably disastrous especially to the 
unlucky individuals who occupied the exact point of contact. 

But once granted the initial and the closing extravagance, 
the departure and return of his characters, the alpha and 
omega of his tale, how closely the author clings to facts be- 
tween! How closely he follows, and imparts to his readers, 
the scientific probabilities of the universe beyond our earth, 
the actual knowledge so hard won by our astronomers! 
Other authors who, since Verne, have told of trips through 
the planetary and stellar universe have given free rein to 
fancy, to dreams of what might be found. Verne has en- 
deavored to impart only what is known to exist. 

In the same year with " Off on a Comet," 1877, was pub- 
lished also the tale variously named and translated as " The 
Black Indies," " The Underground City" and " The Child 
of the Cavern." This story, like "Round the World in 
Eighty Days " was first issued in " feuilleton " by the noted 
Paris newspaper " Le Temps."' Its success did not equal 
that of its predecessor in this style. Some critics indeed 
have pointed to this work as marking the beginning of a de- 
cline in the author's power of awaking interest. Many of 
his best works were, however, still to follow. 'And, as re- 
gards imagination and the elements of mystery and awe, 
surely in the " Underground City " with its cavern world, its 
secret, undiscoverable, unrelenting foe, the " Harfang" bird 
of evil omen, and the " fire maidens " of the ruined castle, 
surely with all these " imagination " is anything but lacking. 

From the realistic side, the work is painstaking and exact 
as all the author's works. The sketches of mines and 
miners, their courage and their dangers, their lives and their 
hopes, are carefully studied. So also is the emotional as- 
pect of the deeps under ground, the blackness, the endless 
wandering passages, the silence, and the awe t 



Off on a Comet 



OR 




Hector Servadac 



CHAPTER I 

A CHALLENGE 

OTHING, sir, can induce me to surrender my 
claim." 

" I am sorry, count, but in such a matter 
your views cannot modify mine." 

" But allow me to point out that my senior- 
ity unquestionably gives me a prior right." 
Mere seniority, I assert, in an affair of this kind, can- 
not possibly entitle you to any prior claim whatever." 

" Then, captain, no alternative is left but for me to com- 
pel you to yield at the sword's point." 

" As you please, count ; but neither sword nor pistol can 
force me to forego my pretensions. Here is my card." 
" And mine." 

This rapid altercation was thus brought to an end by 
the formal interchange of the names of the disputants. 
On one of the cards was inscribed: 
Captain Hector Servadac, 

Staff Officer, Mostaganent. 
On the other was the title : 

Count Wassili Timascheff, 

On board the Schooner " Dobryna" 
It did not take long to arrange that seconds should be 
appointed, who would meet in Mostaganem at two o'clock 
that day; and the captain and the count were on the point 
of parting from each other, with a salute of punctilious 
courtesy, when Timascheff, as if struck by a sudden 
thought, said abruptly : " Perhaps it would be better, cap- 
tain, not to allow the real cause of this to transpire? " 

" Far better," replied Servadac ; " it is undesirable in 
every way for any names to be mentioned." 

" In that case, however," continued the count, " it will 
be necessary to assign an ostensible pretext of some kind. 

V, IX Verne 3 



4 OFF ON A COMET 

Shall we allege a musical dispute? a contention in which 
I feel bound to defend Wagner, while you are the zealous 
champion of Rossini ? " 

" I am quite content," answered Servadac, with a smile; 
and with another low bow they parted. 

The scene, as here depicted, took place upon the ex- 
tremity of a little cape on the Algerian coast, between 
Mostaganem and Tenes, about two miles from the mouth 
of the Shelif. The headland rose more than sixty feet 
above the sea-level, and the azure waters of the Mediter- 
ranean, as they softly kissed the strand, were tinged with 
the reddish hue of the ferriferous rocks that formed its 
base. It was the 3ist of December. The noontide sun, 
which usually illuminated the various projections of the 
coast with a dazzling brightness, was hidden by a dense 
mass of cloud, and the fog, which for some unaccountable 
cause, had hung for the last two months over nearly every 
region in the world, causing serious interruption to traffic 
between continent and continent, spread its dreary veil 
across land and sea. 

After taking leave of the staff-officer, Count Wassili 
Timascheff wended his way down to a small creek, and 
took his seat in the stern of a light four-oar that had been 
awaiting his return ; this was immediately pushed off from 
shore, and was soon alongside a pleasure-yacht, that was 
lying to, not many cable lengths away. 

At a sign from Servadac, an orderly, who had been 
standing at a respectful distance, led forward a magnificent 
Arabian horse; the captain vaulted into the saddle, and 
followed by his attendant, well mounted as himself, started 
off towards Mostaganem. It was half-past twelve when 
the two riders crossed the bridge that had been^ recently 
erected over the Shelif, and a quarter of an hour later 
their steeds, flecked with foam, dashed through the Mas- 
cara Gate, which was one of five entrances opened in the 
embattled wall that encircled the town. 

At that date, Mostaganem contained about fifteen thou- 
sand inhabitants, three thousand of whom were French. 
Besides being one of the principal district towns of the 
province of Oran, it was also a military station. Mos- 
taganem rejoiced in a well-sheltered harbor, which enabled 
her to utilize all the rich products of the Mina and the 



A CHALLENGE 5 

Lower Shell f. It was the existence of so good a harbor 
amidst the exposed cliffs of this coast that had induced the 
owner of the Dobryna to winter in these parts, and for two 
months the Russian standard had been seen floating from 
her yard, whilst on her mast-head was hoisted the pennant 
of the French Yacht Club, with the distinctive letters 
M. C. W. T., the initials of Count Timascheff. 

Having entered the town, Captain Servadac made his 
way towards Matmore, the military quarter, and was nqt 
long in finding two friends on whom he might rely a 
major of the 2nd Fusileers, and a captain of the 8th Artil- 
lery. The two officers listened gravely enough to Ser- 
vadac's request that they would act as his seconds in an 
affair of honor, but could not resist a smile on hearing that 
the dispute between him and the count had originated in 
a musical discussion. Surely, they suggested, the matter 
might be easily arranged ; a few slight concessions on either 
side, and all might be amicably adjusted. But no repre- 
sentations on their part were of any avail. Hector Ser- 
vadac was inflexible. 

" No concession is possible," he replied, resolutely. 
" Rossini has been deeply injured, and I cannot suffer the 
injury to be unavenged. Wagner is a fool. I shall keep 
my word. I am quite firm." 

" Be it so, then," replied one of the officers; "and after 
all, you know, a sword-cut need not be a very serious 
affair." 

"Certainly not," rejoined Servadac; "and especially in 
my case, when I have not the slightest intention of being 
wounded at all." 

Incredulous as they naturally were as to the assigned 
cause of the quarrel, Servadac's friends had no alternative 
but to accept his explanation, and without farther parley 
they started for the staff office, where, at two o'clock pre- 
cisely, they were to meet the seconds of Count Timascheff. 
Two hours later they had returned. All the preliminaries 
had been arranged; the count, who like many Russians 
abroad was an aide-de-camp of the Czar, had of course 
proposed swords as the most appropriate weapons, and 
the duel was to take place on the following morning, the 
first of January, at nine o'clock, upon the cliff at a spot 
about a mile and a half from the mouth of the Shelif. 



6 OFF ON A COMET 

With the assurance that they would not fail to keep their 
appointment with military punctuality, the two officers 
cordially wrung their friend's hand and retired to the 
Zulma Cafe for a game at piquet. Captain Servadac at 
once retraced his steps and left the town. 

For the last fortnight Servadac had not been occupying 
his proper lodgings in the military quarters; having been 
appointed to make a local levy, he had been living in a 
gourbi, or native hut, on the Mostaganem coast, between 
four and five miles from the Shelif. His orderly was his 
sole companion, and by any other man than the captain 
the enforced exile would have been esteemed little short of 
a severe penance. 

On his way to the gourbi, his mental occupation was a 
very laborious effort to put together what he was pleased 
to call a rondo, upon a model of versification all but obso- 
lete. This rondo, it is unnecessary to conceal, was to be 
an ode addressed to a young widow by whom he had been 
captivated, and whom he was anxious to marry, and the 
tenor of his muse was intended to prove that when once a 
man has found an object in all respects worthy of his affec- 
tions, he should love her " in all simplicity." Whether 
the aphorism were universally true was not very material 
to the gallant captain, whose sole ambition at present was 
to construct a roundelay of which this should be the pre- 
vailing sentiment. He indulged the fancy that he might 
succeed in producing a composition which would have a 
fine effect here in Algeria, where poetry in that form was 
all but unknown. 

"I know well enough," he said repeatedly to himself, 
" what I want to say. I want to tell her that I love her 
sincerely, and wish to marry her; but, confound it! the 
words won't rhyme. Plague on it ! Does nothing rhyme 
with * simplicity ' ? Ah ! I have it now : 

' Lovers should, whoe'er they be, 
Love in all simplicity/ 

But what next? how am I to go on? I say, Ben Zoof," 
he called aloud to his orderly, who was trotting silently 
close in his rear, " did you ever compose any poetry? " 

"No, captain," answered the man promptly: "I have 
never made any verses, but I have seen them made fast 
enough at a booth during the fete of Montmartre." 



A CHALLENGE 7 

"Can you remember them?" 

" Remember them ! to be sure I can. This is the way 
they began: 

' Come in ! come in ! you'll not repent 
The entrance money you have spent; 
The wondrous mirror in this place 
Reveals your future sweetheart's face/ ' 
"Bosh!" cried Servadac in disgust; "your verses are 
detestable trash." 

"As good as any others, captain, squeaked through a 
reed pipe." 

" Hold your tongue, man," said Servadac peremptorily ; 
" I have made another couplet. 

'Lovers should, whoe'er they be, 
Love in all simplicity; 
Lover, loving honestly, 
Offer I myself to thee. ' 

Beyond this, however, the captain's poetical genius was 
impotent to carry him; his farther efforts were unavailing, 
and when at six o'clock he reached the gourbi, the four 
lines still remained the limit of his composition. 



CHAPTER II 

CAPTAIN SERVADAC AND HIS ORDERLY 

AT the time of which I write, there might be seen in the 
registers of the Minister of War the following entry: 

SERVADAC (Hector), born at St. Trelody in the district 
of Lesparre, department of the Gironde, July iQth, 18 . 

Property: 1200 francs in rentes. 

Length of service: Fourteen years, three months, and 
five days. 

Service: Two years at school at St. Cyr; two years at 
L'Ecole d' Application ; two years in the 8th Regiment of 
the Line; two years in the 3rd Light Cavalry; seven years 
in Algeria. 

Campaigns: Soudan and Japan. 

Rank: Captain on the staff at Mostaganem. 

Decorations: Chevalier of the Legion of Honor, March 
I3th, 18 . 

Hector Servadac was thirty years of age, an orphan 



8 OFF ON A COMET 

without lineage and almost without means. Thirsting for 
glory rather than for gold, slightly scatter-brained, but 
warm-hearted, generous, and brave, he was eminently 
formed to be the protege of the god of battles. 

For the first year and a half of his existence he had 
been the foster-child of the sturdy wife of a vine-dresser 
of Medoc a lineal descendant of the heroes of ancient 
prowess; in a word, he was one of those individuals whom 
nature seems to have predestined for remarkable things, 
and around whose cradle have hovered the fairy god- 
mothers of adventure and good luck. 

In appearance Hector Servadac was quite the type of 
an officer; he was rather more than five feet six inches 
high, slim and graceful, with dark curling hair and mus- 
taches, well- formed hands and feet, and a clear blue eye. 
He seemed born to please without being conscious of the 
power he possessed. It must be owned, and no one was 
more ready to confess it than himself, that his literary 
attainments were by no means of a high order. " We 
don't spin tops " is a favorite saying amongst artillery offi- 
cers, indicating that they do not shirk their duty by frivo- 
lous pursuits; but it must be confessed that Servadac, being 
naturally idle, was very much given to " spinning tops." 
His good abilities, however, and his ready intelligence had 
carried him successfully through the curriculum of his 
early career. He was a good draughtsman, an excellent 
rider having thoroughly mastered the successor to the 
famous " Uncle Tom " at the riding-school of St. Cyr 
and in the records of his military service his name had 
several times been included in the order of the day. 

The following episode may suffice, in a certain degree, 
to illustrate his character. Once, in action, he was leading 
a detachment of infantry through an intrenchment. They 
came to a place where the side- work of the trench had 
been so riddled by shell that a portion of it had actually 
fallen in, leaving an aperture quite unsheltered from the 
grape-shot that was pouring in thick and fast. The men 
hesitated. In an instant Servadac mounted the side-work, 
laid himself down in the gap, and thus filling up the breach 
by his own body, shouted, " March on ! " 

And through a storm of shot, not one of which touched 
the prostrate officer, the troop passed in safety. 



CAPTAIN SERVADAC 9 

Since leaving the military college, Servadac, with the 
exception of his two campaigns in the Soudan and Japan, 
had been always stationed in Algeria. He had now a 
staff appointment at Mostaganem, and had lately been en- 
trusted with some topographical work on the coast between 
Tenes and the Shelif. It was a matter of little consequence 
to him that the gourbi, in which of necessity he was quar- 
tered, was uncomfortable and ill-contrived; he loved the 
open air, and the independence of his life suited him well. 
Sometimes he would wander on foot upon the sandy shore, 
and sometimes he would enjoy a ride along the summit of 
the cliff; altogether being in no hurry at all to bring his 
task to an end. His occupation, moreover, was not so en- 
grossing but that he could find leisure for taking a short 
railway journey once or twice a week; so that he was ever 
and again putting in an appearance at the general's recep- 
tions at Oran, and at the fetes given by the governor at 
Algiers. 

It was on one of these occasions that he had first met 

Madame de L , the lady to whom he was desirous of 

dedicating the rondo, the first four lines of which had just 
seen the light. She was a colonel's widow, young and 
handsome, very reserved, not to say haughty in her manner, 
and either indifferent or impervious to the admiration 
which she inspired. Captain Servadac had not yet ven- 
tured to declare his attachment; of rivals he was well 
aware he had not a few, and amongst these not the least 
formidable was the Russian Count Timascheff. And al- 
though the young widow was all unconscious of the share 
she had in the matter, it was she, and she alone, who was 
the cause of the challenge just given and accepted by her 
two ardent admirers. 

During his residence in the gourbi, Hector Servadac's 
sole companion was his orderly, Ben Zoof. Ben Zoof was 
devoted, body and soul, to his superior officer. His own 
personal ambition was so -entirely absorbed in his master's 
welfare, that it is certain no offer of promotion even had 
it been that of aide-de-camp to the Governor-General of 
Algiers would have induced him to quit that master's 
service. His name might seem to imply that he was a 
native of Algeria; but such was by no means the case. 
His true name was Laurent; he was a native of Mont- 



io OFF ON A COMET 

martre in Paris, and how or why he had obtained his 
patronymic was one of those anomalies which the most 
sagacious of etymologists would find it hard to explain. 

Born on the hill of Montmartre, between the Solferino 
tower and the mill of La Galette, Ben Zoof had ever pos- 
sessed the most unreserved admiration for his birthplace; 
and to his eyes the heights and district of Montmartre 
represented an epitome of all the wonders of the world. In 
all his travels, and these had been not a few, he had never 
beheld scenery which could compete with that of his native 
home. No cathedral not even Burgos itself could vie 
with the church at Montmartre. Its race-course could well 
hold its own against that at Pentelique ; its reservoir would 
throw the Mediterranean into the shade; its forests had 
flourished long before the invasion of the Celts; and its 
very mill produced no ordinary flour, but provided material 
for cakes of world-wide renown. To crown all, Mont- 
martre boasted a mountain a veritable mountain; envious 
tongues indeed might pronounce it little more than a hill; 
but Ben Zoof would have allowed himself to be hewn in 
pieces rather than admit that it was anything less than fif- 
teen thousand feet in height. 

Ben Zoof s most ambitious desire was to induce the cap- 
tain to go with him and end his days in his much-loved 
home, and so incessantly were Servadac's ears besieged 
with descriptions of the unparalleled beauties and advan- 
tages of this eighteenth arrondissement of Paris, that he 
could scarcely hear the name of Montmartre without a 
conscious thrill of aversion. Ben Zoof, however, did not 
despair of ultimately converting the captain, and mean- 
while had resolved never to leave him. When a private 
in the 8th Cavalry, he had been on the point of quitting the 
army at twenty-eight years of age, but unexpectedly he had 
been appointed orderly to Captain Servadac. Side by side 
they fought in two campaigns. Servadac had saved Ben 
Zoofs life in Japan; Ben Zoof had rendered his master 
a like service in the Soudan. The bond of union thus 
effected could never be severed; and although Ben -Zoofs 
achievements had fairly earned him the right of retirement, 
he firmly declined all honors or any pension that might part 
him from his superior officer. Two stout arms, an iron 
constitution, a powerful frame, and an indomitable cour- 



CAPTAIN SERVADAC n 

age were all loyally devoted to his master's service, and 
fairly entitled him to his soi-disant designation of " The 
Rampart of Montmartre." Unlike his master, he made no 
pretension to any gift of poetic power, but his inexhausti- 
ble memory made him a living encyclopaedia; and for his 
stock of anecdotes and trooper's tales he was matchless. 

Thoroughly appreciating his servant's good qualities, 
Captain Servadac endured with imperturbable good humor 
those idiosyncrasies, which in a less faithful follower 
would have been intolerable, and from time to time he 
would drop a word of sympathy that served to deepen his 
subordinate's devotion. 

On one occasion, when Ben Zoof had mounted his hob- 
by-horse, and was indulging in high-flown praises about 
his beloved eighteenth arrondissement, the captain had re- 
marked gravely, " Do you know, Ben Zoof, that Mont- 
martre only requires a matter of some thirteen thousand 
feet to make it as high as Mont Blanc ? " 

Ben Zoof's eyes glistened with delight; and from that 
moment Hector Servadac and Montmartre held equal places 
in his affection. 



CHAPTER III 

INTERRUPTED EFFUSIONS 

COMPOSED of mud and loose stones, and covered with a 
thatch of turf and straw, known to the natives by the name 
of "driss," the gourbi, though a grade better than the 
tents of the nomad Arabs, was yet far inferior to any habi- 
tation built of brick or stone. It adjoined an old stone 
hostelry, previously occupied by a detachment of engineers, 
and which now afforded shelter for Ben Zoof and the two 
horses. It still contained a considerable number of tools, 
such as mattocks, shovels, and pick-axes. 

Uncomfortable as was their temporary abode, Servadac 
and his attendant made no complaints; neither of them 
was dainty in the matter either of board or lodging. After 
dinner, leaving his orderly to stow away the remains of the 
repast in what he was pleased to term the "cupboard of 
his stomach," Captain Servadac turned out into the open 
air to smoke his pipe upon the edge of the cliff. The 



12 OFF ON A COMET 

shades of night were drawing on. An hour previously, 
veiled in heavy clouds, the sun had sunk below the horizon 
that bounded the plain beyond the Shelif. 

The sky presented a most singular appearance. To- 
wards the north, although the darkness rendered it impos- 
sible to see beyond a quarter of a mile, the upper strata of 
the atmosphere were suffused with a rosy glare. No well- 
defined fringe of light, nor arch of luminous rays, beto- 
kened a display of aurora borealis, even had such a phe- 
nomenon been possible in these latitudes ; and the most ex- 
perienced meteorologist would have been puzzled to explain 
the cause of this striking illumination on this 3ist of De- 
cember, the last evening of the passing year. 

But Captain Servadac was no meteorologist, and it is 
to be doubted whether, since leaving school, he had ever 
opened his " Course of Cosmography." Besides, he had 
other thoughts to occupy his mind. The prospects of the 
morrow offered serious matter for consideration. The cap- 
tain was actuated by no personal animosity against the 
count; though rivals, the two men regarded each other 
with sincere respect; they had simply reached a crisis in 
which one of them was de trop; which of them, fate must 
decide. 

At^eight o'clock, Captain Servadac re-entered the gourbi, 
the single apartment of which contained his bed, a small 
writing-table, and some trunks that served instead of cup- 
boards. The orderly performed his culinary operations in 
the adjoining building, which he also used as a bed-room, 
and where, extended on what he called his " good oak mat- 
tress," he would sleep soundly as a dormouse for twelve 
hours at a stretch. Ben Zoof had not yet received his 
orders to retire, and ensconcing himself in a corner of the 
gourbi, he endeavored to doze a task which the unusual 
agitation of his master rendered somewhat difficult. Cap- 
tain Servadac was evidently in no hurry to betake himself 
to rest, but seating himself at his table, with a pair of com- 
passes and a sheet of tracing-paper, he began to draw, with 
red and blue crayons, a variety of colored lines, which 
could hardly be supposed to have much connection with a 
topographical survey. In truth, his character of staff-offi- 
cer was now^ entirely absorbed in that of Gascon poet. 
Whether he imagined that the compasses would bestow 



INTERRUPTED EFFUSIONS 13 

upon his verses the measure of a mathematical accuracy, or 
whether he fancied that the parti-colored lines would lend 
variety to his rhythm, it is impossible to determine ; be that 
as it may, he was devoting all his energies to the compila- 
tion of his rondo, and supremely difficult he found the task. 

" Hang it ! " he ejaculated, " whatever induced me to 
choose this meter? It is as 'hard to find rhymes as to 
rally fugitive in a battle. But, by all the powers ! it shan't 
be said that a French officer cannot cope with a piece of 
poetry. One battalion has fought now for the rest ! " 

Perseverance had its reward. Presently two lines, one 
red, the other blue, appeared upon the paper, and the cap- 
tain murmured : 

" Words, mere words, cannot avail, 
Telling true heart's tender tale." 

"What on earth ails my master?" muttered Ben Zoof; 
" for the last hour he has been as fidgety as a bird return- 
ing after its winter migration." 

Servadac suddenly started from his seat, and as he 
paced the room with all the frenzy of poetic inspiration, 
read out : 

"Empty words cannot convey 
!A11 a lover's heart would say." 

" Well, to be sure, he is at his everlasting verses again ! " 
said Ben Zoof to himself, as he roused himself in his cor- 
ner. " Impossible to sleep in such a noise ; " and he gave 
vent to a loud groan. 

"How now, Ben Zoof?" said the captain sharply. 
"What ails you?" 

"Nothing, sir, only the nightmare." 

" Curse the fellow, he has quite interrupted me ! " ejacu- 
lated the captain. " Ben Zoof ! " he called aloud. 

" Here, sir ! " was the prompt reply ; and in an instant 
the orderly was upon his feet, standing in a military atti- 
tude, one hand to his forehead, the other closely pressed to 
his trouser-seam. 

" Stay where you are ! don't move an inch ! " shouted 
Servadac; " I have just thought of the end of my rondo." 

And in a voice of inspiration, accompanying his words 
with dramatic gestures, Servadac began to declaim: 
"Listen, lady, to my vows 
U>, consent to be my spouse; 



14 OFF ON A COMET 

Constant ever I will be, 

Constant . . . ." 

No closing lines were uttered. All at once, with unut- 
terable violence, the captain and his orderly were dashed, 
face downwards, to the ground. 



CHAPTER IV 

A CONVULSION OF NATURE 

WHENCE came it that at that very moment the horizon 
underwent so strange and sudden a modification, that the 
eye of the most practiced mariner could not distinguish 
between sea and sky? 

Whence came it that the billows raged and rose to a 
height hitherto unregistered in the records of science? 

Whence came it that the elements united in one deafen- 
ing crash; that the earth groaned as though the whole 
framework of the globe were ruptured; that the waters 
roared from their innermost depths; that the air shrieked 
with all the fury of a cyclone? 

Whence came it that a radiance, intenser than the efful- 
gence of the Northern Lights, overspread the firmament, 
and momentarily dimmed the splendor of the brightest 
stars? 

Whence came it that the Mediterranean, one instant 
emptied of its waters, was the next flooded with a foaming 
surge? 

Whence came it that in the space of a few seconds the 
moon's disc reached a magnitude as though it were but a 
tenth part of its ordinary distance from the earth? 

Whence came it that a new blazing spheroid, hitherto 
unknown to astronomy, now appeared suddenly in the 
firmament, though it were but to lose itself immediately 
behind masses of accumulated cloud? 

What phenomenon was this that had produced a cata- 
clysm so tremendous in effect upon earth, sky, and sea? 

Was it possible that a single human being could have 
survived the convulsion? and if so, could he explain its 
mystery? 



CHAPTER V 

A MYSTERIOUS SEA 

VIOLENT as the commotion had been, that portion of the 
Algerian coast which is bounded on the north by the Med- 
iterranean, and on the west by the right bank of the Shelif, 
appeared to have suffered little change. It is true that 
indentations were perceptible in the fertile plain, and the 
surface of the sea was ruffled with an agitation that was 
quite unusual; but the rugged outline of the cliff was the 
same as heretofore, and the aspect of the entire scene ap- 
peared unaltered. The stone hostelry, with the exception 
of some deep clefts in its walls, had sustained little injury; 
but the gourbi, like a house of cards destroyed by an in- 
fant's breath, had completely subsided, and its two inmates 
lay motionless, buried under the sunken thatch. 

It was two hours after the catastrophe that Captain 
Servadac regained consciousness; he had some trouble to 
collect his thoughts, and the first sounds that escaped his 
lips were the concluding words of the rondo which had 
been so ruthlessly interrupted ; 

" Constant ever I will be, 
Constant . . . ." 

His next thought was to wonder what had happened; 
and in order to find an answer, he pushed aside the broken 
thatch, so that his head appeared above the debris. " The 
gourbi leveled to the ground ! " he exclaimed, " surely a 
waterspout has passed along the coast." 

He felt all over his body to perceive what injuries he 
had sustained, but not a sprain nor a scratch could he dis- 
cover. "Where are you, Ben Zoof?" he shouted. 

" Here, sir ! " and with military promptitude a second 
head protruded from the rubbish. 

" Have you any notion what has happened, Ben Zoof? " 

" I've a notion, captain, that it's all up with us." 

" Nonsense, Ben Zoof ; it is nothing but a waterspout ! " 

" Very good, sir," was the philosophical reply, imme- 
diately followed by the query, "Any bones broken, sir?" 

" None whatever," said the captain. 

Both men were soon on their feet, and began to make 
a vigorous clearance of the ruins, beneath which they 
found that their arms, cooking utensils, and other prop- 
erty, had sustained little injury. 

15 




16 OFF ON A COMET 

"By-the-by, what o'clock is it?" asked the captain. 

"It must be eight o'clock, at least," said Ben Zoof, 
looking at the sun, which was a considerable height above 
the horizon. " It is almost time for us to start." 

"To start! what for?" 

"To keep your appointment with Count Timascheff." 

"By Jove! I had forgotten all about it!" exclaimed 
Servadac. Then looking at his watch, he cried, " What 
are you thinking of, Ben Zoof? It is scarcely two 
o'clock. 

" Two in the morning, or two in the afternoon ? " asked 
Ben Zoof, again regarding the sun. 

Servadac raised his watch to his ear. " It is going," 
said he; "but, by all the wines of Medoc, I am puzzled. 
Don't you see the sun is in the west? It must be near 
setting." 

" Setting, captain ! Why, it is rising finely, like a con- 
script at the sound of the reveille. It is considerably 
higher since we have been talking." 

Incredible as it might appear, the fact was undeniable 
that the sun was rising over the Shelif from that quarter 
of the horizon behind which it usually sank for the latter 
portion of its daily round. They were utterly bewildered. 
Some mysterious phenomenon must not only have altered 
the position of the sun in the sidereal system, but must 
even have brought about an important modification of the 
earth's rotation on her axis. 

Captain Servadac consoled himself with the prospect of 
reading an explanation of the mystery in next week's news- 
papers, and turned his attention to what was to him of more 
immediate importance. " Come, let us be off," said he to 
his orderly; "though heaven and earth be topsy-turvy, I 
must be at my post this morning." 

"To do Count Timascheff the honor of running him 
through the body," added Ben Zoof. 

If Servadac and his orderly had been less preoccupied, 
they would have noticed that a variety of other physical 
changes besides the apparent alteration in the movement 
of the sun had been evolved during the atmospheric dis- 
turbances of that New Year's night. As they descended 
the steep footpath leading from the cliff towards the Shelif, 
they were unconscious that their respiration became forced 



A MYSTERIOUS SEA 17 

and rapid, like that of a mountaineer when he has reached 
an altitude where the air has become less charged with 
oxygen. They were also unconscious that their voices 
were thin and feeble ; either they must themselves have be- 
come rather deaf, or it was evident that the air had become 
less capable of transmitting sound. 

The weather, which on the previous evening had been 
very foggy, had entirely changed. The sky had assumed 
a singular tint, and was soon covered with lowering clouds 
that completely hid the sun. There were, indeed, all the 
signs of a coming storm, but the vapor, on account of the 
insufficient condensation, failed to fall. 

The sea appeared quite deserted, a most unusual cir- 
cumstance along this coast, and not a sail nor a trail of 
smoke broke the gray monotony of water and sky. The 
limits of the horizon, too, had become much circumscribed. 
On land, as well as on sea, the remote distance had com- 
pletely disappeared, and it seemed as though the globe 
had assumed a more decided convexity. 

At the pace at which they were walking, it was very 
evident that the captain and his attendant would not take 
long to accomplish the three miles that lay between the 
gourbi and the place of rendezvous. They did not ex- 
change a word, but each was conscious of an unusual 
buoyancy, which appeared to lift up their bodies and give 
as it were, wings to their feet. If Ben Zoof had expressed 
his sensations in words, he would have said that he felt 
" up to anything," and he had even forgotten to taste so 
much as a crust of bread, a lapse of memory of which the 
worthy soldier was rarely guilty. 

As these thoughts were crossing his mind, a harsh bark 
was heard to the left of the footpath, and a jackal was 
seen emerging from a large grove of lentisks. Regarding 
the two wayfarers with manifest uneasiness, the beast took 
up its position at the foot of a rock, more than thirty feet 
in height. It belonged to an African species distinguished 
by a black spotted skin, and a black line down the front of 
the legs. At night-time, when they scour the country in 
herds, the creatures are somewhat formidable, but singly 
they are no more dangerous than a dog. Though by no 
means afraid of them, Ben Zoof had a particular aversion 
to jackals, perhaps because they had no place among the 

V. IX Verne 



18 OFF ON A COMET 

fauna of his beloved Montmartre. He accordingly began 
to make threatening gestures, when, to the unmitigated as- 
tonishment of himself and the captain, the animal darted 
forward, and in one singe bound gained the summit of the 
rock. 

" Good Heavens ! " cried Ben Zoof, " that leap must have 
been thirty feet at least." 

" True enough," replied the captain ; " I never saw such 
a jump." 

Meantime the jackal had seated itself upon its haunches, 
and was staring at the two men with an air of impudent 
defiance. This was too much for Ben Zoof 's forbearance, 
and stooping down he caught up a huge stone, when to his 
surprise, he found that it was no heavier than a piece of 
petrified sponge. " Confound the brute ! " he exclaimed, 
" I might as well throw a piece of bread at him. What ac- 
counts for its being as light as this ? " 

Nothing daunted, 'however, he hurled the stone into the 
air. It missed its aim; but the jackal, deeming it on the 
whole prudent to decamp, disappeared across the trees and 
hedges with a series of bounds, which could only be likened 
to those that might be made by an india-rubber kangaroo. 
Ben Zoof was sure that his own powers of propelling must 
equal those of a howitzer, for his stone, after a lengthened 
flight through the air, fell to the ground full five hundred 
paces the other side of the rock. 

The orderly was now some yards ahead of his master, 
and had reached a ditch full of water, and about ten feet 
wide. With the intention of clearing it, he made a spring, 
when a loud cry burst from Servadac. " Ben Zoof, you 
idiot! What are you about? You will break your 
back!" 

And well might he be alarmed, for Ben Zoof had 
sprung to a height of forty feet into the air. Fearful of 
the consequences that would attend the descent of his 
servant to terra firma, Servadac bounded forwards, to be 
on the other side of the ditch in time to break his fall. 
But the muscular effort that he made carried him in his turn 
to an altitude of thirty feet; in his ascent he passed Ben 
Zoof, who had already commenced his downward course; 
and then, obedient to the laws of gravitation, he descended 
with increasing rapidity, and alighted upon the earth with- 



A MYSTERIOUS SEA 19 

out experiencing a shock greater than if he had merely 
made a bound of four or five feet high. 

Ben Zoof burst into a roar of laughter. " Bravo ! " he 
said, " we should make a good pair of clowns." 

But the captain was inclined to take a more serious view 
of the matter. For a few seconds he stood lost in thought, 
then said solemnly, " Ben Zoof, I must be dreaming. 
Pinch me hard; I must be either asleep or mad." 

" It is very certain that something has happened to us," 
said Ben Zoof. " I have occasionally dreamed that I was 
a swallow flying over the Montmartre, but I never ex- 
perienced anything of this kind before ; it must be peculiar 
to the coast of Algeria." 

Servadac was stupefied; he felt instinctively that he was 
not dreaming, and yet was powerless to solve the mystery. 
He was not, however, the man to puzzle himself for long 
over any insoluble problem. " Come what may," he pres- 
ently exclaimed, " we will make up our minds for the 
future to be surprised at nothing." 

"Right, captain," replied Ben Zoof; "and, first of all, 
let us settle our little score with Count Timascheff." 

Beyond the ditch lay a small piece of meadow land, about 
an acre in extent. A soft and delicious herbage carpeted 
the soil, whilst trees formed a charming framework to the 
whole. No spot could have been chosen more suitable for 
the meeting between the two adversaries. 

Servadac cast a hasty glance round. No one was in 
sight. " We are the first on the field," he said. 

" Not so sure of that, sir," said Ben Zoof. 

" What do you mean ? " asked Servadac, looking at his 
watch, which he had set as nearly as possible by the sun be- 
fore leaving the gourbi ; " it is not nine o'clock yet." 

" Look up there, sir. I am much mistaken if that is not 
the sun ; " and as Ben Zoof spoke, he pointed directly over- 
head to where a faint white disc was dimly visible through 
the haze of clouds. 

" Nonsense ! " exclaimed Servadac. " How can the sun 
be in the zenith, in the month of January, in lat. 39 N.?" 

a Can't say, sir. I only know the sun is there ; and at 
the rate he has been traveling, I would lay my cap to a 
dish of couscous that in less than three hours he will have 
set." 



2 o OFF ON A COMET 

Hector Servadac, mute and motionless, stood with 
folded arms. Presently he roused himself, and began to 
look about again. " What means all this? " he murmured. 
"Laws of gravity disturbed! Points of the compass re- 
versed ! The length of day reduced one half ! Surely this 
will indefinitely postpone my meeting with the count. 
Something has happened; Ben Zoof and I cannot both be 
mad!" 

The orderly, meantime, surveyed his master with the 
greatest equanimity; no phenomenon, however extraor- 
dinary, would have drawn from him a single exclamation 
of surprise. "Do you see anyone, Ben Zoof?" asked the 
captain, at last. 

" No one, sir ; the count has evidently been and gone." 

"But supposing that to be the case," persisted the cap- 
tain, " my seconds would have waited, and not seeing me, 
would have come on towards the gourbi. I can only con- 
clude that they have been unable to get here; and as for 
Count Timascheff " 

Without finishing his sentence, Captain Servadac, think- 
ing it just probable that the count, as on the previous even- 
ing, might come by water, walked to the ridge of rock that 
overhung the shore, in order to ascertain if the Dobryna 
were anywhere in sight. But the sea was deserted, and 
for the first time the captain noticed that, although the wind 
was calm, the waters were unusually agitated, and seethed 
and foamed as though they were boiling. It was very 
certain that the yacht would have found a difficulty in 
holding her own in such a swell. Another thing that now 
struck Servadac was the extraordinary contraction of the 
horizon. Under ordinary circumstances, his elevated po- 
sition would have allowed him a radius of vision at least 
five and twenty miles in length ; but the terrestrial sphere 
seemed, in the course of the last few hours, to have become 
considerably reduced in volume, and he could now see for a 
distance of only six miles in every direction. 

Meantime, with the agility of a monkey, Ben Zoof had 
clambered to the top of a eucalyptus, and from his lofty 
perch was surveying the country to the south, as well as 
towards both Tenes and Mostaganem. On descending, 
he informed the captain that the plain was deserted. 



A MYSTERIOUS SEA 21 

" We will make our way to the river, and get over into 
Mostaganem," said the captain. 

The Sheli f was not more than a mile and a half from 
the meadow, but no time was to be lost if the ^wo men were 
to reach the town before nightfall. Though still hidden by 
heavy clouds, the sun was evidently declining fast; and 
what was equally inexplicable, it was not following the 
oblique curve that in these latitudes and at this time of year 
might be expected, but was sinking perpendicularly on to 
the horizon. 

As he went along, Captain Servadac pondered deeply. 
Perchance some unheard-of phenomenon had modified the 
rotary motion of the globe; or perhaps the Algerian coast 
had been transported beyond the equator into the southern 
hemisphere. Yet the earth, with the exception of the al- 
teration in its convexity, in this part of Africa at least, 
seemed to have undergone no change of any very great 
importance. As far as the eye could reach, the shore was, 
as it had ever been, a succession of cliffs, beach, and arid 
rocks, tinged with a red ferruginous hue. To the south 
if south, in this inverted order of things, it might still be 
called the face of the country also appeared unaltered, 
and some leagues away, the peaks of the Merdeyah moun- 
tains still retained their accustomed outline. 

Presently a rift in the clouds gave passage to an ob- 
lique ray of light that clearly proved that the sun was set- 
ting in the east. 

" Well, I am curious to know what they think of all this 
at Mostaganem," said the captain. " I wonder, too, what 
the Minister of War will say when he receives a telegram 
informing him that his African colony has become, not 
morally, but physically disorganized; that the cardinal 
points are at variance with ordinary rules, and that the sun 
in the month of January is shining down vertically upon 
our heads." 

Ben Zoof, whose ideas of discipline were extremely rigid, 
at once suggested that the colony should be put under the 
surveillance of the police, that the cardinal points should 
be placed under restraint, and that the sun should be shot 
for breach of discipline. 

Meantime, they were both advancing with the utmost 
speed. The decompression of the atmosphere made the 



22 OFF ON A COMET 

specific gravity of their bodies extraordinarily light, 
they ran like hares and leaped like chamois. Leaving the 
devious windings of the footpath, they went as a crow 
would fly across the country. Hedges, trees, and streams 
were cleared at a bound, and under these conditions Ben 
Zoof felt that he could have overstepped Montmartre at 
a single stride. The earth seemed as elastic as the spring- 
board of an acrobat; they scarcely touched it with their 
feet, and their only fear was lest the height to which they 
were propelled would consume the time which they were 
saving by their short cut across the fields. 

It was not long before their wild career brought them 
to the right bank of the Shelif. Here they were compelled 
to stop, for not only had the bridge completely disappeared, 
but the river itself no longer existed. Of the left bank 
there was not the slightest trace, and the right bank, which 
on the previous evening had bounded the yellow stream, 
as it murmured peacefully along the fertile plain, had now 
become the shore of a tumultuous ocean, its azure waters 
extending westwards far as the eye could reach, and anni- 
hilating the tract of country which had hitherto formed the 
district of Mostaganem. The shore coincided exactly with 
what had been the right bank of the Shelif, and in a slightly 
curved line ran north and south, whilst the adjacent 
groves and meadows all retained their previous positions. 
But the river-bank had become the shore of an unknown 
sea. 

Eager to throw some light upon the mystery, Servadac 
hurriedly made his way through the oleander bushes that 
overhung the shore, took up some water in the hollow of 
his hand, and carried it to his lips. " Salt as brine ! " he 
exclaimed, as soon as he had tasted it. " The sea has un- 
doubtedly swallowed up all the western part of Algeria." 

"It will not last long, sir," said Ben Zoof. "It is, 
probably, only a severe flood." 

The captain shook his head. " Worse than that, I fear, 
Ben Zoof," he replied with emotion. " It is a catastrophe 
that may have very serious consequences. What can have 
become of all my friends and fellow-officers?" 

Ben Zoof was silent. Rarely had he seen his master so 
much agitated; and though himself inclined to receive these 
phenomena with philosophic indifference, his notions of 



A MYSTERIOUS SEA 23 

military 'duty caused his countenance to reflect the cap- 
tain's expression of amazement. 

But there was little time for Servadac to examine the 
changes which a few hours had wrought. The sun had 
already reached the eastern horizon, and just as though 
it were crossing the ecliptic under the tropics, it sank like 
a cannon ball into the sea. Without any warning, day 
gave place to night, and earth, sea, and sky were imme- 
diately wrapped in profound obscurity. 



CHAPTER VI 

THE CAPTAIN MAKES AN EXPLORATION 

HECTOR SERVADAC was not the man to remain long un- 
nerved by any untoward event. It was part of his char- 
acter to discover the why and the wherefore of everything 
that came under his observation, and he would have faced 
a cannon ball the more unflinchingly from understanding 
the dynamic force by which it was propelled. Such being 
fois temperament, it may well be imagined that he was 
anxious not to remain long in ignorance of the cause of the 
phenomena which had been so startling in their conse- 
quences. 

"We must inquire into this to-morrow," he exclaimed, 
as darkness fell suddenly upon him. Then, after a pause, 
he added: "That is to say, if there is to be a to-morrow; 
for if I were to be put to the torture, I could not tell what 
has become of the sun." 

" May I ask, sir, what we are to do now ? " put in Ben 
Zoof. 

" Stay where we are for the present ; and when daylight 
appears if it ever does appear we will explore the coast 
to the west and south, and return to the gourbi. If we can 
find out nothing else, we must at least discover where we 
are." 

" Meanwhile, sir, may we go to sleep? " 

"Certainly, if you like, and if you can." 

Nothing loath to avail himself of his master's permission, 
Ben Zoof crouched down in an angle of the shore, threw his 
arms over his eyes, and very soon slept the sleep of the ig- 
norant, which is often sounder than the sleep of the just. 



24 OFF ON A COMET 

Overwhelmed by the questions that crowded upon his 
brain, Captain Servadac could only wander up and down 
the shore. Again and again he asked himself what the 
catastrophe could portend. Had the towns of Algiers, 
Oran, and Mostaganem escaped the inundation? Could he 
bring himself to believe that all the inhabitants, his friends, 
and comrades had perished; or was it not more probable that 
the Mediterranean had merely invaded the region of the 
mouth of the Shelif ? But this supposition did not in the 
least explain the other physical disturbances. Another hy- 
pothesis that presented itself to his mind was that the Afri- 
can coast might have been suddenly transported to the 
equatorial zone. But although this might get over the dif- 
ficulty of the altered altitude of the sun and the absence of 
twilight, yet it would neither account for the sun setting in 
the east, nor for the length of the day being reduced to 
six hours. 

" We must wait till to-morrow," he repeated ; adding, for 
he had become distrustful of the future, " that is to say, 
if to-morrow ever comes." 

Although not very learned in astronomy, Servadac was 
acquainted with the position of the principal constellations. 
It was therefore a considerable disappointment to him that, 
in consequence of the heavy clouds, not a star was visible in 
the firmament. To have ascertained that the pole-star had 
become displaced would have been an undeniable proof that 
the earth was revolving on a new axis; but not a rift ap- 
peared in the lowering clouds, which seemed to threaten 
torrents of rain. 

It happened that the moon was new on that very day; 
naturally, therefore, it would have set at the same time as 
the sun. What, then, was the captain's bewilderment when, 
after he had been walking for about an hour and a half, he 
noticed on the western horizon a strong glare that pene- 
trated even the masses of the clouds. 

" The moon in the west ! " he cried aloud ; but suddenly 
bethinking himself, he added : " But no, that cannot be the 
moon; unless she had shifted very much nearer the earth, 
she could never give a light as intense as this." 

As he spoke the screen of vapor was illuminated to such 
a degree that the whole country was as it were bathed in 
twilight. " What can this be ? " soliloquized the captain. 



AN EXPLORATION 25 

*' It cannot be the sun, for the sun set in the east only an 
hour and a half ago. Would that those clouds would dis- 
close what enormous luminary lies behind them! What a 
fool I was not to have learnt more astronomy! Perhaps, 
after all, I am racking my brain over something that is 
quite in the ordinary course of nature." 

But, reason as he might, the mysteries of the heavens 
still remained impenetrable. For about an hour some lum- 
inous body, its disc evidently of gigantic dimensions, shed 
its rays upon the upper strata of the clouds; then, marvelous 
to relate, instead of obeying the ordinary laws of celestial 
mechanism, and descending upon the opposite horizon, it 
seemed to retreat farther off, grew dimmer, and vanished. 

The darkness that returned to the face of the earth was 
not more profound than the gloom which fell upon the cap- 
tain's soul. Everything was incomprehensible. The sim- 
plest mechanical rules seemed falsified; the planets had 
defied the laws of gravitation; the motions of the celestial 
spheres were erroneous as those of a watch with a defective 
mainspring, and there was reason to fear that the sun would 
never again shed his radiance upon the earth. 

But these last fears were groundless. In three hours' 
time, without any intervening twilight, the morning sun 
made its appearance in the west, and day once more had 
dawned. On consulting his watch, Servadac found that 
night had lasted precisely six hours. Ben Zoof, who was 
unaccustomed to so brief a period of repose, was still slum- 
bering soundly. 

" Come, wake up ! " said Servadac, shaking him by the 
shoulder; " it is time -to start." 

" Time to start? " exclaimed Ben Zoof, rubbing his eyes. 
" I feel as if I had only just gone to sleep." 

" You have slept all night, at any rate," replied the cap- 
tain ; " it has only been for six hours, but you must make it 
enough." 

" Enough it shall be, sir," was the submissive rejoinder. 

" And now," continued Servadac, " we will take the 
shortest way back to the gourbi, and see what our horses 
think about it all." 

" They will think that they ought to be groomed," said 
the orderly. 

"Very good; you may groom them and saddle them as 



2 6 OFF ON A COMET 

quickly as you like. I want to know wfiat fias Become of 
the rest of Algeria: if we cannot get round by the south to 
Mostaganem, we must go eastwards to Tenes." And forth- 
with they started. Beginning to feel hungry, they had no 
hesitation in gathering figs, dates, and oranges from the 
plantations that formed a continuous rich and luxuriant 
orchard along their path. The district was quite deserted, 
and they had no reason to fear any legal penalty. ^ 

In an hour and a half they reached the gourbi. Every- 
thing was just as they had left it, and it was evident that 
no one had visited the place during their absence. All was 
(desolate as the shore they had quitted. 

The preparations for the expedition were brief and sim- 
ple. Ben Zoof saddled the horses and filled his pouch with 
biscuits and game; water, he felt certain, could be obtained 
in abundance from the numerous affluents of the Shelif, 
(which, although they had now become tributaries of the 
Mediterranean, still meandered through the plain. Cap- 
tain Servadac mounted his horse Zephyr, and Ben Zoof 
simultaneously got astride his mare Galette, named after 
the mill of Montmartre. They galloped off in the direc- 
tion of the Shelif, and were not long in discovering that the 
diminution in the pressure of the atmosphere had precisely 
the same effect upon their horses as it had had upon them- 
selves. Their muscular strength seemed five times as great 
as hitherto; their hoofs scarcely touched the ground, and 
they seemed transformed from ordinary quadrupeds into 
veritable hippogriffs. Happily, Servadac and his orderly 
were fearless riders; they made no attempt to curb their 
steeds, but even urged them to still greater exertions. 
Twenty minutes sufficed to carry them over the four or five 
miles that intervened between the gourbi and the mouth of 
the Shelif; then, slackening their speed, they proceeded at 
a more leisurely pace to the southeast, along what had once 
been the right bank of the river, but which, although it still 
retained its former characteristics, was now the boundary 
of a sea, which extending farther than the limits of the 
horizon, must have swallowed up at least a large portion 
of the province of Oran. Captain Servadac knew the coun- 
try well; he had at one time been engaged upon a trigo- 
nometrical survey of the district, and consequently had an 
accurate knowledge of its topography. His idea now was 



AN EXPLORATION 27 

to draw up a report of his investigations : to whom that re- 
port should be delivered was a problem he had yet to solve. 

During the four hours of daylight that still remained, the 
travelers rode about twenty-one miles from the river mouth. 
To their vast surprise, they did not meet a single human 
being. At nightfall they again encamped in a slight bend 
of the shore, at a point which on the previous evening had 
faced the mouth of the Mina, one of the left-hand affluents 
of the Shelif, but now absorbed into the newly revealed 
ocean. Ben Zoof made the sleeping accommodation as 
comfortable as the circumstances would allow; the horses 
were clogged and turned out to feed upon the rich pasture 
that clothed the shore, and the night passed without special 
incident. 

At sunrise on the following morning, the 2nd of January, 
or what, according to the ordinary calendar, would have 
been the night of the ist, the captain and his orderly re- 
mounted their horses, and during the six-hours' day ac- 
complished a distance of forty-two miles. The right bank 
of the river still continued to be the margin of the land, and 
only in one spot had its integrity been impaired. This was 
about twelve miles from the Mina, and on the site of the 
annex or suburb of Surkelmittoo. Here a large portion 
of the bank had been swept away, and the hamlet, with its 
eight hundred inhabitants, had no doubt been swallowed up 
by the encroaching waters. It seemed, therefore, more 
than probable that a similar fate had overtaken the larger 
towns beyond the Shelif. 

In the evening the explorers encamped, as previously, in 
a nook of the shore which here abruptly terminated their 
new domain, not far from where they might have expected 
to find the important village of Memounturroy ; but of this, 
too, there was now no trace. " I had quite reckoned upon 
a supper and a bed at Orleansville to-night," said Servadac, 
as, full of despondency, he surveyed the waste of water. 

" Quite impossible," replied Ben Zoof, " except you had 
gone by a boat. But cheer up, sir, cheer up ; we will soon 
devise some means for getting across to Mostaganem." 

" If, as I hope," rejoined the captain, " we are on a penin- 
sula, we are more likely to get to Tenes ; there we shall hear 
the news." 

" Far more likely to carry the news ourselves," answered 



2 g OFF ON A COMET 

Ben Zoof, as he threw himself down for his night's rest. 

Six hours later, only waiting for sunrise, Captain Ser- 
vadac set himself in movement again to renew his investiga- 
tions. At this spot the shore, that hitherto had been 
running in a southeasterly direction, turned abruptly to the 
north, being no longer formed by the natural bank of the 
Sheli f, but consisting of an absolutely new coast-line. No 
land was in sight. Nothing could be seen of Orleansville, 
which ought to have been about six miles to the southwest; 
and Ben Zoof, who had mounted the highest point of view 
attainable, could distinguish sea, and nothing but sea, to 
the farthest horizon. 

Quitting their encampment and riding on, the bewildered 
explorers kept close to the new shore. This, since it had 
ceased to be formed by the original river bank, had consid- 
erably altered its aspect. Frequent landslips occurred, and 
in many places deep chasms rifted the ground; great gaps 
furrowed the fields, and trees, half uprooted, overhung the 
water, remarkable by the fantastic distortions of their 
gnarled trunks, looking as though they had been chopped 
by a hatchet. 

The sinuosities of the coast line, alternately gully and 
headland, had the effect of making a devious progress for 
the travelers, and at sunset, although they had accomplished 
more than twenty miles, they had only just arrived at the 
foot of the Merdeyah Mountains, which, before the cata- 
clysm, had formed the extremity of the chain of the Little 
Atlas. The ridge, however, had been violently ruptured, 
and now rose perpendicularly from the water. 

On the following morning Servadac and Ben Zoof 
traversed one of the mountain gorges; and next, in order 
to make a more thorough acquaintance with the limits and 
condition of the section of Algerian territory of which they 
seemed to be left as the sole occupants, they dismounted, 
and proceeded on foot to the summit of one of the highest 
peaks. From this elevation they ascertained that from the 
base of the Merdeyah to the Mediterranean, a distance of 
about eighteen miles, a new coast line had come into exis- 
tence; no land was visible in any direction; no isthmus 
existed to form a connecting link with the territory of 
Tenes, which had entirely disappeared. The result was 
that Captain Servadac was driven to the irresistible con- 



AN EXPLORATION 29 

elusion that the tract of land which he had been surveying 
was not, as he had at first imagined, a peninsula; it was 
actually an island. 

Strictly speaking, this island was quadrilateral, but the 
sides were so irregular that it was much more nearly a tri- 
angle, the comparison of the sides exhibiting these propor- 
tions : The section of the right bank of the Shelif, seventy- 
two miles; the southern boundary from the Shelif to the 
chain of the Little Atlas, twenty-one miles; from the Little 
Atlas to the Mediterranean, eighteen miles ; and sixty miles 
of the shore of the Mediterranean itself, making in all an 
entire circumference of about 171 miles. 

" What does it all mean ? " exclaimed the captain, every 
hour growing more and more bewildered. 

" The will of Providence, and we must submit," replied 
Ben Zoof, calm and undisturbed. With this reflection, the 
two men silently descended the mountain and remounted 
their horses. Before evening they had reached the Mediter- 
ranean. On their road they failed to discern a vestige of 
the little town of Montenotte; like Tenes, of which not so 
much as a ruined cottage was visible on the horizon, it 
seemed to be annihilated. 

On the following day, the 6th of January, the two men 
made a forced march along the coast of the Mediterranean, 
which they found less altered than the captain had at first 
supposed; but four villages had entirely disappeared, and 
the headlands, unable to resist the shock of the convulsion, 
had been detached from the mainland. 

The circuit of the island had been now completed, and 
the explorers, after a period of sixty hours, found them- 
selves once more beside the ruins of their gourbi. Five 
days, or what, according to the established order of things, 
would have been two days and a half, had been occupied in 
tracing the boundaries of their new domain; and they had 
ascertained beyond a doubt that they were the sole human 
inhabitants left upon the island. 

" Well, sir, here you are, Governor General of Algeria! " 
exclaimed Ben Zoof, as they reached the gourbi. 

" With not a soul to govern," gloomily rejoined the cap- 
tain. 

" How so? Do you not reckon me? " 

" Pshaw ! Ben Zoof, what are you ? " 



30 OFF ON A COMET 

"What am I? Why, I am the population." 
The captain deigned no reply, but, muttering some ex- 
pressions of regret for the fruitless trouble he had taken 
about his rondo, betook himself to rest. 



CHAPTER VII 

BEN ZOOF WATCHES IN VAIN 

IN a few minutes the governor general and his population 
were asleep. The gourbi being in ruins, they were obliged 
to put up with the best accommodation they could find in 
the adjacent erection. It must be owned that the captain's 
slumbers were by no means sound; he was agitated by the 
consciousness that he had hitherto been unable to account 
for his strange experiences by any reasonable theory. 
Though far from being advanced in the knowledge of 
natural philosophy, he had been instructed, to a certain de- 
gree, in its elementary principles; and, by an effort of mem- 
ory, he managed to recall some general laws which he had 
almost forgotten. He could understand that an altered 
inclination of the earth's axis with regard to the ecliptic 
would introduce a change of position in the cardinal points, 
and bring about a displacement of the sea ; but the hypothesis 
entirely failed to account, either for the shortening of the 
days, or for the diminution in the pressure of the atmos- 
phere. He felt that his judgment was utterly baffled; his 
only remaining hope was that the chain of marvels was not 
yet complete, and that something farther might throw some 
light upon the mystery. 

Ben Zoof's first care on the following morning was to 
provide a good breakfast. To use his own phrase, he was 
as hungry as the whole population of three million Al- 
gerians, of whom he was the representative, and he must 
have enough to eat. The catastrophe which had over- 
whelmed the country had left a dozen eggs uninjured, and 
upon these, with a good dish of his famous couscous, he 
hoped that he and his master might have a sufficiently sub- 
stantial meal. The stove was ready for use, the copper 
skillet was as bright as hands could make it, and the beads 
of condensed steam upon the surface of a large stone al- 
caraza gave evidence that it was supplied with water. Ben 



BEN ZOOF WATCHES IN VAIN 31 

Zoof at once lighted a fire, singing all the time, according 
to his wont, a snatch of an old military refrain. 

Ever on the lookout for fresh phenomena, Captain 
Servadac watched the preparations with a curious eye. It 
struck him that perhaps the air, in its strangely modified 
condition, would fail to supply sufficient oxygen, and that, 
the stove, in consequence, might not fulfill its function. But 
no; the fire was lighted just as usual, and fanned into vigor 
by Ben Zoof applying his mouth in lieu of bellows, and a 
bright flame started up from the midst of the twigs and 
coal. The skillet was duly set upon the stove, and Ben 
Zoof was prepared to wait awhile for the water to boil. 
Taking up the eggs, he was surprised to notice that they 
hardly weighed more than they would if they had been mere 
shells; but he was still more surprised when he saw that 
before the water had been two minutes over the fire it was 
at full boil. 

" By jingo! " he exclaimed, "a precious hot fire! " 

Servadac reflected. " It cannot be that the fire is hot- 
ter,'* he said, " the peculiarity must be in the water." And 
taking down a centigrade thermometer, which hung upon 
the wall, he plunged it into the skillet. Instead of 100, 
the instrument registered only 66. 

" Take my advice, Ben Zoof," he said; " leave your eggs 
in the saucepan a good quarter of an hour." 

"Boil them hard! That will never do," objected the 
orderly. 

" You will not find them hard, my good fellow. Trust 
me, we shall be able to dip our sippets into the yolks easily 
enough." 

The captain was quite right in his conjecture, that this 
new phenomenon was caused by a diminution in the pres- 
sure of the atmosphere. Water boiling at a temperature 
of 66 was itself an evidence that the column of air above 
the earth's surface had become reduced by one-third of its 
altitude. The identical phenomenon would have occurred 
at the summit of a mountain 35,000 feet high; and had 
Servadac been in possession of a barometer, he would have 
immediately discovered the fact that only now for the first 
time, as the result of experiment, revealed itself to him 
a fact, moreover, which accounted for the compression of 
the blood-vessels which both he and Ben Zoof had experi- 



32 OFF ON A COMET 

enced, as well as for the attenuation of their voices and their 
accelerated breathing. " And yet," he argued with him- 
self, " if our encampment has been projected to so great an 
elevation, how is it that the sea remains at its proper level ? " 

Once again Hector Servadac, though capable of tracing 
consequences, felt himself totally at a loss to comprehend 
their cause; hence his agitation and bewilderment! 

After their prolonged immersion in the boiling water, 
the eggs were found to be only just sufficiently cooked; the 
couscous was very much in the same condition; and Ben 
Zoof came to the conclusion that in future he must be care- 
ful to commence his culinary operations an hour earlier. 
He was rejoiced at last to help his master, who, in spite of 
his perplexed preoccupation, seemed to have a very fair 
appetite for breakfast. 

"Well, captain?" said Ben Zoof presently, such being 
his ordinary way of opening conversation. 

" Well, Ben Zoof? " was the captain's invariable response 
to his servant's formula. 

" What are we to do now, sir? " 

"We can only for the present wait patiently where we 
are. We are encamped upon an island, and therefore we 
can only be rescued by sea." 

" But do you suppose that any of our friends are still 
alive?" asked Ben Zoof. 

" Oh, I think we must indulge the hope that this catas- 
trophe has not extended far. We must trust that it has 
limited its mischief to some small portion of the Algerian 
coast, and that our friends are all alive and well. No 
doubt the governor general will be anxious to investigate 
the full extent of the damage, and will send a vessel from 
Algiers to explore. It is not likely that we shall be for- 
gotten. What, then, you have to do, Ben Zoof, is to keep 
a sharp lookout, and to be ready, in case a vessel should 
appear, to make signals at once."* 

"But if no vessel should appear!" sighed the orderly. 

' Then we must build a boat, and go in search of those 
[who do not come in search of us." 

I* Very good. But what sort of a sailor are you?" 

" Everyone can be a sailor when he must," said Servadar 
calmly. 

Ben Zoof said no more. For several succeeding days 



BEN ZOOF WATCHES IN VAIN 33 

he scanned the horizon unintermittently with his telescope. 
His watching was in vain. No ship appeared upon the 
desert sea. " By the name of a Kabyle ! " he broke out im- 
patiently, "his Excellency is grossly negligent!" 

Although the days and nights had become reduced from 
twenty-four hours to twelve, Captain Servadac would not 
accept the new condition of things, but resolved to adhere to 
the computations of the old calendar. Notwithstanding, 
therefore, that the sun had risen and set twelve times since 
the commencement of the new year, he persisted in calling 
the following day the 6th of January. His watch enabled 
him to keep an accurate account of the passing hours. 

In the course of his life, Ben Zoof had read a few books. 
After pondering one day, he said: "It seems to me, cap- 
tain, that you have turned into Robinson Crusoe, and that 
I am your man Friday. I hope I have not become a negro." 

" No," replied the captain. " Your complexion isn't the 
fairest in the world, but you are not black yet." 

" Well, I had much sooner be a white Friday than a black 
one," rejoined Ben Zoof. 

Still no ship appeared; and Captain Servadac, after the 
example of all previous Crusoes, began to consider it ad- 
visable to investigate the resources of his domain. The 
new territory of which he had become the monarch he 
named Gourbi Island. It had a superficial area of about 
nine hundred square miles. Bullocks, cows, goats, and 
sheep existed in considerable numbers; and as there seemed 
already to be an abundance of game, it was hardly likely 
that a future supply would fail them. The condition of the 
cereals was such as to promise a fine ingathering of wheat, 
maize, and rice; so that for the governor and his popula- 
tion, with their two horses, not only was there ample pro- 
vision, but even if other human inhabitants besides them- 
selves should yet be discovered, there was not the remotest 
prospect of any of them perishing by starvation. 

From the 6th to the I3th of January the rain came down 
in torrents; and, what was quite an unusual occurrence at 
this season of the year, several heavy storms broke over the 
island. In spite, however, of the continual downfall, the 
heavens still remained veiled in cloud. Servadac, more- 
over, did not fail to observe that for the season the temper- 
ature was unusually high; and, as a matter still more 

V. IX Verne 



34 OFF ON A COMET 

surprising, that it kept steadily increasing, as though the 
earth were gradually and continuously approximating to 
the sun. In proportion to the rise of temperature, the light 
also assumed greater intensity; and if it had not been for 
the screen of vapor interposed between the sky and the 
island, the irradiation which would have illumined all ter- 
restrial objects would have been vivid beyond all preced- 
ent. 

But neither sun, moon, nor star ever appeared; and 
Servadac's irritation and annoyance at being unable to 
identify any one point of the firmament may be more read- 
ily imagined than described. On one occasion Ben Zoof 
endeavored to mitigate his master's impatience by exhorting 
him to assume the resignation, even if he did not feel the 
indifference, which he himself experienced; but his advice 
was received with so angry a rebuff that he retired in all 
haste, abashed, to resume his watchman's duty, which he 
performed with exemplary perseverance. Day and night, 
with the shortest possible intervals of rest, despite wind, 
rain, and storm, he mounted guard upon the cliff but all 
in vain. Not a speck appeared upon the desolate horizon. 
To say the truth, no vessel could have stood against the 
weather. The hurricane raged with tremendous fury, and 
the waves rose to a height that seemed to defy calculation. 
Never, even in the second era of creation, when, under the 
influence of internal heat, the waters rose in vapor to de- 
scend in deluge back upon the world, could meteorological 
phenomena have been developed with more impressive in- 
tensity. 

But by the night of the I3th the tempest appeared to have 
spent its fury; the wind dropped; the rain ceased as if by 
a spell; and Servadac, who for the last six days had con- 
fined himself to the shelter of his roof, hastened to join 
Ben Zoof at his post upon the cliff. Now, he thought, there 
might be a chance of solving his perplexity; perhaps now the 
huge disc, of which he had had an imperfect glimpse on the 
night of the 3ist of December, might again reveal itself; 
at any rate, he hoped for an opportunity of observing the 
constellations in a clear firmament above. 

The night was magnificent. Not a cloud dimmed the 
luster of the stars, which spangled the heavens in surpass- 
ing brilliancy, and several nebulae which hitherto no as- 



BEN ZOOF WATCHES IN VAIN 35 

tronomer ha'd been able to discern without the aid of a 
telescope were clearly visible to the naked eye. 

By a natural impulse, Servadac's first thought was to ob- 
serve the position of the pole-star. It was in sight, but so 
near to the horizon as to suggest the utter impossibility of 
its being any longer the central pivot of the sidereal system; 
it occupied a position through which it was out of the ques- 
tion that the axis of the earth indefinitely prolonged could 
ever pass. In his impression he was more thoroughly con- 
firmed when, an hour later, he noticed that the star had ap- 
proached still nearer the horizon, as though it had belonged 
to one of the zodiacal constellations. 

The pole-star being manifestly thus displaced, it remained 
to be discovered whether any other of the celestial bodies 
had become a fixed center around which the constellations 
made their apparent daily revolutions. To the solution of 
this problem Servadac applied himself with the most 
thoughtful diligence. After patient observation, he satis- 
fied himself that the required conditions were answered by 
a certain star that was stationary not far from the horizon. 
This was Vega, in the constellation Lyra, a star which, ac- 
cording to the precession of the equinoxes, will take the 
place of our pole-star 12,000 years hence. The most dar- 
ing imagination could not suppose that a period of 12,000 
years had been crowded into the space of a fortnight; and 
therefore the captain came, as to an easier conclusion, to 
the opinion that the earth's axis had been suddenly and im- 
mensely shifted; and from the fact that the axis, if pro- 
duced, would pass through a point so little removed above 
the horizon, he deduced the inference that the Mediter- 
ranean must have been transported to the equator. 

Lost in bewildering maze of thought, he gazed long and 
intently upon the heavens. His eyes wandered from where 
the tail of the Great Bear, now a zodiacal constellation, was 
scarcely visible above the waters, to where the stars of the 
southern hemisphere were just breaking on his view. A 
cry from Ben Zoof recalled him to himself. 

" The moon ! " shouted the orderly, as though overjoyed 
at once again beholding what the poet has called : 

"The kind companion of terrestrial night; " 
and he pointed to a disc that was rising at a spot precisely 



36 OFF ON A COMET 

opposite the place where they would have expected to see 
the sun. " The moon ! " again he cried. 

But Captain Servadac could not altogether enter into his 
servant's enthusiasm. If this were actually the moon, her 
distance from the earth must have been increased by some 
millions of miles. He was rather disposed to suspect that 
it was not the earth's satellite at all, but some planet with 
its apparent magnitude greatly enlarged by its approxima- 
tion to the earth. Taking up the powerful field-glass which 
he was accustomed to use in his surveying operations, he 
proceeded to investigate more carefully the luminous orb. 
But he failed to trace any of the lineaments, supposed to re- 
semble a human face, that mark the lunar surface; he failed 
to decipher any indications of hill and plain; nor could he 
make out the aureole of light which emanates from what 
astronomers have designated Mount Tycho. " It is not the 
moon," he said slowly. 

" Not the moon? " cried Ben Zoof. " Why not? " 

" It is not the moon," again affirmed the captain. 

"Why not?" repeated Ben Zoof, unwilling to renounce 
his first impression. 

" Because there is a small satellite in attendance." And 
the captain drew his servant's attention to a bright speck, 
apparently about the size of one of Jupiter's satellites seen 
through a moderate telescope, that was clearly visible just 
within the focus of his glass. 

Here, then, was a fresh mystery. The orbit of this planet 
was assuredly interior to the orbit of the earth, because it 
accompanied the sun in its apparent motion; yet it was 
neither Mercury nor Venus, because neither one nor the 
other of these has any satellite at all. 

The captain stamped and stamped again with mingled 
vexation, agitation, and bewilderment. "Confound it!" 
he cried, " if this is neither Venus nor Mercury, it must be 
the moon; but if it is the moon, whence, in the name of all 
the gods, has she picked up another moon for herself?" 

The captain was in dire perplexity. 



CHAPTER VIII 

VENUS IN PERILOUS PROXIMITY 

THE light of the returning sun soon extinguished the 
glory of the stars, and rendered it necessary for the captain 
to postpone *his observations. He had sought in vain for 
further trace of the huge disc that had so excited his wonder 
on the ist, and it seemed most probable that, in its irregular 
orbit, it had been carried beyond the range of vision. 

The weather was still superb. The wind, after veering 
to the west, had sunk to a perfect calm. Pursuing its in- 
verted course, the sun rose and set with undeviating regu- 
larity; and the days and nights were still divided into peri- 
ods of precisely six hours each a sure proof that the sun 
remained close to the new equator which manifestly passed 
through Gourbi Island. 

Meanwhile the temperature was steadily increasing. The 
captain kept his thermometer close at hand where he could 
repeatedly consult it, and on the I5th he found that it reg- 
istered 50 centigrade in the shade. 

No attempt had been made to rebuild the gourbi, but the 
captain and Ben Zoof managed to make up quarters suf- 
ficiently comfortable in the principal apartment of the ad- 
joining structure, where the stone walls, that at first afforded 
a refuge from the torrents of rain, now formed an equally 
acceptable shelter from the burning sun. The heat was 
becoming insufferable, surpassing the heat of Senegal and 
other equatorial regions; not a cloud ever tempered the in- 
tensity of the solar rays; and unless some modification en- 
sued, it seemed inevitable that all vegetation should become 
scorched and burnt off from the face of the island. 

In spite, however, of the profuse perspirations from 
which he suffered, Ben Zoof, constant to his principles, ex- 
pressed no surprise at the unwonted heat. No remon- 
strances from his master could induce him to abandon his 
watch from the cliff. To withstand the vertical beams of 
that noontide sun would seem to require a skin of brass and 
a brain of adamant; but yet, hour after hour, he would re- 
main conscientiously scanning the surface of the Mediter- 
ranean, which, calm and deserted, lay outstretched before 
him. On one occasion, Servadac, in reference to his or- 
derly's indomitable perseverance, happened to remark that 
he thought he must have been born in the heart of equatorial 

37 



38 OFF ON A COMET 

Africa; to which Ben Zoof replied, with the utmost dignity, 
that he was born at Montmartre, which was all the same. 
The worthy fe}low was unwilling to own that, even in the 
matter of heat, the tropics could in any way surpass his 
own much-loved home. 

This unprecedented temperature very soon began to take 
effect upon the products of the soil. The sap rose rapidly 
in the trees, so that in the course of a few days buds, leaves, 
flowers, and fruit had come to full maturity. It was the 
same with the cereals; wheat and maize sprouted and rip- 
ened as if by magic, and for a while a rank and luxuriant 
pasturage clothed the meadows. Summer and autumn 
seemed blended into one. If Captain Servadac had been 
more deeply versed in astronomy, he would perhaps have 
been able to bring to bear his knowledge that if the axis of 
the earth, as everything seemed to indicate, now formed a 
right angle with the plane of the ecliptic, her various sea- 
sons, like those of the planet Jupiter, would become limited 
to certain zones, in which they would remain invariable. 
But even if he had understood the rationale of the change, 
the convulsion that had brought it about would have been as 
much a mystery as ever. 

The precocity of vegetation caused some embarrassment. 
The time for the corn and fruit harvest had fallen simul- 
taneously with that of the haymaking; and as the extreme 
heat precluded any prolonged exertions, it was evident 
"the population" of the island would find it difficult to 
provide the necessary amount of labor. Not that the pros- 
pect gave them much concern : the provisions of the gourbi 
were still far from exhausted, and now that the roughness 
of the weather had so happily subsided, they had every en- 
couragement to hope that a ship of some sort would soon 
appear. Not only was that part of the Mediterranean sys- 
tematically frequented by the government steamers that 
watched the coast, but vessels of all nations were con- 
stantly cruising off the shore. 

In spite, however, of all their sanguine speculations, no 
ship appeared. Ben Zoof admitted the necessity of ex- 
temporizing a kind of parasol for himself, otherwise he 
must literally have been roasted to death upon the exposed 
summit of the cliff. 

Meanwhile, Servadac was doing his utmost it must be 






VENUS IN PERILOUS PROXIMITY 39 

acknowledged, with indifferent success to recall the les- 
sons of his school-days. He would plunge into the wildest 
speculations in his endeavors to unravel the difficulties of 
the new situation, and struggled into a kind of conviction 
that if there had been a change of manner in the earth's 
rotation on her axis, there would be a corresponding 
change in her revolution round the sun, which would in- 
volve the consequence of the length of the year being either 
diminished or increased. 

Independently of the increased and increasing heat, there 
was another very conclusive demonstration that the earth 
had thus suddenly approximated towards the sun. The 
diameter of the solar disc was now exactly twice what it 
ordinarily looks to the naked eye; in fact, it was precisely 
such as it would appear to an observer on the surface of 
the planet Venus. The most obvious inference would 
therefore be that the earth's distance from the sun had been 
diminished from 91,000,000 to 66,000,000 miles. If the 
just equilibrium of the earth had thus been destroyed, and 
should this diminution of distance still continue, would 
there not be reason to fear that the terrestrial world would 
be carried onwards to actual contact with the sun, which 
must result in its total annihilation? 

The continuance of the splendid weather afforded Ser- 
vadac every facility for observing the heavens. Night 
after night, constellations in their beauty lay stretched be- 
fore his eyes an alphabet which, to his mortification, not 
to say his rage, he was unable to decipher. In the apparent 
dimensions of the fixed stars, in their distance, in their rela- 
tive position with regard to each other, he could observe no 
change. Although it is established that our sun is ap- 
proaching the constellation of Hercules at the rate of more 
than 126,000,000 miles a year, and although Arcturus is 
traveling through space at the rate of fifty-four miles a sec- 
ond three times faster than the earth goes round the sun, 
yet such is the remoteness of those stars that no appre- 
ciable change is evident to the senses. The fixed stars 
taught him nothing. 

Far otherwise was it with the planets. The orbits of 
Venus and Mercury are within the orbit of the earth, Venus 
rotating at an average distance of 66,130,000 miles from 
the sun, and Mercury at that of 35,393,000. After pon- 



40 OFF ON A COMET 

dering long, and as profoundly as he could, upon these 
figures, Captain Servadac came to the conclusion that, as 
the earth was now receiving about double the amount of 
light and heat that it had been receiving before the catas- 
trophe, it was receiving about the same as the planet Venus ; 
he was driven, therefore, to the estimate of the measure in 
which the earth must have approximated to the sun, a 
deduction in which he was confirmed when the opportunity 
came for him to observe Venus herself in the splendid pro- 
portions that she now assumed. 

That magnificent planet which as Phosphorus or Luci- 
fer, Hesperus or Vesper, the evening star, the morning 
star, or the shepherd's star has never failed to attract the 
rapturous admiration of the most indifferent observers, 
here revealed herself with unprecedented glory, exhibiting 
all the phases of a lustrous moon in miniature. Various 
indentations in the outline of its crescent showed that the 
solar beams were refracted into regions of its surface where 
the sun had already set, and proved, beyond a doubt, that 
the planet had an atmosphere of her own; and certain 
luminous points projecting from the crescent as plainly 
marked the existence of mountains. As the result of Ser- 
vadac's computations, he formed the opinion that Venus 
could hardly be at a greater distance than 6,000,000 miles 
from the earth. 

" And a very safe distance, too," said Ben Zoof, when 
his master told him the conclusion at which he had arrived. 

" All very well for two armies, but for a couple of planets 
not quite so safe, perhaps, as you may imagine. It is my 
impression that it is more than likely we may run foul of 
Venus," said the captain. 

"Plenty of air and water there, sir?" inquired the 
orderly. 

" Yes ; as far as I can tell, plenty," replied Servadac. 

" Then why shouldn't we go and visit Venus? " 

Servadac did his best to explain that as the two planets 
were of about equal volume, and were traveling with great 
velocity in opposite directions, any collision between them 
must be attended with the most disastrous consequences 
to one or both of them. But Ben Zoof failed to see that, 
even at the worst, the catastrophe could be much more 
serious than the collision of two railway trains. 



VENUS IN PERILOUS PROXIMITY 41 

The captain became exasperated. " You idiot ! " he 
angrily exclaimed; " cannot you understand that the planets 
are traveling a thousand times faster than the fastest ex- 
press, and that if they meet, either one or the other must 
be destroyed ? What would become of your darling Mont- 
martre then? " 

The captain had touched a tender chord. For a mo- 
ment Ben Zoof stood with clenched teeth and contracted 
muscles; then, in a voice of real concern, he inquired 
whether anything could be done to avert the calamity. 

" Nothing whatever ; so you may go about your own 
business/' was the captain's brusque rejoinder. 

All discomfited and bewildered, Ben Zoof retired without 
a word. 

During the ensuing days the distance between the two 
planets continued to decrease, and it became more and 
more obvious that the earth, on her new orbit, was about to 
cross the orbit of Venus. Throughout this time the earth 
had been making a perceptible approach towards Mercury, 
and that planet which is rarely visible to the naked eye, 
and then only at what are termed the periods of its greatest 
eastern and western elongations now appeared in all its 
splendor. It amply justified the epithet of " sparkling " 
which the ancients were accustomed to confer upon it, and 
could scarcely fail to awaken a new interest. The periodic 
recurrence of its phases; its reflection of the sun's rays, 
shedding upon it a light and a heat seven times greater 
than that received by the earth; its glacial and its torrid 
zones, which, on account of the great inclination of the 
axis, are scarcely separable; its equatorial bands; its moun- 
tains eleven miles high; were all subjects of observation 
worthy of the most studious regard. 

But no danger was to be apprehended from Mercury; 
with Venus only did collision appear imminent. By the 
1 8th of January the distance between that planet and the 
earth had become reduced to between two and three mil- 
lions of miles, and the intensity of its light cast heavy 
shadows from all terrestrial objects. It might be observed 
to turn upon its own axis in twenty-three hours twenty-one 
minutes an evidence, from the unaltered duration of its 
days, that the planet had not shared in the disturbance. 
On its disc the clouds formed from its atmospheric vapor 



42 OFF ON A COMET 

were plainly perceptible, as also were the seven spots, 
which, according to Bianchini, are a chain of seas. It was 
now visible in broad daylight. Buonaparte, when under 
the Directory, once had his attention called to Venus at 
noon, and immediately hailed it joyfully, recognizing it as 
his own peculiar star in the ascendant. Captain Servadac, 
it may well be imagined, did not experience the same 
gratifying emotion. 

On the 2Oth, the distance between the two bodies had 
again sensibly diminished. The captain had ceased to be 
surprised that no vessel had been sent to rescue himself 
and his companion from their strange imprisonment; the 
governor general and the minister of war were doubtless 
far differently occupied, and their interests far otherwise 
engrossed. What sensational articles, he thought, must 
now be teeming to the newspapers! What crowds must 
be flocking to the churches! The end of the world ap- 
proaching! the great climax close at hand! Two days 
more, and the earth, shivered into a myriad atoms, would 
be lost in boundless space ! 

These dire forebodings, however, were not destined to 
be realized. Gradually the distance between the two 
planets began to increase; the planes of their orbits did 
not coincide, and accordingly the dreaded catastrophe did 
not ensue. By the 25th, Venus was sufficiently remote to 
preclude any further fear of collision. Ben Zoof gave a 
sigh of relief when the captain communicated the glad in- 
telligence. 

Their proximity to Venus had been close enough to 
demonstrate that beyond a doubt that planet has no moon 
or satellite such as Cassini, Short, Montaigne of Limoges, 
Montbarron, and some other astronomers have imagined 
to exist " Had there been such a satellite," said Servadac, 
" we might have captured it in passing. But what can be 
the meaning," he added seriously, " of all this displacement 
of the heavenly bodies? " 

" What is that great building at Paris, captain, with a 
top like a cap? " asked Ben Zoof. 

" Do you mean the Observatory ? " 

" Yes, the Observatory. Are there not people living in 
the Observatory who could explain all this ? " 

" Very likely; but what of that? " 






VENUS IN PERILOUS PROXIMITY 43 

" Let us be philosophers, and wait patiently until we can 
hear their explanation." 

Servadac smiled. " Do you know what it is to be a 
philosopher, Ben Zoof ? " he asked. 

" I am a soldier, sir," was the servant's prompt rejoinder, 
" and I have learnt to know that * what can't be cured must 
be endured.' " 

The captain made no reply, but for a time, at least, he 
desisted from puzzling himself over matters which he felt 
he was utterly incompetent to explain. But an event soon 
afterwards occurred which awakened his keenest interest. 

About nine o'clock on the morning of the 27th, Ben Zoof 
walked deliberately into his master's apartment, and, in 
reply to a question as to what he wanted, announced with 
the utmost composure that a ship was in sight. 

" A ship ! " exclaimed Servadac, starting to his feet. 
"A ship! Ben Zoof, you donkey! you speak as uncon- 
cernedly as though you were telling me that my dinner was 
ready." 

" Are we not philosophers, captain? " said the orderly. 

But the captain was out of hearing. 



CHAPTER IX 

INQUIRIES UNSATISFIED 

FAST as his legs could carry him, Servadac had made his 
way to the top of the cliff. It was quite true that a vessel 
was in sight, hardly more than six miles from the shore; 
but owing to the increase in the earth's convexity, and the 
consequent limitation of the range of vision, the rigging of 
the topmasts alone was visible above the water. This was 
enough, however, to indicate that the ship was a schooner 
an impression that was confirmed when, two hours later, 
she came entirely in sight. 

"The Dobryna!" exclaimed Servadac, keeping his eye 
unmoved at his telescope. 

"Impossible, sir!" rejoined Ben Zoof; "there are no 
signs of smoke." 

" The Dobryna! " repeated the captain, positively. " She 
is under sail ; but she is Count Timascheff's yacht." 

He was right. If the count were on board, a strange 



44 -OFF ON A COMET 

fatality was bringing him to the presence of his rival. But 
no longer now could Servadac regard him in the light of 
an adversary ; circumstances had changed, and all animosity 
was absorbed in the eagerness with which he hailed the pros- 
pect of obtaining some information about the recent start- 
ling and inexplicable events. During the twenty-seven days 
that she had been absent, the Dobryna, he conjectured, would 
have explored the Mediterranean, would very probably have 
visited Spain, France, or Italy, and accordingly would con- 
vey to Gourbi Island some intelligence from one or other 
of those countries. He reckoned, therefore, not only upon 
ascertaining the extent of the late catastrophe, but upon 
learning its cause. Count Timascheff was, no doubt, 
magnanimously coming to the rescue of himself and his 
orderly. 

The wind being adverse, the Dobryna did not make very 
rapid progress; but as the weather, in spite of a few clouds, 
remained calm, and the sea was quite smooth, she was en- 
abled to hold a steady course. It seemed unaccountable 
that she should not use her engine, as whoever was on board, 
would be naturally impatient to reconnoiter the new island, 
which must just have come within their view. The prob- 
ability that suggested itself was that the schooner's fuel was 
exhausted. 

Servadac took it for granted that the Dobryna was en- 
deavoring to put in. It occurred to him, however, that 
the count, on discovering an island where he had expected 
to find the mainland of Africa, would not unlikely be at a 
loss for a place of anchorage. The yacht was evidently 
making her way in the direction of the former mouth of 
the Sheli f, and the captain was struck with the idea that 
he would do well to investigate whether there was any suit- 
able mooring towards which he might signal her. Zephyr 
and Galette were soon saddled, and in twenty minutes had 
carried their riders to the western extremity of the island, 
where they both dismounted and began to explore the 
coast. 

They were not long in ascertaining that on the farther 
side of the point there was a small well-sheltered creek of 
sufficient depth to accommodate a vessel of moderate ton- 
nage. A narrow channel formed a passage through the 
ridge of rocks that protected it from the open sea, and 



INQUIRIES UNSATISFIED 45 

which, even in the roughest weather, would ensure the calm- 
ness of its waters. 

Whilst examining the rocky shore, the captain observed, 
to his great surprise, long and well-defined rows of seaweed, 
which undoubtedly betokened that there had been a very 
considerable ebb and flow of the waters a thing unknown 
in the Mediterranean, where there is scarcely any perceptible 
tide. What, however, seemed most remarkable, was the 
manifest evidence that ever since the highest flood (which 
was caused, in all probability, by the proximity of the body 
of which the huge disc had been so conspicuous on the night 
of the 3ist of December) the phenomenon had been gradu- 
ally lessening, and in fact was now reduced to the normal 
limits which had characterized it before the convulsion. 

Without doing more than note the circumstance, Ser- 
vadac turned his entire attention to the Dobryna, which, 
now little more than a mile from shore, could not fail to see 
and understand his signals. Slightly changing her course, 
she first struck her mainsail, and, in order to facilitate the 
movements of her helmsman, soon carried nothing but her 
two topsails, brigantine and jib. After rounding the peak, 
she steered direct for the channel to which Servadac by his 
gestures was pointing her, and was not long in entering 
the creek. As soon as the anchor, imbedded in the sandy 
bottom, had made good its hold, a boat was lowered. In a 
few minutes more Count Timascheff had landed on the 
island. Captain Servadac hastened towards him. 

" First of all, count," he exclaimed impetuously, " before 
we speak one other word, tell me what has happened." 

The count, whose imperturbable composure presented a 
singular contrast to the French officer's enthusiastic vivacity, 
made a stiff bow, and in his Russian accent replied : " First 
of all, permit me to express my surprise at seeing you here. 
I left you on a continent, and here I have the honor of find- 
ing you on an island." 

" I assure you, count, I have never left the place." 

" I am quite aware of it, Captain Servadac, and I now 
beg to offer you my sincere apologies for failing to keep my 
appointment with you." 

" Never mind, now," interposed the captain ; " we will 
talk of that by-and-by. First, tell me what has hap- 
pened." 



46 OFF ON A COMET 

" The very question I was about to put to you, Captain 
Servadac." 

"Do you mean to say you know nothing of the cause, 
and can tell me nothing of the extent, of the catastrophe 
which has transformed this part of Africa into an island? " 

" Nothing more than you know yourself." 

" But surely, Count Timascheff, you can inform me 
whether upon the northern shore of the Mediterranean " 

" Are you certain that this is the Mediterranean ? " asked 
the count significantly, and added, " I have discovered no 
sign of land." 

The captain stared in silent bewilderment. For some 
moments he seemed perfectly stupefied; then, recovering 
himself, he began to overwhelm the count with a torrent of 
questions. Had he noticed, ever since the ist of January, 
that the sun had risen in the west? Had he noticed that 
the days had been only six hours long, and that the weight 
of the atmosphere was so much diminished? Had he ob- 
served that the moon had quite disappeared, and that the 
earth had been in imminent hazard of running foul of the 
planet Venus? Was he aware, in short, that the entire 
motions of the terrestrial sphere had undergone a complete 
modification? To all these inquiries, the count responded 
in the affirmative. He was acquainted with everything that 
had transpired; but, to Servadac's increasing astonishment, 
he could throw no light upon the cause of any of the 
phenomena. 

"On the night of the 3ist of December," he said, "I 
was proceeding by sea to our appointed place of meeting, 
when my yacht was suddenly caught on the crest of an 
enormous wave, and carried to a height which it is beyond 
my power to estimate. Some mysterious force seemed to 
have brought about a convulsion of the elements. Our 
engine was damaged, nay disabled, and we drifted entirely 
at the mercy of the terrible hurricane that raged during 
the succeeding days. That the Dobryna escaped at all is 
little less than a miracle, and I can only attribute her safety 
to the fact that she occupied the center of the vast cyclone, 
and consequently did not experience much change of posi- 
tion." 

He paused, and added: "Your island is the first land 
we have seen." 



INQUIRIES UNSATISFIED 47 

"Then let us put out to sea at once and ascertain the 
extent of the disaster," cried the captain, eagerly. :< You 
will take me on board, count, will you not ? " 

" My yacht is at your service, sir, even should you require 
to make a tour round the world." 

"A tour round the Mediterranean will suffice for the 
present, I think," said the captain, smiling. 

The count shook his head. 

" I am not sure," said he, " but what the tour of the 
Mediterranean will prove to be the tour of the world." 

Servadac made no reply, but for a time remained silent 
and absorbed in thought. 

After the silence was broken, they consulted as to what 
course was best to pursue ; and the plan they proposed was, 
in the first place, to discover how much of the African coast 
still remained, and to carry on the tidings of their own ex- 
periences to Algiers; or, in the event of the southern shore 
having actually disappeared, they would make their way 
northwards and put themselves in communication with the 
population on the river banks of Europe. 

Before starting, it was indispensable that the engine of 
the Dobryna should be repaired: to sail under canvas only 
would in contrary winds and rough seas be both tedious and 
difficult. The stock of coal on board was adequate for two 
months' consumption; but as it would at the expiration of 
that time be exhausted, it was obviously the part of prudence 
to employ it in reaching a port where fuel could be re- 
plenished. 

The damage sustained by the engine proved to be not 
very serious; and in three days after her arrival the 
Dobryna was again ready to put to sea. 

Servadac employed the interval in making the count 
acquainted with all he knew about his small domain. They 
made an entire circuit of the island, and both agreed that 
it must be beyond the limits of that circumscribed territory 
that they must seek an explanation of what had so strangely, 
transpired. 

It was on the last day of January that the repairs of the 
schooner were completed. A slight diminution in the ex- 
cessively high temperature which had prevailed for the last 
few weeks, was the only apparent change in the general 
order of things; but whether this was to be attributed to 



48 OFF ON A COMET 

any alteration in the earth's orbit was a question which 
would still require several days to decide. The weather 
remained fine, and although a few clouds had accumulated, 
and might have caused a trifling fall of the barometer, they 
were not sufficiently threatening to delay the departure 
of the Dobryna. 

Doubts now arose, and some discussion followed, whether 
or not it was desirable for Ben Zoof to accompany his 
master. There were various reasons why he should be left 
behind, not the least important being that the schooner had 
no accommodation for horses, and the orderly would have 
found it hard to part with Zephyr, and much more with 
his own favorite Galette; besides, it was advisable that 
there should be some one left to receive any strangers that 
might possibly arrive, as well as to keep an eye upon the 
herds of cattle which, in the dubious prospect before them, 
might prove to be the sole resource of the survivors of the 
catastrophe. Altogether, taking into consideration that the 
brave fellow would incur no personal risk by remaining upon 
the island, the captain was induced with much reluctance to 
forego the attendance of his servant, hoping very shortly to 
return and to restore him to his country, when he had as- 
certained the reason of the mysteries in which they were 
enveloped. 

On the 3 ist, then, Ben Zoof was "invested with gover- 
nor's powers," and took an affecting leave of his master, 
begging him, if chance should carry him near Montmartre, 
to ascertain whether the beloved " mountain " had been left 
unmoved. 

Farewells over, the Dobryna was carefully steered through 
the creek, and was soon upon the open sea. 



CHAPTER X 

A SEARCH FOR ALGERIA 

THE Dobryna, a strong craft of 200 tons burden, had 
been built in the famous shipbuilding yards in the Isle of 
Wight. Her sea-going qualities were excellent, and would 
have amply sufficed for a circumnavigation of the globe. 

Count Timascheff was himself no sailor, but had the 
greatest confidence in leaving the command of his yacht 



A SEARCH FOR ALGERIA 49 

in the hands of Lieutenant Procope, a man of about thirty 
years of age, and an excellent seaman. Born on the count's 
estates, the son of a serf who had been emancipated long 
before the famous edict of the Emperor Alexander, Procope 
was sincerely attached, by a tie of gratitude as well as of 
duty and affection, to his patron's service. After an ap- 
prenticeship on a merchant ship he had entered the imperial 
navy, and had already reached the rank of lieutenant when 
the count appointed him to the charge of his own private 
yacht, in which he was accustomed to spend by far the 
greater part of his time, throughout the winter generally 
cruising in the Mediterranean, whilst in the summer he 
visited more northern waters. 

The ship could not have been in better hands. The 
lieutenant was well informed in many matters outside the 
pale of his profession, and his attainments were alike credit- 
able to himself and to the liberal friend who had given him 
his education. He had an excellent crew, consisting of 
Tiglew the engineer, four sailors named Niegoch, Tolstoy, 
Etkef, and Panofka, and Mochel the cook. These men, 
without exception, were all sons of the count's tenants, and 
so tenaciously, even out at sea, did they cling to their old 
traditions, that it mattered little to them what physical dis- 
organization ensued, so long as they felt they were shar- 
ing the experiences of their lord and master. The late 
astounding events, however, had rendered Procope mani- 
festly uneasy, and not the less so from his consciousness 
that the count secretly partook of his own anxiety. 

Steam up and canvas spread, the schooner started east- 
wards. With a favorable wind she would certainly have 
made eleven knots an hour had not the high waves some- 
what impeded her progress. Although only a moderate 
breeze was blowing, the sea was rough, a circumstance to 
be accounted for only by the diminution in the force of the 
earth's attraction rendering the liquid particles so buoyant, 
that by the mere effect of oscillation they were carried to a 
height that was quite unprecedented. M. Arago has fixed 
twenty-five or twenty-six feet as the maximum elevation 
ever attained by the highest waves, and his astonishment 
would have been very great to see them rising fifty or even 
sixty feet. Nor did these waves in the usual way partially 
unfurl themselves and rebound against the sides of the ves- 

V. IX Verne 



50 OFF ON A COMET 

sel; they might rather be described as long un'dulations 
carrying the schooner (its weight diminished from the same 
cause as that of the water) alternately to such heights and 
depths, that if Captain Servadac had been subject to sea- 
sickness he must have found himself in sorry plight. As 
the pitching, however, was the result of a long uniform 
swell, the yacht did not labor much harder than she would 
against the ordinary short strong waves of the Mediter- 
ranean; the main inconvenience that was experienced was 
the diminution in her proper rate of speed. 

For a few miles she followed the line hitherto presum- 
ably occupied by the coast of Algeria; but no land appeared 
to the south. The changed positions of the planets ren- 
dered them of no avail for purposes of nautical observa- 
tion, nor could Lieutenant Procope calculate his latitude 
and longitude by the altitude of the sun, as his reckonings 
would be useless when applied to charts that had been con- 
structed for the old order of things; but nevertheless, by 
means of the log, which gave him the rate of progress, and 
by the compass which indicated the direction in which they 
were sailing, he was able to form an estimate of his position 
that was sufficiently free from error for his immediate 
need. 

Happily the recent phenomena had no effect upon the 
compass; the magnetic needle, which in these regions had 
pointed about 22 from the north pole, had never deviated 
in the least a proof that, although east and west had ap- 
parently changed places, north and south continued to re- 
tain their normal position as cardinal points. The log and 
the compass, therefore, were able to be called upon to do 
the work of the sextant, which had become utterly useless. 

On the first morning of the cruise Lieutenant Procope, 
who, like most Russians, spoke French fluently, was ex- 
plaining these peculiarities to Captain Servadac; the count 
was present, and the conversation perpetually recurred, as 
naturally it would, to the phenomena which remained so 
inexplicable to them all. 

" It is very evident," said the lieutenant, " that ever since 
the ist of January the earth has been moving in a new orbit, 
and from some unknown cause has drawn nearer to the 
sun." 

"No doubt about that," said Servadac; "and I sup- 



A SEARCH FOR ALGERIA 51 

pose that, having crossed the orbit of Venus, we have a 
good chance of running into the orbit of Mercury." 

"And finish up by a collision with the sun! " added the 
count. 

" There is no fear of that, sir. The earth has undoubt- 
edly entered upon a new orbit, but she is not incurring any 
probable risk of being precipitated onto the sun." 

" Can you satisfy us of that? " asked the count. 

" I can, sir. I can give you a proof which I think you 
will own is conclusive. If, as you suppose, the earth is 
being drawn on so as to be precipitated against the sun, 
the great center of attraction of our system, it could only be 
because the centrifugal and centripetal forces that cause 
the planets to rotate in their several orbits had been en- 
tirely suspended : in that case, indeed, the earth would rush 
onwards towards the sun, and in sixty-four days and a 
half the catastrophe you dread would inevitably happen." 

" And what demonstration do you offer," asked Servadac 
eagerly, " that it will not happen? " 

" Simply this, captain : that since the earth entered her 
new orbit half the sixty-four days has already elapsed, and 
yet it is only just recently that she has crossed the orbit of 
Venus, hardly one-third of the distance to be traversed to 
reach the sun." 

The lieutenant paused to allow time for reflection, and 
added : " Moreover, I have every reason to believe that we 
are not so near the sun as we have been. The temperature 
has been gradually diminishing; the heat upon Gourbi 
Island is not greater now than we might ordinarily expect 
to find in Algeria. At the same time, we have the problem 
still unsolved that the Mediterranean has evidently been 
transported to the equatorial zone." 

Both the count and the captain expressed themselves 
reassured by his representations, and observed that they 
must now do all in their power to discover what had be- 
come of the vast continent of Africa, of which, they were 
hitherto failing so completely to find a vestige. 

Twenty-four hours after leaving the island, the Dobryna 
had passed over the sites where Tenes, Cherchil, Koleah, 
and Sidi-Feruch once had been, but of these towns not 
one appeared within range of the telescope. Ocean reigned 
supreme. Lieutenant Procope was absolutely certain that 



52 OFF ON A COMET 

he had not mistaken his direction ; the compass showed that 
the wind had never shifted from the west, and this, with the 
rate of speed as estimated by the log, combined to assure 
him that at this date, the 2d of February, the schooner was 
in lat. 36 49' N. and long. 3 25' E., the very spot which 
ought to have been occupied by the Algerian capital. But 
Algiers, like all the other coast-towns, had apparently been 
absorbed into the bowels of the earth. 

Captain Servadac, with clenched teeth and knitted brow, 
stood sternly, almost fiercely, regarding the boundless waste 
of water. His pulse beat fast as he recalled the friends 
and comrades with whom he had spent the last few years in 
that vanished city. All the images of his past life floated 
upon his memory; his thoughts sped away to his native 
France, only to return again to wonder whether the depths 
of ocean would reveal any traces of the Algerian metropolis. 

" Is it not impossible," he murmured aloud, " that any 
city should disappear so completely? Would not the loft- 
iest eminences of the city at least be visible? Surely some 
portion of the Casbah must still rise above the waves? The 
imperial fort, too, was built upon an elevation of 750 feet; 
it is incredible that it should be so totally submerged. Un- 
less some vestiges of these are found, I shall begin to sus- 
pect that the whole of Africa has been swallowed in some 
vast abyss." 

Another circumstance was most remarkable. Not a 
material object of any kind was to be noticed floating on 
the surface of the water; not one branch of a tree had 
been seen drifting by, nor one spar belonging to one of 
the numerous vessels that a month previously had been 
moored in the magnificent bay which stretched twelve miles 
across from Cape Matafuz to* Point Pexade. Perhaps the 
depths might disclose what the surface failed to reveal, and 
Count Timascheff, anxious that Servadac should have every 
facility afforded him for solving his doubts, called for the 
sounding-line. Forthwith, the lead was greased and low- 
ered. To the surprise of all, and especially of Lieutenant 
Procope, the line indicated a bottom at a nearly uniform 
depth of from four to five fathoms ; and although the sound- 
ing was persevered with continuously for more than two 
hours^ oyer^ a considerable area, the differences of level 
were insignificant, not corresponding in any degree to what 



A SEARCH FOR ALGERIA 53 

would be expected over the site of a city that had been 
terraced like the seats of an amphitheater. Astounding as 
it seemed, what alternative was left but to suppose that the 
Algerian capital had been completely leveled by the flood? 

The sea-bottom was composed of neither rock, mud, sand, 
nor shells ; the sounding-lead brought up nothing but a kind 
of metallic dust, which glittered with a strange iridescence, 
and the nature of which it was impossible to determine, as 
it was totally unlike what had ever been known to be raised 
from the bed of the Mediterranean. 

" You must see, lieutenant, I should think, that we are 
not so near the coast of Algeria as you imagined." 

The lieutenant shook his head. After pondering awhile, 
he said : " If we were farther away I should expect to find 
a depth of two or three hundred fathoms instead of five 
fathoms. Five fathoms! I confess I am puzzled." 

For the next thirty-six hours, until the 4th of February, 
the sea was examined and explored with the most unflagging 
perseverance. Its depth remained invariable, still four, or 
at most five, fathoms; and although its bottom was assidu- 
ously dredged, it was only to prove it barren of marine 
production of any type. 

The yacht made its way to lat. 36, and by reference to 
the charts it was tolerably certain that she was cruising 
over the site of the Sahel, the ridge that had separated the 
rich plain of the Mitidja from the sea, and of which the 
highest peak, Mount Boujereah, had reached an altitude of 
1,200 feet; but even this peak, which might have been ex- 
pected to emerge like an islet above the surface of the sea, 
was nowhere to be traced. Nothing was to be done but to 
put about, and return in disappointment towards the north. 

Thus the Dobryna regained the waters of the Mediter- 
ranean without discovering a trace of the missing province 
of Algeria. 

CHAPTER XI 

AN ISLAND TOMB 

No longer, then, could there be any doubt as to the annihi- 
lation of a considerable portion of the colony. Not merely 
had there been a submersion of the land, but the impres- 
sion was more and more confirmed that the very bowels of 



54 OFF ON A COMET 

the earth must have yawned and closed again upon a large 
territory. Of the rocky substratum of the province it be- 
came more evident than ever that not a trace remained, and 
a new soil of unknown formation had certainly taken the 
place of the old sandy sea-bottom. As it altogether 
transcended the powers of those on board to elucidate the 
origin of this catastrophe, it was felt to be incumbent on 
them at least to ascertain its extent. 

After a long and somewhat wavering discussion, it was 
at length decided that the schooner should take advantage 
of the favorable wind and weather, and proceed at first 
towards the east, thus following the outline of what had 
formerly represented the coast of Africa, until that coast 
had been lost in boundless sea. 

Not a vestige of it all remained; from Cape Matafuz to 
Tunis it had all gone, as though it had never been. The 
maritime town of Dellis, built like Algiers, amphitheater- 
wise, had totally disappeared; the highest points were quite 
invisible; not a trace on the horizon was left of the Jurjura 
chain, the topmost point of which was known to have an 
altitude of more than 7,000 feet. 

Unsparing of her fuel, the Dobryna made her way at 
full steam towards Cape Blanc. Neither Cape Negro nor 
Cape Serrat was to be seen. The town of Bizerta, once 
charming in its oriental beauty, had vanished utterly; its 
marabouts, or temple-tombs, shaded by magnificent palms 
that fringed the gulf, which by reason of its narrow mouth 
had the semblance of a lake, all had disappeared, giving 
place to a vast waste of sea, the transparent waves of 
which, as still demonstrated by the sounding-line, had ever 
the same uniform and arid bottom. 

In the course of the day the schooner rounded the point 
where, five weeks previously, Cape Blanc had been so con- 
spicuous an object, and she was now stemming the waters 
of what once had been the Bay of Tunis. But bay there 
was none, and the town from which it had derived its name 
with the Arsenal, the Goletta, and the two peaks of Bou- 
Kournein, had all vanished from the view. Cape Bon, too, 
the most northern promontory of Africa and the point of 
the continent nearest to the island of Sicily, had been in- 
cluded m the general devastation. 

Before the occurrence of the recent prodigy, the bottom 



AN ISLAND TOMB 55 

of the Mediterranean just at this point had formed a sudden 
ridge across the Straits of Libya. The sides of the ridge had 
shelved to so great an extent that, while the depth of water 
on the summit had been little more than eleven fathoms, 
that on either hand of the elevation was little short of a 
hundred fathoms. A formation such as this plainly indi- 
cated that at some remote epoch Cape Bon had been con- 
nected with Cape Furina, the extremity of Sicily, in the 
same manner as Ceuta has doubtless been connected with 
Gibraltar. 

Lieutenant Procope was too well acquainted with the 
Mediterranean to be unaware of this peculiarity, and would 
not lose the opportunity of ascertaining whether the sub- 
marine ridge still existed, or whether the sea-bottom be- 
tween Sicily and Africa had undergone any modification. 

Both Timascheff and Servadac were much interested in 
watching the operations. At a sign from the lieutenant, a 
sailor who was stationed at the foot of the fore-shrouds 
dropped the sounding-lead into the water, and in reply to 
Procope's inquiries, reported " Five fathoms and a flat 
bottom." 

The next aim was to determine the amount of depres- 
sion on either side of the ridge, and for this purpose the 
Dobryna was shifted for a distance of half a mile both to 
the right and left, and the soundings taken at each station. 
" Five fathoms and a flat bottom," was the unvaried an- 
nouncement after each operation. Not only, therefore, was 
it evident that the submerged chain between Cape Bon and 
Cape Furina no longer existed, but it was equally clear that 
the convulsion had caused a general leveling of the sea-bot- 
tom, and that the soil, degenerated, as it has been said, into 
a metallic dust of unrecognized composition, bore no trace 
of the sponges, sea-anemones, star-fish, sea-nettles, 
hydrophytes, and shells with which the submarine 
rocks of the Mediterranean had hitherto been prodigally 
clothed. 

The Dobryna now put about and resumed her explora- 
tions in a southerly direction. It remained, however, as 
remarkable as ever how completely throughout the voyage 
the sea continued to be deserted ; all expectations of hailing 
a vessel bearing news from Europe were entirely falsified, 
so that more and more each member of the crew began to 



5 6 OFF ON A COMET 

be conscious of his isolation, and to believe that the schooner, 
like a second Noah's ark, carried the sole survivors of a 
calamity that had overwhelmed the earth. 

On the 9th of February the Dobryna passed over the 
site of the city of Dido, the ancient Byrsa a Carthage, 
however, which was now more completely destroyed than 
ever Punic Carthage had been destroyed by Scipio Afri- 
canus or Roman Carthage by Hassan the Saracen. 

In the evening, as the sun was sinking below the east- 
ern horizon, Captain Servadac was lounging moodily 
against the taffrail. From the heaven above, where stars 
kept peeping fitfully from behind the moving clouds, his 
eye wandered mechanically to the waters below, where the 
long waves .were rising and falling with the evening 
breeze. 

All at once, his attention was arrested by a luminous 
speck straight ahead on the southern horizon. At first, 
imagining that he was the victim of some spectral illusion, 
he observed it with silent attention; but when, after some 
minutes, he became convinced that what he saw was actu- 
ally a distant light, he appealed to one of the sailors, by 
whom his impression was fully corroborated. The intelli- 
gence was immediately imparted to Count Timascheff and 
the lieutenant. 

" Is it land, do you suppose? " inquired Servadac, eagerly. 

" I should be more inclined to think it is a light on board 
some ship," replied the count. 

" Whatever it is, in another hour we shall know all 
about it," said Servadac. 

"No, captain," interposed Lieutenant Procope; "we 
shall know nothing until to-morrow." 

"What! not bear down upon it at once?" asked the 
count in surprise. 

" No, sir; I should much rather lay to and wait till day- 
light. If we are really near land, I should be afraid to ap- 
proach it in the dark." 

The count expressed his approval of the lieutenant's 
caution, and thereupon all sail was shortened so as to keep 
the Dobryna from making any considerable progress all 
through the hours of night. Few as those hours were, 
they seemed to those on board as if their end would never 
come. Fearful lest the faint glimmer should at any mo- 



AN ISLAND TOMB 57 

ment cease to be visible, Hector Servadac did not quit his 
post upon the deck ; but the light continued unchanged. It 
shone with about the same degree of luster as a star of the 
second magnitude, and from the fact of its remaining sta- 
tionary, Procope became more and more convinced that it 
was on land and did not belong to a passing vessel. 

At sunrise every telescope was pointed with keenest in- 
terest towards the center of attraction. The light, of 
course, had ceased to be visible, but in the direction where 
it had been seen, and at a distance of about ten miles, there 
was the distinct outline of a solitary island of very small 
extent ; rather, as the count observed, it had the appearance 
of being the projecting summit of a mountain all but sub- 
merged. Whatever it was, it was agreed that its true 
character must be ascertained, not only to gratify their own 
curiosity, but for the benefit of all future navigators. The 
schooner accordingly was steered directly towards it, and 
in less than an hour had cast anchor within a few cables' 
lengths of the shore. 

The little island proved to be nothing more than an arid 
rock rising abruptly about forty feet above the water. It 
had no outlying reefs, a circumstance that seemed to sug- 
gest the probability that in the recent convulsion it had 
sunk gradually, until it had reached its present position of 
equilibrium. 

Without removing his eye from his telescope, Servadac 
exclaimed : " There is a habitation on the place ; I can see 
an erection of some kind quite distinctly. Who can tell 
whether we shall not come across a human being? " 

Lieutenant Procope looked doubtful. The island had 
all the appearance of being deserted, nor did a cannon-shot 
fired from the schooner have the effect of bringing any 
resident to the shore. Nevertheless, it was undeniable that 
there was a stone building situated on the top of the rock, 
and that this building had much the character of an Arabian 
mosque. 

The boat was lowered and manned by the four sailors; 
Servadac, Timascheff and Procope were quickly rowed 
ashore, and lost no time in commencing their ascent of the 
steep acclivity. Upon reaching the summit, they found 
their progress arrested by a kind of wall, or rampart of 
singular construction, its materials consisting mainly of 



5 8 OFF ON A COMET 

vases, fragments of columns, carved bas-reliefs, statues, and 
portions of broken stelae, all piled promiscuously together 
without any pretense to artistic arrangement. They made 
their way into the enclosure, and finding an open door, 
they passed through and soon came to a second door, also 
open, which admitted them to the interior of the mosque, 
consisting of a single chamber, the walls of which were 
ornamented in the Arabian style by sculptures of indifferent 
execution. In the center was a tomb of the very simplest 
kind, and above the tomb was suspended a large silver 
lamp with a capacious reservoir of oil, in which floated a 
long lighted wick, the flame of which was evidently the 
light that had attracted Servadac's attention on the previous 
night. 

"Must there not have been a custodian of the shrine? " 
they mutually asked; but if such there had ever been, he 
must, they concluded, either have fled or have perished on 
that eventful night. Not a soul was there in charge, and 
the sole living occupants were a flock of wild cormorants 
which, startled at the entrance of the intruders, rose on 
wing, and took a rapid flight towards the south. 

An old French prayer-book was lying on the corner of 
the tomb; the volume was open, and the page exposed to 
view was that which contained the office for the celebration 
of the 25th of August. A sudden revelation dashed across 
Servadac's mind. The solemn isolation of the island tomb, 
the open breviary, the ritual of the ancient anniversary, all 
combined to apprise him of the sanctity of the spot upon 
which he stood. 

" The tomb of St. Louis ! " he exclaimed, and his com- 
panions involuntarily followed his example, and made a 
reverential obeisance to the venerated monument. 

It was, in truth, the very spot on which tradition asserts 
that the canonized monarch came to die, a spot to which 
for six centuries and more his countrymen had paid the 
homage of a pious regard. The lamp that had been kin- 
dled at the memorial shrine of a saint was now in all prob- 
ability the only beacon that threw a light across the waters 
of the Mediterranean, and even this ere long must itself 
expire. 

There was nothing more to explore. The three together 
quitted the mosque, and descended the rock to the shore, 



AN ISLAND TOMB 59 

whence their boat re-conveyed them to the schooner, which 
was soon again on her southward voyage; and it was not 
long before the tomb of St. Louis, the only spot that had 
survived the mysterious shock, was lost to view. 



CHAPTER XII 

AT THE MERCY OF THE WINDS 

As the affrighted cormorants had winged their flight 
towards the south, there sprang up a sanguine hope on 
board the schooner that land might be discovered in that 
direction. Thither, accordingly, it was determined to pro- 
ceed, and in a few hours after quitting the island of the 
tomb, the Dobryna was traversing the shallow waters that 
now covered the peninsula of Dakhul, which had separated 
the Bay of Tunis from the Gulf of Hammamet. For two 
days she continued an undeviating course, and after a futile 
search for the coast of Tunis, reached the latitude of 34. 

Here, on the nth of February, there suddenly arose the 
cry of " Land ! " and in the extreme horizon, right ahead, 
where land had never been before, it was true enough that 
a shore was distinctly to be seen. What could it be? It 
could not be the coast of Tripoli; for not only would that 
low-lying shore be quite invisible at such a distance, but it 
was certain, moreover, that it lay two degrees at least still 
further south. It was soon observed that this newly dis- 
covered land was of very irregular elevation, that it ex- 
tended due east and west across the horizon, thus dividing 
the gulf into two separate sections and completely conceal- 
ing the island of Jerba, which must lie behind. Its position 
was duly traced on the Dobryna 's chart. 

" How strange/' exclaimed Hector Servadac, " that after 
sailing all this time over sea where we expected to find 
land, we have at last come upon land where we thought to 
find sea !" 

" Strange, indeed," replied Lieutenant Procope ; " and 
what appears to me almost as remarkable is that we have 
never once caught sight either of one of the Maltese tartans 
or one of the Levantine xebecs that traffic so regularly on 
the Mediterranean." 

" Eastwards or westwards/' asked the count " which 



6o OFF ON A COMET 

shall be our course ? All farther progress to the south is 
checked." 

" Westwards, by all means," replied Servadac quickly. 
" I am longing to know whether anything of Algeria is left 
beyond the Sheli f; besides, as we pass Gourbi Island we 
might take Ben Zoof on board, and then make away for 
Gibraltar, where we should be sure to learn something, at 
least, of European news." 

With his usual air of stately courtesy, Count Timascheff 
begged the captain to consider the yacht at his own dis- 
posal, and desired him to give the lieutenant instructions 
accordingly. 

Lieutenant Procope, however, hesitated, and after re- 
volving matters for a few moments in his mind, pointed out 
that as the wind was blowing directly from the west, and 
seemed likely to increase, if they went to the west in the 
teeth of the weather, the schooner would be reduced to the 
use of her engine only, and would have much difficulty in 
making any headway ; on the other hand, by taking an east- 
ward course, not only would they have the advantage of the 
wind, but, under steam and canvas, might hope in a few 
days to be off the coast of Egypt, and from Alexandria or 
some other port they would have the same opportunity of 
getting tidings from Europe as they would at Gibraltar. 

Intensely anxious as he was to revisit the province of 
Oran, and eager, too, to satisfy himself of the welfare of 
his faithful Ben Zoof, Servadac could not but own the 
reasonableness of the lieutenant's objections, and yielded to 
the proposal that the eastward course should be adopted. 
The wind gave signs only too threatening of the breeze 
rising to a gale; but, fortunately, the waves did not cul- 
minate in breakers, but rather in a long swell which ran in 
the same direction as the vessel. 

During the last fortnight the high temperature had been 
gradually diminishing, until it now reached an average of 
20 Cent, (or 68 Fahr.), and sometimes descended as low 
as 15. That this diminution was to be attributed to *he 
change in the earth's orbit was a question that admitted of 
little doubt. After approaching so near to the sun as to 
cross the orbit of Venus, the earth must now have receded 
so far from the sun that its normal distance of ninety-one 
millions of miles was greatly increased, and the probability 



AT THE MERCY OF THE WINDS 61 

was great that it was approximating to the orbit of Mars, 
that planet which in its physical constitution most nearly 
resembles our own. Nor was this supposition suggested 
merely by the lowering of the temperature ; it was strongly 
corroborated by the reduction of the apparent diameter of 
the sun's disc to the precise dimensions which it would 
assume to an observer actually stationed on the surface of 
Mars. The necessary inference that seemed to follow from 
these phenomena was that the earth had been projected into 
a new orbit, which had the form of a very elongated ellipse. 

Very slight, however, in comparison was the regard 
which these astronomical wonders attracted on board the 
Dobryna. All interest there was too much absorbed in 
terrestrial matters, and in ascertaining what changes had 
taken place in the configuration of the earth itself, to permit 
much attention to be paid to its erratic movements through 
space. I 

The schooner kept bravely on her way, but well out to 
sea, at a distance of two miles from land. There was good 
need of this precaution, for so precipitous was the shore 
that a vessel driven upon it must inevitably have gone 
pieces; it did not offer a single harbor of refuge, but, 
smooth and perpendicular as the walls of a fortress, it rose 
to a height of two hundred, and occasionally of three hun- 
dred feet. The waves dashed violently against its base. 
Upon the general substratum rested a massive conglome- 
rate, the crystallizations of which rose like a forest of gi- 
gantic pyramids and obelisks. 

But what struck the explorers more than anything was 
the appearance of singular newness that pervaded the whole 
of the region. It all seemed so recent in its formation 
that the atmosphere had had no opportunity of producing 
its wonted effect in softening the hardness of its lines, in 
rounding the sharpness of its angles, or in modifying the 
color of its surface ; its outline was clearly marked against 
the sky, and its substance, smooth and polished as though 
fresh from a founder's mold, glittered with the metallic 
brilliancy that is characteristic of pyrites. It seemed im- 
possible to come to any other conclusion but that the land 
before them, continent or island, had been upheaved by- 
subterranean forces above the surface of the sea, and that it 
was mainly composed of the same metallic element as had 



62 OFF ON A COMET 

characterized the dust so frequently uplifted from the bot- 
tom. 

The extreme nakedness of the entire tract was likewise 
very extraordinary. Elsewhere, in various quarters of the 
globe, there may be sterile rocks, but there are none so 
adamant as to be altogether un furrowed by the filaments 
engendered in the moist residuum of the condensed vapor; 
elsewhere there may be barren steeps, but none so rigid as 
not to afford some hold to vegetation, however low and 
elementary may be its type; but here all was bare, and 
blank, and desolate not a symptom of vitality was visible. 

Such being the condition of the adjacent land, it could 
hardly be a matter of surprise that all the sea-birds, the 
albatross, the gull, the sea-mew, sought continual refuge on 
the schooner; day and night they perched fearlessly upon 
the yards, the report of a gun failing to dislodge them, and 
when food of any sort was thrown upon the deck, they 
would dart down and fight with eager voracity for the 
prize. Their extreme avidity was recognized as a proof 
that any land where they could obtain a sustenance must 
be far remote. 

Onwards thus for several days the Dobryna followed 
the contour of the inhospitable coast, of which the features 
would occasionally change, sometimes for two or three 
miles assuming the form of a simple arris, sharply defined 
as though cut by a chisel, when suddenly the prismatic 
lamellae soaring in rugged confusion would again recur; 
but all along there was the same absence of beach or tract 
of sand to mark its base, neither were there any of those 
shoals of rock that are ordinarily found in shallow water. 
At rare intervals there were some narrow fissures, but not 
a creek available for a ship to enter to replenish its supply 
of water; and the wide roadsteads were unprotected and 
exposed to well-nigh every point of the compass. 

But after sailing two hundred and forty miles, the prog- 
ress of the Dobryna was suddenly arrested. Lieutenant 
Procope, who had sedulously inserted the outline of the 
newly revealed shore upon the maps, announced that it had 
ceased to run east and west, and had taken a turn due 
north, thus forming a barrier to their continuing their pre- 
vious direction. It was, of course, impossible to conjecture 
how far this barrier extended; it coincided pretty nearly 



AT THE MERCY OF THE WINDS 63 

with the fourteenth meridian of east longitude; and if it 
reached, as probably it did, beyond Sicily to Italy, it was 
certain that the vast basin of the Mediterranean, which 
had washed the shores alike of Europe, Asia, and Africa, 
must have been reduced to about half its original area. 

It was resolved to proceed upon the same plan as here- 
tofore, following the boundary of the land at a safe dis- 
tance. Accordingly, the head of the Dobryna was pointed 
north, making straight, as it was presumed, for the south 
of Europe. A hundred miles, or somewhat over, in that 
direction, and it was to be anticipated she would come in 
sight of Malta, if only that ancient island, the heritage in 
succession of Phoenicians, Carthaginians, Sicilians, Romans, 
Vandals, Greeks, Arabians, and the knights of Rhodes, 
should still be undestroyed. 

But Malta, too, was gone; and when, upon the I4th, the 
sounding-line was dropped upon its site, it was only with 
the same result so oftentimes obtained before. 

" The devastation is not limited to Africa," observed 
the count. 

"Assuredly not," assented the lieutenant; adding, "and 
I confess I am almost in despair whether we shall ever 
ascertain its limits. To what quarter of Europe, if Europe 
still exists, do you propose that I should now direct your 
course?" 

" To Sicily, Italy, France ! " ejaculated Servadac, eagerly, 
" anywhere where we can learn the truth of what has 
befallen us." 

"How if we are the sole survivors?" said the count, 
gravely. 

Hector Servadac was silent; his own secret presenti- 
ment so thoroughly coincided with the doubts expressed 
by the count, that he refrained from saying another word. 

The coast, without deviation, still tended towards the 
north. No alternative, therefore, remained than to take a 
westerly course and to attempt to reach the northern shores 
of the Mediterranean. On the i6th the Dobryna essayed 
to start upon her altered way, but it seemed as if the ele- 
ments had conspired to obstruct her progress. A furious 
tempest arose; the wind beat dead in the direction of the 
coast, and the danger incurred by a vessel of a tonnage so 
light was necessarily very great. 



64 OFF ON A COMET 

Lieutenant Procope was extremely uneasy. He took in 
all sail, struck -his topmasts, and resolved to rely entirely 
on his engine. But the peril seemed only to increase. 
Enormous waves caught the schooner and carried her up 
to their crests, whence again she was plunged deep into the 
abysses that they left. The screw failed to keep its hold 
upon the water, but continually revolved with useless speed 
in the vacant air; and thus, although the steam was forced 
on to the extremes t limit consistent with safety, the vessel 
held her way with the utmost difficulty, and recoiled before 
the hurricane. 

Still, not a single resort for refuge did the inaccessible 
shore present. Again and again the lieutenant asked him- 
self what would become of him and his comrades, even if 
they should survive the peril of shipwreck, and gain a foot- 
ing upon the cliff. What resources could they expect to 
find upon that scene of desolation? What hope could 
they entertain that any portion of the old continent still 
existed beyond that dreary barrier? 

It was a trying time, but throughout it all the crew be- 
haved with the greatest courage and composure; confident 
in the skill of their commander, and in the stability of their 
ship, they performed their duties with steadiness and un- 
questioning obedience. 

But neither skill, nor courage, nor obedience could avail ; 
all was in vain. Despite the strain put upon her engine, 
the schooner, bare of canvas (for not even the smallest 
stay-sail could have withstood the violence of the storm), 
was drifting with terrific speed towards the menacing preci- 
pices, which were only a few short miles to leeward. Fully 
alive to the hopelessness of their situation, the crew were 
all on deck. 

" All over with us, sir! " said Procope to the count. " I 
have done everything that man could do; but our case is 
desperate. Nothing short of a miracle can save us now. 
Within an hour we must go to pieces upon yonder 
rocks." 

" Let us, then, commend ourselves to the providence of 
Him to Whom nothing is impossible," replied the count, in 
a calm, clear voice that could be distinctly heard by all; 
and as he spoke, he reverently uncovered, an example in 
which he was followed by all the rest. 



AT THE MERCY OF THE WINDS 65 

The destruction of the vessel seeming thus inevitable, 
Lieutenant Procope took the best measures he could to 
insure a few days* supply of food for any who might es- 
cape ashore. He ordered several cases of provisions and 
kegs of water to be brought on deck, and saw that they 
were securely lashed to some empty barrels, to make them 
float after the ship had gone down. 

Less and less grew the distance from the shore, but no 
creek, no inlet, could be discerned in the towering wall of 
cliff, which seemed about to topple over and involve them 
in annihilation. Except a change of wind or, as Procope 
observed, a supernatural rifting of the rock, nothing could 
bring deliverance now. But the wind did not veer, and in 
a few minutes more the schooner was hardly three cables* 
distance from the fatal land. All were aware that their 
last moment had arrived. Servadac and the count grasped 
each other's hands for a long farewell; and, tossed by the 
tremendous waves, the schooner was on the very point of 
being hurled upon the cliff, when a ringing shout was heard. 
" Quick, boys, quick! Hoist the jib, and right the tiller! " 

Sudden and startling as the unexpected orders were, 
they were executed as if by magic. 

The lieutenant, who had shouted from the bow, rushed 
astern and took the helm, and before anyone had time to 
speculate upon the object of his maneuvers, he shouted 
again, " Look out ! sharp ! watch the sheets ! " 

An involuntary cry broke forth from all on board. But 
it was no cry of terror. Right ahead was a narrow open- 
ing in the solid rock ; it was hardly forty feet wide. 
Whether it was a passage or no, it mattered little; it was 
at least a refuge; and, driven by wind and wave, the 
Dobryna, under the dexterous guidance of the lieutenant, 
dashed in between its perpendicular walls. 

Had she not immured herself in a perpetual prison? 



CHAPTER XIII 

A ROYAL SALUTE 

"THEN I take your bishop, major," said Colonel 
Murphy, as he made a move that he had taken since the 

previous evening to consider. 
V. IX Verne 



66 OFF ON A COMET 

" I was afraid you would," replied Major Oliphant, look- 
ing intently at the chess-board. 

Such was the way in which a long silence was broken 
on the morning of the I7th of February by the old calendar. 

Another day elapsed before another move was made. 
It was a protracted game; it had, in fact, already lasted 
some months the players being so deliberate, and so fear- 
ful of taking a step without the most mature consideration, 
that even now they were only making the twentieth move. 

Both of them, moreover, were rigid disciples of the re- 
nowned Philidor, who pronounces that to play the pawns 
well is " the soul of chess " ; arid, 'accordingly, not one pawn 
had been sacrificed without a most vigorous defense. 

The men who were thus beguiling their leisure were two 
officers in the British army Colonel Heneage Finch 
Murphy and Major Sir John Temple Oliphant. Remark- 
ably similar in personal appearance, they were hardly less 
so in personal character. Both of them were about forty 
years of age; both of them were tall and fair, with bushy 
whiskers and mustaches; both of them were phlegmatic 
in temperament, and both much addicted to the wearing of 
their uniforms. They were proud of their nationality, and 
exhibited a manifest dislike, verging upon contempt, of 
everything foreign. Probably they would have felt no sur- 
prise if they had been told that Anglo-Saxons were fash- 
ioned out of some specific clay, the properties of which 
surpassed the investigation of chemical analysis. Without 
any intentional disparagement they might, in a certain way, 
be compared to two scarecrows which, though perfectly 
harmless in themselves, inspire some measure of respect, 
and are excellently adapted to protect the territory intrusted 
to their guardianship. 

English-like, the two officers had made themselves thor- 
oughly at home in the station abroad in which it had been 
their lot to be quartered. The faculty of colonization seems 
to be indigenous to the native character ; once let an English- 
man plant his national standard on the surface of the moon, 
and it would not be long before a colony was established 
round it. 

The officers had a servant, named Kirke, and a com- 
pany of ten soldiers of the line. This party of thirteen men 
were apparently the sole survivors of an overwhelming 



A ROYAL SALUTE 67 

catastrophe, which on the ist of January had transformed 
an enormous rock, garrisoned with well-nigh two thousand 
troops, into an insignificant island far out to sea. But al- 
though the transformation had been so marvelous, it can- 
not be said that either Colonel Murphy or Major Oliphant 
had made much demonstration of astonishment. 

" This is all very peculiar, Sir John," observed the col- 
onel. 

"Yes, colonel; very peculiar," replied the major. 

" England will be sure to send for us," said one officer. 

" No doubt she will," answered the other. 

Accordingly, they came to the mutual resolution that 
they would " stick to their post." 

To say the truth, it would have been a difficult matter 
for the gallant officers to do otherwise; they had but one 
small boat; therefore, it was well that they made a virtue 
of necessity, and resigned themselves to patient expectation 
of the British ship which, in due time, would bring relief. 

They had no fear of starvation. Their island was 
mined with subterranean stores, more than ample for thir- 
teen men nay, for thirteen Englishmen for the next five 
years at least. Preserved meat, ale, brandy all were in 
abundance ; consequently, as the men expressed it, they were 
in this respect " all right." 

Of course, the physical changes that had taken place had 
attracted the notice both of officers and men. But the re- 
versed position of east and west, the diminution of the force 
of gravity, the altered rotation of the earth, and her pro- 
jection upon a new orbit, were all things that gave them 
little concern and no uneasiness ; and when the colonel and 
the major had replaced the pieces on the board which had 
been disturbed by the convulsion, any surprise they might 
have felt at the chess-men losing some portion of their 
weight was quite forgotten in the satisfaction of seeing 
them retain their equilibrium. 

One phenomenon, however, did not fail to make its due 
impression upon the men; this was the diminution in the 
length of day and night. Three days after the catastrophe, 
Corporal Pirn, on behalf of himself and his comrades, so- 
licited a formal interview with the officers. The request 
having been granted, Pirn, with the nine soldiers, all punc- 
tiliously wearing the regimental tunic of scarlet and trou- 



68 OFF ON A COMET 

sers of invisible green, presented themselves at the door of 
the colonel's room, where he and his brother-officer were 
continuing their game. Raising his hand respectfully to 
his cap, which he wore poised jauntily over his right ear, 
and scarcely held on by the strap below his under lip, the 
corporal waited permission to speak. 

After a lingering survey of the chess-board, the colonel 
slowly lifted his eyes, and said with official dignity, " Well, 
men, what is it?" 

"First of all, sir," replied the corporal, "we want to 
speak to you about our pay, and then we wish to have a 
word with the major about our rations." 

"Say on, then," said Colonel Murphy. "What is it 
about your pay?" 

"Just this, sir; as the days are only half as long as they 
were, we should like to know whether our pay is to be 
diminished in proportion." 

The colonel was taken somewhat aback, and did not re- 
ply immediately, though by some significant nods towards 
the major, he indicated that he thought the question very 
reasonable. After a few moments' reflection, he replied, 
" It must, I think, be allowed that your pay was calculated 
from sunrise to sunrise; there was no specification of what 
the interval should be. Your pay will continue as before. 
England can afford it." 

A buzz of approval burst involuntarily from all the 
men, but military discipline and the respect due to their 
officers kept them in check from any boisterous demonstra- 
tion of their satisfaction. 

"And now, corporal, what is your business with me?" 
asked Major Oliphant 

"We want to know whether, as the days are only six 
hours long, we are to have but two meals instead of four? " 

The officers looked at each other, and by their glances 
agreed that the corporal was a man of sound common sense. 

"Eccentricities of nature," said the major, "cannot in- 
terfere with military regulations. It is true that there will 
be but an interval of an hour and a 'half between them, but 
the rule stands good four meals a day. England is too 
rich to grudge her soldiers any of her soldiers' due. Yes; 
four meals a day." 

"Hurrah!" shouted the soldiers, unable this time to 



A ROYAL SALUTE 69 

keep their delight within the bounds of military decorum; 
and, turning to the right-about, they marched away, leaving 
the officers to renew the all-absorbing game. 

However confident everyone upon the island might pro- 
fess to be that succor would be sent them from their native 
land for Britain never abandons any of her sons it could 
not be disguised that that succor was somewhat tardy in 
making its appearance. Many and various were the con- 
jectures to account for the delay. Perhaps England was 
engrossed with domestic matters, or perhaps she was ab- 
sorbed in diplomatic difficulties; or perchance, more likely 
than all, Northern Europe had received no tidings of the 
convulsion that had shattered the south. The whole party 
throve remarkably well upon the liberal provisions of the 
commissariat department, and if the officers failed to show 
the same tendency to embonpoint which was fast becoming 
characteristic of the men, it was only because they deemed 
it due to their rank to curtail any indulgences which might 
compromise the fit of their uniform. 

On the whole, time passed indifferently well. An Eng- 
lishman rarely suffers from ennui, and then only in his own 
country, when required to conform to what he calls " the 
humbug of society " ; and the two officers, with their similar 
tastes, ideas, and dispositions, got on together admirably. 
It is not to be questioned that they were deeply affected by a 
sense of regret for their lost comrades, and astounded be- 
yond measure at finding themselves the sole survivors of a 
garrison of 1,895 men > ^ ut w ^ n true British pluck and self- 
control, they had done nothing more than draw up a report 
that 1,882 names were missing from the muster-roll. 

The island itself, the sole surviving fragment of an 
enormous pile of rock that had reared itself some 1,600 feet 
above the sea, was not, strictly speaking, the only land that 
was visible ; for about twelve miles to the south there was 
another island, apparently the very counterpart of what 
was now occupied by the Englishmen. It was only natural 
that this should awaken some interest even in the most im- 
perturbable minds, and there was no doubt that the two 
officers, during one of the rare intervals when they were not 
absorbed in their game, had decided that it would be desir- 
able at least to ascertain whether the island was deserted, 
or whether it might not be occupied by some others, like 



7 o OFF ON A COMET 

themselves, survivors from the general catastrophe. Cer- 
tain it is that one morning, when the weather was bright 
and calm, they had embarked alone in the little boat, and 
been absent for seven or eight hours. Not even to Cor- 
poral Pirn did they communicate the object of their ex- 
cursion, nor say one syllable as to its result, and it could 
only be inferred from their manner that they were quite 
satisfied with what they had seen; and very shortly after- 
wards Major Oliphant was observed to draw up a lengthy 
document, which was no sooner finished than it was for- 
mally signed and sealed with the seal of the 33rd Regiment. 
It was directed : 

To the First Lord of the Admiralty, 

London, 

and kept in readiness for transmission by the first ship that 
should hail in sight. But time elapsed, and here was the 
1 8th of February without an opportunity having been af- 
forded for any communication with the British Govern- 
ment. 

At breakfast that morning, the colonel observed to the 
major that he was under the most decided impression that 
the 1 8th of February was a royal anniversary; and he went 
on to say that, although he had received no definite instruc- 
tions on the subject, he did not think that the peculiar 
circumstances under which they found themselves should 
prevent them from giving the day its due military 
honors. 

The major quite concurred; and it was mutually agreed 
that the occasion must be honored by a bumper of port, and 
by a royal salute. Corporal Pirn must be sent for. The 
corporal soon made his appearance, smacking his lips, hav- 
ing, by a ready intuition, found a pretext for a double 
morning ration of spirits. 

" The 1 8th of February, you know, Pirn," said the col- 
onel ; " we must have a salute of twenty-one guns." 

" Very good," replied Pirn, a man of few words. 

"And take care that your fellows don't get their arms 
and legs blown off," added the officer. 

"Very good, sir," said the corporal; and he made his 
salute and withdrew. 

Of all the bombs, howitzers, and various species of ar- 
tillery with which the fortress had been crowded, one soli- 



A ROYAL SALUTE 71 

tary piece remained. This was a cumbrous muzzle-loader 
of 9-inch caliber, and, in default of the smaller ordnance 
generally employed for the purpose, had to be brought into 
requisition for the royal salute. 

A sufficient number of charges having been provided, the 
corporal brought his men to the reduct, whence the gun's 
mouth projected over a sloping embrasure. The two offi- 
cers, in cocked hats and full staff uniform, attended to take 
charge of the proceedings. The gun was maneuvered in 
strict accordance with the rules of "The Artilleryman's 
Manual," and the firing commenced. 

Not unmindful of the warning he had received, the cor- 
poral was most careful between each discharge to see that 
every vestige of fire was extinguished, so as to prevent an 
untimely explosion while the men were reloading; and acci- 
dents, such as so frequently mar public rejoicings, were all 
happily avoided. 

Much to the chagrin of both Colonel Murphy and Major 
Oliphant, the effect of the salute fell altogether short of 
their anticipations. The weight of the atmosphere was so 
reduced that there was comparatively little resistance to the 
explosive force of the gases, liberated at the cannon's 
mouth, and there was consequently none of the reverbera- 
tion, like rolling thunder, that ordinarily follows the dis- 
diarge of heavy artillery. 

Twenty times had the gun been fired, and it was on the 
point of being loaded for the last time, when the colonel 
laid his hand upon the arm of the man who had the ram- 
rod. " Stop ! " he said ; " we will have a ball this time. 
Let us put the range of the piece to the test." 

" A good idea ! " replied the major. " Corporal, you 
hear the orders." 

In quick time an artillery-wagon was on the spot, and the 
men lifted out a full-sized shot, weighing 200 Ibs., which, 
under ordinary circumstances, the cannon would carry 
about four miles. It was proposed, by means of tele- 
scopes, to note the place where the ball first touched the 
water, and thus to obtain an approximation sufficiently ac- 
curate as to the true range. 

Having been duly charged with powder and ball, the gun 
was raised to an angle of something under 45, so as to 
allow proper development to the curve that the projectile 



72 OFF ON A COMET 

would make, and, at a signal from the major, the light was 
applied to the priming. 

" Heavens ! " " By all that's good ! " exclaimed both of- 
ficers in one breath, as, standing open-mouthed, they hardly 
knew whether they were to believe the evidence of their 
own senses. " Is it possible?" 

The diminution of the force of attraction at the earth's 
surface was so considerable that the ball had sped beyond 
the horizon. 

" Incredible ! " ejaculated the colonel. 

" Incredible ! " echoed the major. 

" Six miles at least! " observed the one. 

" Ay, more than that! " replied the other. 

Awhile, they gazed at the sea and at each other in mute 
amazement. But in the midst of their perplexity, what 
sound was that which startled them? Was it mere fancy? 
Was it the reverberation of the cannon still booming in 
their ears? Or was it not truly the report of another and 
a distant gun in answer to their own? Attentively and 
eagerly they listened. Twice, thrice did the sound repeat 
itself. It was quite distinct. There could be no mistake. 

"I told you so," cried the colonel, triumphantly. "I 
knew our country would not forsake us; it is an English 
ship, no doubt." 

In half an hour two masts were visible above the hori- 
zon. " See! Was I not right? Our country was sure to 
send to our relief. Here is the ship." 

" Yes," replied the major; " she responded to our gun." 

" It is to be hoped," muttered the corporal, " that our 
ball has done her no damage." 

Before long the hull was full in sight. A long trail of 
smoke betokened her to be a steamer; and very soon, by 
the aid of the glass, it could be ascertained that she was 
a schooner-yacht, and making straight for the island. A 
flag at her mast-head fluttered in the breeze, and towards 
this the two officers, with the keenest attention, respectively 
adjusted their focus. 

Simultaneously the two telescopes were lowered. The 
colonel and the major stared at each other in blank aston- 
ishment. " Russian ! " they gasped. 

And true it was that the flag that floated at the head of 
yonder mast was the blue cross of Russia. 



CHAPTER XIV 

SENSITIVE NATIONALITY 

WHEN the schooner had approached the island, the Eng- 
lishmen were able to make out the name " Dobryna" 
painted on the aft-board. A sinuous irregularity of the 
coast had formed a kind of cove, which, though hardly spa- 
cious enough for a few fishing-smacks, would afford the 
yacht a temporary anchorage, so long as the wind did not 
blow violently from either west or south. Into this cove 
the Dobryna was duly signaled, and as soon as she was 
safely moored, she lowered her four-oar, and Count Tim- 
ascheff and Captain Servadac made their way at once to 
land. 

Colonel Heneage Finch Murphy and Major Sir John 
Temple Oliphant stood, grave and prim, formally await- 
ing the arrival of their visitors. Captain Servadac, with 
the uncontrolled vivacity natural to a Frenchman, was the 
first to speak. 

"A joyful sight, gentlemen!" he exclaimed. "It will 
give us unbounded pleasure to shake hands again with some 
of our fellow-creatures. You, no doubt, have escaped the 
same disaster as ourselves." 

But the English officers, neither by word nor gesture, 
made the slightest acknowledgment of this familiar greet- 
ing. 

:< What news can you give us of France, England, or 
Russia ? " continued Servadac, perfectly unconscious of the 
stolid rigidity with which his advances were received. 
" We are anxious to hear anything you can tell us. Have 
you had communications with Europe? Have you " 

" To whom have we the honor of speaking? " at last in- 
terposed Colonel Murphy, in the coldest and most measured 
tone, and drawing himself up to his full height. 

"Ah! how stupid! I forgot," said Servadac, with the 
slightest possible shrug of the shoulders; "we have not 
been introduced." 

Then, with a wave of his hand towards his companion, 
who meanwhile had exhibited a reserve hardly less than 
that of the British officers, he said : 

" Allow me to introduce you to Count Wassili Tima- 
scheff." 

" Major Sir John Temple Oliphant," replied the colonel. 

73 



74 OFF ON A COMET 

The Russian and the Englishman mutually exchanged 
the stiffest of bows. 

" I have the pleasure of introducing Captain Servadac," 
said the count in his turn. 

" And this is Colonel Heneage Finch Murphy," was the 
major's grave rejoinder. 

More bows were interchanged and the ceremony brought 
to its due conclusion. It need hardly be said that the con- 
versation had been carried on in French, a language which 
is generally known both by Russians and Englishmen a 
circumstance that is probably in some measure to be ac- 
counted for by the refusal of Frenchmen to learn either 
Russian or English. 

The formal preliminaries of etiquette being thus com- 
plete, there was no longer any obstacle to a freer inter- 
course. The colonel, signing to his guests to follow, led 
the way to the apartment occupied jointly by himself and 
the major, which, although only a kind of casemate hol- 
lowed in the rock, nevertheless wore a general air of com- 
fort. Major Oliphant accompanied them, and all four 
having taken their seats, the conversation was commenced. 

Irritated and disgusted at all the cold formalities, Hector 
Servadac resolved to leave all the talking to the count ; and 
he, quite aware that the Englishmen would adhere to the 
fiction that they could be supposed to know nothing that 
had transpired previous to the introduction felt himself 
obliged to recapitulate matters from the very beginning. 

"You must be aware, gentlemen/' began the count, 
"that a most singular catastrophe occurred on the ist of 
January last. Its cause, its limits we have utterly failed to 
discover, but from the appearance of the island on which 
we find you here, you have evidently experienced its dev- 
astating consequences." 

The Englishmen, in silence, bowed assent. 

" Captain Servadac, who accompanies me," continued 
the count, "has been most severely tried by the disaster. 
Engaged as he was in an important mission as a staff-offi- 
cer in Algeria " 

"A French colony, I believe," interposed Major Oli- 
phant, half shutting his eyes with an expression of supreme 
indifference. 

Servadac was on the point of making some cutting re- 



SENSITIVE NATIONALITY 75 

tort, but Count Timascheff, without allowing the interrup- 
tion to be noticed, calmly continued his narrative : 

" It was near the mouth of the Shelif that a portion of 
Africa, on that eventful night, was transformed into an 
island which alone survived; the rest of the vast continent 
disappeared as completely as if it had never been." 

The announcement seemed by no means startling to the 
phlegmatic colonel. 

" Indeed ! " was all he said. 

"And where were you?" asked Major Oliphant. 

" I was out at sea, cruising in my yacht ; hard by ; and I 
look upon it as a miracle, and nothing less, that I and my 
crew escaped with our lives." 

" I congratulate you on your luck," replied the major. 

The count resumed : " It was about a month after the 
great disruption that I was sailing my engine having sus- 
tained some damage in the shock along the Algerian 
coast, and had the pleasure of meeting with my previous 
acquaintance, Captain Servadac, who was resident upon 
the island with his orderly, Ben Zoof." 

"Ben who?" inquired the major. 

"Zoof! Ben Zoof!" ejaculated Servadac, who could 
scarcely shout loud enough to relieve his pent-up feelings. 

Ignoring this ebullition of the captain's spleen, the count 
went on to say : " Captain Servadac was naturally most 
anxious to get what news he could. Accordingly, he left 
his servant on the island in charge of his horses, and came 
on board the Dobryna with me. We were quite at a loss to 
know where we should steer, but decided to direct our 
course to what previously had been -the east,- in order that 
we might, if possible, discover the colony of Algeria; but 
of Algeria not a trace remained." 

The colonel curled his lip, insinuating only too plainly 
that to him it was by no means surprising that a Frencn 
colony should be wanting in the element of stability. 
Servadac observed the supercilious look, and half rose to 
his feet, but, smothering his resentment, took his seat again 
without speaking. 

" The devastation, gentlemen," said the count, who per- 
sistently refused to recognize the Frenchman's irritation, 
" everywhere was terrible and complete. Not only was 
Algeria lost, but there was no trace of Tunis, except one 



76 OFF ON A COMET 

solitary rock, which was crowned by an ancient tomb of 
one of the kings of France " 

" Louis the Ninth, I presume," observed the colonel. 

" Saint Louis," blurted out Servadac, savagely. 

Colonel Murphy slightly smiled. 

Proof against all interruption, Count Timascheff, as if 
he had not heard it, went on without pausing. He related 
how the schooner had pushed her way onwards to the 
south, and had reached the Gulf of Cabes ; and how she had 
ascertained for certain that the Sahara Sea had no longer 
an existence. 

The smile of disdain again crossed the colonel's 
face; he could not conceal his opinion that such a destiny 
for the work of a Frenchman could be no matter of sur- 
prise. 

"Our next discovery," continued the count, "was that 
a new coast had been upheaved right along in front of the 
coast of Tripoli, the geological formation of which was 
altogether strange, and which extended to the north as far 
as the proper place of Malta." 

" And Malta," cried Servadac, unable to control himself 
any longer; "Malta town, forts, soldiers, governor, and 
all has vanished just like Algeria." 

For a moment a cloud rested upon the colonel's brow, 
only to give place to an expression of decided incredulity. 

* The statement seems highly incredible," he said. 

" Incredible ? " repeated Servadac. " Why is it that you 
doubt my word ? " 

The captain's rising wrath did not prevent the colonef 
from replying coolly, "Because Malta belongs to Eng- 
land." 

" I can't help that," answered Servadac, sharply ; " it has 
gone just as utterly as if it had belonged to China." 

Colonel Murphy turned deliberately away from Ser- 
vadac, and appealed to the count : " Do you not think you 
may have made some error, count, in reckoning the bear- 
ings of your yacht?" 

" No, colonel, I am quite certain of my reckonings ; and 
not only can I testify that Malta has disappeared, but I can 
affirm that a large section of the Mediterranean has been 
closed in by a new continent. After the most anxious in- 
vestigation, we could discover only one narrow opening in 



SENSITIVE NATIONALITY 77 

all the coast, and it is by following that little channel that 
we have made our way hither. England, I fear, has suf- 
fered grievously by the late catastrophe. Not only has 
Malta been entirely lost, but of the Ionian Islands that were 
under England's protection, there seems to be but little 
left." 

"Ay, you may depend upon it," said Servadac, break- 
ing in upon the conversation petulantly, " your grand resi- 
dent lord high commissioner has not much to congratulate 
himself about in the condition of Corfu." 

The Englishmen were mystified. 

" Corfu, did you say? " asked Major Oliphant. 

"Yes, Corfu; I said Corfu," replied Servadac, with a 
sort of malicious triumph. 

The officers were speechless with astonishment. 

The silence of bewilderment was broken at length by 
Count Timascheff making inquiry whether nothing had 
been heard from England, either by telegraph or by any 
passing ship. 

" No," said the colonel ; " not a ship has passed ; and 
the cable is broken." 

" But do not the Italian telegraphs assist you ? " contin- 
ued the count. 

" Italian ! I do not comprehend you. You must mean 
the Spanish, surely." 

" How? ""demanded Timascheff. 

"Confound it!" cried the impatient Servadac. "What 
matters whether it be Spanish or Italian? Tell us, have 
you had no communication at all from Europe? no news 
of any sort from London? " 

" Hitherto, none whatever," replied the colonel ; adding 
with a stately emphasis, "but we shall be sure to have 
tidings from England before long." 

" Whether England is still in existence or not, I sup- 
pose," said Servadac, in a tone of irony. 

The Englishmen started simultaneously to their feet. 

" England in existence ? " the colonel cried. " England ! 
Ten times more probable that France " 

" France ! " shouted Servadac in a passion. " France 
is not an island that can be submerged; France is an in- 
tegral portion of a solid continent. France, at least, is 
safe." 



78 OFF ON A COMET 

A scene appeared inevitable, and Count TimaschefFs ef- 
forts to conciliate the excited parties were of small avail. 

" You are at home here," said Servadac, with as much 
calmness as he could command ; " it will be advisable, I 
think, for this discussion to be carried on in the open air." 
And hurriedly he left the room. Followed immediately 
by the others, he led the way to a level piece of ground, 
which he considered he might fairly claim as neutral ter- 
ritory. 

" Now, gentlemen," he began haughtily, -" permit me to 
represent that, in spite of any, loss France may have sus- 
tained in the fate of Algeria, France is ready to answer 
any provocation that affects her honor. Here I am the 
representative of my country, and here, on neutral 
ground " 

" Neutral ground ? " objected Colonel Murphy ; " I beg 
your pardon. This, Captain Servadac, is English terri- 
tory. Do you not see the English flag? " and, as he spoke, 
he pointed with national pride to the British standard float- 
ing over the top of the island. 

" Pshaw ! " cried Servadac, with a contemptuous sneer ; 
"that flag, you know, has been hoisted but a few short 
weeks." 

"That flag has floated where it is for ages," asserted 
the colonel. 

" An imposture ! " shouted Servadac, as he stamped! 
with rage. 

Recovering his composure in a degree, he continued : 

"Can you suppose that I am not aware that this island 
on which we find you is what remains of the Ionian 
representative republic, over which you English exercise 
the right of protection, but have no claim of govern- 
ment?" 

The colonel and the major looked at each other in amaze- 
ment. 

^ Although Count Timascheff secretly sympathized with 
Servadac, he had carefully refrained from taking part in 
the dispute; but he was on the point of interfering, when 
the colonel, in a greatly subdued tone, begged to be allowed 
to speak. 

"I begin to apprehend," he said, "that you must be la- 
boring under some strange mistake. There is no room for 



SENSITIVE NATIONALITY 79 

questioning that the territory here is England's England's 
by right of conquest; ceded to England by the Treaty of 
Utrecht. Three times, indeed in 1727, 1779, and 1792 
France and Spain have disputed our title, but always to no 
purpose. You are, I assure you, at the present moment, 
as much on English soil as if you were in London, in the 
middle of Trafalgar Square." 

It was now the turn of the captain and the count to look 
surprised. "Are we not, then, in Corfu?" they asked. 

" You are at Gibraltar," replied the colonel. 

Gibraltar! The word fell like a thunderclap upon their 
ears. Gibraltar! the western extremity of the Mediter- 
ranean! Why, had they not been sailing persistently to 
the east? Could they be wrong in imagining that they had 
reached the Ionian Islands? What new mystery was 
this? 

Count Timascheff was about to proceed with a more 
rigorous investigation, when the attention of all was ar- 
rested by a loud outcry. Turning round, they saw that 
the crew of the Dobryna was in hot dispute with the Eng- 
lish soldiers. A general altercation had arisen from a dis- 
agreement between the sailor Panofka and Corporal Pirn. 
It had transpired that the cannon-ball fired in experiment 
from the island had not only damaged one of the spars of 
the schooner, but had broken Panofka's pipe, and, moreover, 
had just grazed his nose, which, for a Russian's, was un- 
usually long. The discussion over this mishap, led to mu- 
tual recriminations, till the sailors had almost come to 
blows with the garrison. 

Servadac was just in the mood to take Panofka's part, 
which drew from Major Oliphant the remark that England 
could not be held responsible for any accidental injury 
done by her cannon, and if the Russian's long nose came 
in the way of the ball, the Russian must submit to the mis- 
chance. 

This was too much for Count Timascheff, and having 
poured out a torrent of angry invective against the English 
officers, he ordered his crew to embark immediately. 

" We shall meet again," said Servadac, as they pushed 
off from shore. 

" Whenever you please," was the cool reply. 

The geographical mystery haunted the minds of both the 



80 OFF ON A COMET 

count and the captain, and they felt they could never rest 
till they had ascertained what had become of their re- 
spective countries. They were glad to be on board again, 
that they might resume their voyage of investigation, and 
in two hours were out of sight of the sole remaining frag- 
ment of Gibraltar. 



CHAPTER XV 

AN ENIGMA FROM THE SEA 

LIEUTENANT PROCOPE had been left on board in charge 
of the Dobryna, and on resuming the voyage it was a task 
of some difficulty to make him understand the fact that 
had just come to light. Some hours were spent in discus- 
sion and in attempting to penetrate the mysteries of the 
situation. 

There were certain things of which they were perfectly 
certain. They could be under no misapprehension as to 
the distance they had positively sailed from Gourbi Island 
towards the east before their further progress was arrested 
by the unknown shore; as nearly as possible that was fif- 
teen degrees ; the length of the narrow strait by which they 
had made their way across that land to regain the open sea 
was about three miles and a half ; thence onward to the is- 
land, which they had been assured, on evidence that they 
could not disbelieve, to be upon the site of Gibraltar, was 
four degrees; while from Gibraltar to Gourbi Island was 
seven degrees or but little more. What was it altogether? 
Was it not less than thirty degrees? In that latitude, the 
degree of longitude represents eight and forty miles. 
What, then, did it all amount to? Indubitably, to less than 
1,400 miles. So brief a voyage would bring the Dobryna 
once again to her starting-point, or, in other words, would 
enable her to complete the circumnavigation of the globe. 
How changed the condition of things! Previously, to sail 
from Malta to Gibraltar by an eastward course would have 
involved the passage of the Suez Canal, the Red Sea, the 
Indian Ocean, the Pacific, the Atlantic; but what had hap- 
pened now? Why, Gibraltar had been reached as if it had 
been just at Corfu, and some three hundred and thirty de- 
grees of the earth's circuit had vanished utterly. 



AN ENIGMA FROM THE SEA 81 

After allowing for a certain margin of miscalculation, 
the main fact remained undeniable; and the necessary in- 
ference that Lieutenant Procope drew from the round of 
the earth being completed in i ,400 miles, was that the earth's 
diameter had been reduced by about fifteen sixteenths of 
its length. 

"If that be so," observed the count, " it accounts for 
some of the strange phenomena we witness. If our world 
has become so insignificant a spheroid, not only has its 
gravity diminished, but its rotary speed has been accele- 
rated ; and this affords an adequate explanation of our days 
and nights being thus curtailed. But how about the new 
orbit in which we are moving?" 

He paused and pondered, and then looked at Procope 
as though awaiting from him some further elucidation of 
the difficulty. The lieutenant hesitated. When, in a few 
moments, he began to speak, Servadac smiled intelligently, 
anticipating the answer he was about to hear. 

" My conjecture is," said Procope, " that a fragment of 
considerable magnitude has been detached from the earth; 
that it has carried with it an envelope of the earth's atmos- 
phere, and that it is now traveling through the solar system 
in an orbit that does not correspond at all with the proper 
orbit of the earth." 

The hypothesis was plausible; but what a multitude of 
bewildering speculations it entailed ! If, in truth, a certain 
mass had been broken off from the terrestrial sphere, 
whither would it wend its way ? What would be the meas- 
ure of the eccentricity of its path? What would be its 
period round the sun? Might it not, like a comet, be car- 
ried away into the vast infinity of space? or, on the other 
hand, might it not be attracted to the great central source 
of light and heat, and be absorbed in it? Did its orbit 
correspond with the orbit of the ecliptic? and was there no 
chance of its ever uniting again with the globe, from which 
it had been torn off by so sudden and violent a disruption ? 

A thoughtful silence fell upon them all, which Servadac 
was the first to break. " Lieutenant," he said, " your ex- 
planation is ingenious, and accounts for many appearances ; 
but it seems to me that in one point it fails." 

" How so ? " replied Procope. " To my mind the theory 
meets all objections." 

V. IX Verne 



82 OFF ON A COMET 

" I think not," Servadac answered. " In one point, at 
least, it appears to me ta break down completely." 

" What is that? " asked the lieutenant. 

" Stop a moment," said the captain. " Let us see that 
we understand each other right. Unless I mistake you, 
your hypothesis is that a fragment of the earth, comprising 
the Mediterranean and its shores from Gibraltar to Malta, 
has been developed into a new asteroid, which is started on 
an independent orbit in the solar regions. Is not that 
your meaning?" 

" Precisely so," the lieutenant acquiesced. 

" Well, then," continued Servadac, " it seems to me to 
be at fault in this respect: it fails, and fails completely, 
to account for the geological character of the land that we 
have found now encompassing this sea. Why, if the new 
land is a fragment of the old why does it not retain its 
old formation? What has become of the granite and the 
calcareous deposits? How is it that these should all be 
changed into a mineral concrete with which we have no 
acquaintance ? " 

No doubt, it was a serious objection; for, however likely 
it might be that a mass of the earth on being detached 
would be eccentric in its movements, there was no prob- 
able reason to be alleged why the material of its substance 
should undergo so complete a change. There was noth- 
ing to account for the fertile shores, rich in vegetation, 
being transformed into rocks arid and barren beyond pre- 
cedent. 

The lieutenant felt the difficulty, and owned himself un- 
prepared to give at once an adequate solution ; nevertheless, 
he declined to renounce his theory. He asserted that the 
arguments in favor of it carried conviction to his mind, 
and that he entertained no doubt but that, in the course 
of time, all apparently antagonistic circumstances would 
be explained so as to become consistent with the view he 
took. He was careful, however, to make it understood 
that with respect to the original cause of the disruption 
he had no theory to offer; and although he knew what 
expansion might be the result of subterranean forces, he 
did not venture to say that he considered it sufficient to 
produce so tremendous an effect. The origin of the catas- 
trophe was a problem still to be solved. 



AN ENIGMA FROM THE SEA 83 

" Ah ! well," said Servadac, " I don't know that it mat- 
ters much where our new little planet comes from, or what 
it is made of, if only it carries France along with it." 

" And Russia," added the count. 

"And Russia, of course," said Servadac, with a polite 
bow. 

There was, however, not much room for this sanguine 
expectation, for if a new asteroid had thus been brought 
into existence, it must be a sphere of extremely limited 
dimensions, and there could be little chance that it em- 
braced more than the merest fraction of either France or 
Russia. As to England, the total cessation of all tele- 
graphic communication between her shores and Gibraltar 
was a virtual proof that England was beyond its compass. 

And what was the true measurement of the new little 
world? At Gourbi Island the days and nights were of 
equal length, and this seemed to indicate that it was sit- 
uated on the equator; hence the distance by which the two 
poles stood apart would be half what had been reckoned 
would be the distance completed by the Dobryna in her 
circuit. That distance had been already estimated to be 
something under 1,400 miles, so that the Arctic Pole of 
their recently fashioned world must be about 350 miles 
to the north, and the Antarctic about 350 miles to the 
south of the island. Compare these calculations with the 
map, and it is at once apparent that the northernmost 
limit barely touched the coast of Provence, while the 
southernmost reached to about lat. 29 N., and fell in the 
heart of the desert. The practical test of these conclusions 
would be made by future investigation, but meanwhile the 
fact appeared very much to strengthen the presumption 
that, if Lieutenant Procope had not arrived at the whole 
truth, he had made a considerable advance towards it. 

The weather, ever since the storm that had driven the 
Dobryna into the creek, had been magnificent. The wind 
continued favorable, and now under both steam and can- 
vas, she made a rapid progress towards the north, a direc- 
tion in which she was free to go in consequence of the 
total disappearance of the Spanish coast, from Gibraltar 
right away to Alicante. Malaga, Almeria, Cape Gata, Car- 
thagena, Cape Palos all were gone. The sea was rolling 
over the southern extent of the peninsula, so that the yacht 



84 OFF ON A COMET 

advanced to the latitude of Seville before it sighted any 
land at all, and then, not shores such as the shores of 
Andalusia, but a bluff and precipitous cliff, in its geological 
features resembling exactly the stern and barren rock that 
she had coasted beyond the site of Malta. Here the sea 
made a decided indentation on the coast; it ran up in an 
acute-angled triangle till its apex coincided with the very 
spot upon which Madrid had stood. But as hitherto the 
sea had encroached upon the land, the land in its turn 
now encroached upon the sea; for a frowning headland 
stood out far into the basin of the Mediterranean, and 
formed a promontory stretching out beyond the proper 
places of the Balearic Isles. Curiosity was all alive. 
There was the intensest interest awakened to determine 
whether no vestige could be traced of Majorca, Minorca, 
or any of the group, and it was during a deviation from 
the direct course for the purpose of a more thorough 
scrutiny, that one of the sailors raised a thrill of general 
excitement by shouting, " A bottle in the sea ! " 

Here, then, at length was a communication from the 
outer world. Surely now they would find a document 
which would throw some light upon all the mysteries that 
had happened ? Had not the day now dawned that should 
set their speculations all at rest? 

It was the morning of the 21 st of February. The count, 
the captain, the lieutenant, everybody hurried to the fore- 
castle; the schooner was dexterously put about, and all 
was eager impatience until the supposed bottle was hauled 
on deck. 

It was not, however, a bottle; it proved to be a round 
leather telescope-case, about a foot long, and the first thing 
to do before investigating its contents was to make a care- 
ful examination of its exterior. The lid was fastened on 
by wax, and so securely that it would take a long immersion 
before any water could penetrate; there was no maker's 
name to be deciphered; but impressed very plainly with a 
seal on the wax were the two initials " P. R." 

When the scrutiny of the outside was finished, the wax 
was removed and the cover opened, and the lieutenant 
drew out a slip of ruled paper, evidently torn from a com- 
mon note-book. The paper had an inscription written in 
four lines, which were remarkable for the profusion of 



AN ENIGMA FROM THE SEA 85 

notes of admiration and interrogation with which they 
were interspersed: 
"Gallia??? 

Ab sole, au 15 fev. 59,000,000 1. ! 
Chemin parcouru de janv. a fev. 82,000,000 1. !! 
Vabene! All right!! Parfait!!! 

There was a general sigh of disappointment. They 
turned the paper over and over, and handed it from one to 
another. "What does it all mean? " exclaimed the count. 

" Something mysterious here ! " said Servadac. " But 
yet," he continued, after a pause, " one thing is tolerably 
certain: on the I5th, six days ago, someone was alive to 
write it." 

" Yes ; I presume there is no reason to doubt the ac- 
curacy of the date," assented the count. 

To this strange conglomeration of French, English, 
Italian, and Latin, there was no signature attached; nor 
was there anything to give a clue as to the locality in which 
it had been committed to the waves. A telescope-case 
would probably be the property of some one on board a 
ship ; and the figures obviously referred to the astronomical 
wonders that had been experienced. 

To these general observations Captain Servadac ob- 
jected that he thought it unlikely that any one on board a 
ship would use a telescope-case for this purpose, but would 
be sure to use a bottle as being more secure; and, accord- 
ingly, he should rather be inclined to believe that the mes- 
sage had been set afloat by some savant left alone, per- 
chance, upon some isolated coast. 

" But, however interesting it might be," observed the 
count, " to know the author of the lines, to us it is of far 
greater moment to ascertain their meaning." 

And taking up the paper again, he said, " Perhaps we 
might analyze it word by word, and from its detached parts 
gather some clue to its sense as a whole." 

" What can be the meaning of all that cluster of inter- 
rogations after Gallia?" asked Servadac. 

Lieutenant Procope, who had hitherto not spoken, now 
broke his silence by saying, " I beg, gentlemen, to submit 
my opinion that this document goes very far to confirm 
my hypothesis that a fragment of the earth has been pre- 
cipitated into space." 



86 OFF ON A COMET 

Captain Servadac hesitated, and then replied, " Even if 
it does, I do not see how it accounts in the least for the 
geological character of the new asteroid." 

" But will you allow me for one minute to take my sup- 
position for granted?" said Procope. "If a new little 
planet has been formed, as I imagine, by disintegration 
from the old, I should conjecture that Gallia is the name 
assigned to it by the writer of this paper. The very notes 
of interrogation are significant that he was in doubt what 
he should write." 

" You would presume that he was a Frenchman ? " asked 
the count. 

" I should think so," replied the lieutenant. 

" Not much doubt about that," said Servadac ; " it is all 
in French, except a few scattered words of English, Latin, 
and Italian, inserted to attract attention. He could not 
tell into whose hands the message would fall first." 

" Well, then," said Count Timascheff, " we seem to have 
found a name for the new world we occupy." 

" But what I was going especially to observe," continued 
the lieutenant, " is that the distance, 59,000,000 leagues, 
represents precisely the distance we ourselves were from 
the sun on the I5th. It was on that day we crossed the 
orbit of Mars." 

" Yes, true," assented the others. 

"And the next line," said the lieutenant, after reading 
it aloud, " apparently registers the distance traversed by 
Gallia, the new little planet, in her own orbit. Her speed, 
of course, we know by Kepler's laws, would vary according 
to her distance from the sun, and if she were as I conjec- 
ture from the temperature at that date on the I5th of 
January at her perihelion, she would be traveling twice as 
fast as the earth, which moves at the rate of between 50,- 
ooo and 60,000 miles an hour." 

" You think, then," said Servadac, with a smile, " you 
have determined the perihelion of our orbit ; but how about 
the aphelion? Can you form a judgment as to what dis- 
tance we are likely to be carried ? " 

' You are asking too much," remonstrated the count. 

" I confess," said the lieutenant, " that just at present I 
am not able to clear away the uncertainty of the future; 
but I feel confident that by careful observation at various 



AN ENIGMA FROM THE SEA 87 

points we shall arrive at conclusions which not only will 
determine our path, but perhaps may clear up the mystery 
about our geological structure." 

"Allow me to ask," said Count TimaschefF, "whether 
such a new aster iod would not be subject to ordinary me- 
chanical laws, and whether, once started, it would not have 
an orbit that must be immutable ? " 

" Decidedly it would, so long as it was undisturbed by 
the attraction of some considerable body; but we must 
recollect that, compared to the great planets, Gallia must 
be almost infmitesimally small, and so might be attracted 
by a force that is irresistible." 

" Altogether, then," said Servadac, " we seem to have 
settled it to our entire satisfaction that we must be the 
population of a young little world called Gallia. Perhaps 
some day we may have the honor of being registered 
among the minor planets." 

" No chance of that," quickly rejoined Lieutenant 
Procope. " Those minor planets all are known to rotate 
in a narrow zone between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter; 
in their perihelia they cannot approximate the sun as we 
have done ; we shall not be classed with them." 

" Our lack of instruments," said the count, " is much to 
be deplored; it baffles our investigations in every way." 

" Ah, never mind ! Keep up your courage, count ! " said 
Servadac, cheerily. 

And Lieutenant Procope renewed his assurances that 
he entertained good hopes that every perplexity would soon 
be solved. 

" I suppose," remarked the count, " that we cannot at- 
tribute much importance to the last line : 

' Va bene! All right! ! Parfait ! ! ! '." 

The captain answered, " At least, it shows that whoever 
wrote it had no murmuring or complaint to make, but 
was quite content with the new order of things." 



CHAPTER XVI 

THE RESIDUUM OF A CONTINENT 

ALMOST unconsciously, the voyagers in the Dobryna fell 
into the habit of using Gallia as the name of the new 



88 OFF ON A COMET 

world in which they became aware they must be making 
an extraordinary excursion through the realms of space. 
Nothing, however, was allowed to divert them from their 
ostensible object of making a survey of the coast of the 
Mediterranean, and accordingly they persevered in follow- 
ing that singular boundary which had revealed itself to 
their extreme astonishment. 

Having rounded the great promontory that had barred 
her farther progress to the north, the schooner skirted its 
upper edge. A few more leagues and they ought to be 
abreast of the shores of France. Yes, of France. 

But who shall describe the feelings of Hector Servadac 
when, instead of the charming outline of his native land, he 
beheld nothing but a solid boundary of savage rock? Who 
shall paint the look of consternation with which he gazed 
upon the stony rampart rising perpendicularly for a thou- 
sand feet that had replaced the shores of the smiling 
south? Who shall reveal the burning anxiety with which 
he throbbed to see beyond that cruel wall? 

But there seemed no hope. Onwards and onwards the 
yacht made her way, and still no sign of France. It might 
have been supposed that Servadac's previous experiences 
would have prepared him for the discovery that the catas- 
trophe which had overwhelmed other sites had brought de- 
struction to his own country as well. But he had failed to 
realize how it might extend to France; and when now he 
was obliged with his own eyes to witness the waves of 
ocean rolling over what once had been the lovely shores of 
Provence, he was well-nigh frantic with desperation. 

"Am I to believe that Gourbi Island, that little shred 
of Algeria, constitutes all that is left of our glorious 
France? No, no; it cannot be. Not yet have we reached 
the pole of our new world. There is there must be 
something more behind that frowning rock. Oh, that for 
a moment we could scale its towering height and look be- 
yond! By Heaven, I adjure you, let us disembark, and 
mount the summit and explore! France lies beyond." 

Disembarkation, however, was an utter impossibility. 
There was no semblance of a creek in which the Dobryna 
could find an anchorage. There was no outlying ridge on 
which a footing could be gained. The precipice was per- 
pendicular as a wall, its topmost height crowned with the 



THE RESIDUUM OF H CONTINENT 89 

same conglomerate of crystallized lamellae .that had all 
along been so pronounced a feature. 

With her steam at high pressure, the yacht made rapid 
progress towards the east. The weather remained per- 
fectly fine, the temperature became gradually cooler, so 
that there was little prospect of vapors accumulating in 
the atmosphere ; and nothing more than a few cirri, almost 
transparent, veiled here and there the clear azure of the 
sky. Throughout the day the pale rays of the sun, appar- 
ently lessened in its magnitude, cast only faint and some- 
what uncertain shadows; but at night the stars shone with 
surpassing brilliancy. Of the planets, some, it was ob- 
served, seemed to be fading away in remote distance. This 
was the case with Mars, Venus, and that unknown orb 
which was moving in the orbit of the minor planets; but 
Jupiter, on the other hand, had assumed splendid propor- 
tions; Saturn was superb in its luster, and Uranus, which 
hitherto had been imperceptible without a telescope was 
pointed out by Lieutenant Procope, plainly visible to the 
naked eye. The inference was irresistible that Gallia was 
receding from the sun, and traveling far away across the 
planetary regions. 

On the 24th of February, after following the sinuous 
course of what before the date of the convulsion had been 
the coast line of the department of Var, and after a fruit- 
less search for Hyeres, the peninsula of St. Tropez, the 
Lerius Islands, and the gulfs of Cannes and Jouar, the 
Dobryna arrived upon the site of the Cape of Antibes. 

Here, quite unexpectedly, the explorers made the dis- 
covery that the massive wall of cliff had been rent from the 
top to the bottom by a narrow rift, like the dry bed of a 
mountain torrent, and at the base of the opening, level 
with the sea, was a little strand upon which there was just 
space enough for their boat to be hauled up. 

"Joy! joy!" shouted Servadac, half beside himself with 
ecstasy ; " we can land at last ! " 

Count Timascheff and the lieutenant were scarcely less 
impatient than the captain, and little needed his urgent 
and repeated solicitations : " Come on ! Quick ! Come on ! 
no time to lose ! " 

It was half -past seven in the morning, when they set 
their foot upon this untried land. The bit of strand was 



90 OFF ON A COMET 

only a few square yards in area, quite a narrow strip. 
Upon it might have been recognized some fragments of 
that agglutination of yellow limestone which is charac- 
teristic of the coast of Provence. But the whole party was 
far too eager to wait and examine these remnants of the 
ancient shore; they hurried on to scale the heights. 

The narrow ravine was not only perfectly dry, but 
manifestly had never been the bed of any mountain torrent. 
The rocks that rested at the bottom just as those which 
formed its sides were of the same lamellous formation as 
the entire coast, and had not hitherto been subject to the 
disaggregation which the lapse of time never fails to work. 
A skilled geologist would probably have been able to assign 
them their proper scientific classification, but neither 
Servadac, Timascheff, nor the lieutenant could pretend to 
any acquaintance with their specific character. 

Although, however, the bottom of the chasm had never 
as yet been the channel of a stream, indications were not 
wanting that at some future time it would be the natural 
outlet of accumulated waters; for already, in many places, 
thin layers of snow were glittering upon the surface of the 
fractured rocks, and the higher the elevation that was 
gained, the more these layers were found to increase in 
area and in depth. 

" Here is a trace of fresh water, the first that Gallia has 
exhibited," said the count to his companions, as they toiled 
up the precipitous path. 

"And probably," replied the lieutenant, "as we ascend 
we shall find not only snow but ice. We must suppose 
this Gallia of ours to be a sphere, and if it is so, we must 
now be very close to her Arctic regions ; it is true that her 
axis is not so much inclined as to prolong day and night 
as at the poles of the earth, but the rays of the sun must 
reach us here only very obliquely, and the cold, in all likeli- 
hood, will be intense." 

" So cold, do you think," asked Servadac, " that animal 
life must be extinct ? " 

" I do not say that, captain," answered the lieutenant ; 
" for, however far our little world may be removed from 
the sun, I do not see why its temperature should fall below 
what prevails in those outlying regions beyond our system 
where sky and air are not." 



THE RESIDUUM OF A CONTINENT 91 

"And wha* temperature may that be?" inquired the 
captain with a shudder. 

"Fourier estimates that even in those vast unfathom- 
able tracts the temperature never descends lower than 60, " 
said Procope. 

" Sixty ! Sixty degrees below zero ! " cried the count. 
" Why, there's not a Russian could endure it ! " 

" I beg your pardon, count. It is placed on record that 
the English have survived it, or something quite approxi- 
mate, upon their Arctic expeditions. When Captain Parry 
was on Melville Island, he knew the thermometer to fall- 
to 56," said Procope. 

As the explorers advanced, they seemed glad to pause 
from time to time, that they might recover their breath; 
for the air, becoming more and more rarefied, made respira- 
tion somewhat difficult and the ascent fatiguing. Before 
they had reached an altitude of 600 feet they noticed a 
sensible diminution of the temperature; but neither cold 
nor fatigue deterred them, and they were resolved to per- 
severe. Fortunately, the deep striae or furrows in the sur- 
face of the rocks that made the bottom of the ravine in 
some degree facilitated their progress, but it was not until 
they had been toiling up for two hours more that they 
succeeded in reaching the summit of the cliff. 

Eagerly and anxiously did they look around. To the 
south there was nothing but the sea they had traversed; 
to the north, nothing but one drear, inhospitable 
stretch. 

Servadac could not suppress a cry of dismay. Where 
was his beloved France? Had he gained this arduous height 
only to behold the rocks carpeted with ice and snow, and 
reaching interminably to the far-off horizon? His heart 
sank within him. 

The whole region appeared to consist of nothing but 
the same strange, uniform mineral conglomerate, crystal- 
lized into regular hexagonal prisms. But whatever was its 
geological character, it was only too evident that it had 
entirely replaced the former soil, so that not a vestige of 
the old continent of Europe could be discerned. The 
lovely scenery of Provence, with the grace of its rich and 
undulating landscape; its gardens of citrons and oranges 
rising tier upon tier from the deep red soil all, all had 



92 OFF ON A COMET 

vanished. Of the vegetable kingdom, there was not a single 
representative; the most meager of Arctic plants, the most 
insignificant of lichens, could obtain no hold upon that 
stony waste. Nor did the animal world assert the feeblest 
sway. The mineral kingdom reigned supreme. 

Captain Servadac's deep dejection was in strange con- 
trast to his general hilarity. Silent and tearful, he stood 
upon an ice-bound rock, straining his eyes across the bound- 
less vista of the mysterious territory. "It cannot be!" 
he exclaimed. "We must somehow have mistaken our 
bearings. True, we have encountered this barrier; but 
France is there beyond! Yes, France is there! Come, 
count, come! By all that's pitiful, I entreat you, come 
and explore the farthest verge of the ice-bound 
track!" 

He pushed onwards along the rugged surface of the 
rock, but had not proceeded far before he came to a sudden 
pause. His foot had come in contact with something hard 
beneath the snow, and, stooping down, he picked up a little 
block of stony substance, which the first glance revealed 
to be of a geological character altogether alien to the uni- 
versal rocks around. It proved to be a fragment of dis- 
colored marble, on which several letters were inscribed, 
of which the only part at all decipherable was the syllable 
" Vil." 

" Vil Villa ! " he cried out, in his excitement dropping 
the marble, which was broken into atoms by the fall. 

What else could this fragment be but the sole surviving 
remnant of some sumptuous mansion that once had stood 
on this unrivaled site? Was it not the residue of some 
edifice that had crowned the luxuriant headland of Antibes, 
overlooking Nice, and commanding the gorgeous pano- 
rama that embraced the Maritime Alps and reached be- 
yond Monaco and Mentone to the Italian height of 
Bordighera? And did it not give in its sad and too con- 
vincing testimony that Antibes itself had been involved in 
the great destruction? Servadac gazed upon the shattered 
marble, pensive and disheartened. 

Count Timascheff laid his hand kindly on the captain's 
shoulder, and said, " My friend, do you not remember the 
motto of the old Hope family? " 

He shook his head mournfully. 



THE RESIDUUM OF A CONTINENT 93 

" Orbe fracto, spes illcesa" continued the count 
" Though the world be shattered, hope is unimpaired." 

Servadac smiled faintly, and replied that he felt rather 
compelled to take up the despairing cry of Dante, " All 
hope abandon, ye who enter here." 

" Nay, not so," answered the count ; " for the present 
at least, let our maxim be Nil desperandum!" 



CHAPTER XVII 

A SECOND ENIGMA 

UPON re-embarking, the bewildered explorers began to 
discuss the question whether it would not now be desirable 
to make their way back to Gourbi Island, which was ap- 
parently the only spot in their new world from which they 
could hope to derive their future sustenance. Captain 
Servadac tried to console himself with the reflection that 
Gourbi Island was, after all, a fragment of a French 
colony, and as such almost like a bit of his dear France; 
and the plan of returning thither was on the point of being 
adopted, when Lieutenant Procope remarked that they 
ought to remember that they had not hitherto made an 
entire circuit of the new shores of the sea on which they 
were sailing. 

" We have," he said, " neither investigated the northern 
shore from the site of Cape Antibes to the strait that 
brought us to Gibraltar, nor have we followed the southern 
shore that stretches from the strait to the Gulf of Cabes. 
It is the old coast, and not the new, that we have been 
tracing; as yet, we cannot say positively that there is no 
outlet to the south; as yet, we cannot assert that no oasis 
of the African desert has escaped the catastrophe. Per : 
haps, even here in the north, we may find that Italy and 
Sicily and the larger islands of the Mediterranean may 
still maintain their existence." 

" I entirely concur with you," said Count Timascheff. 
" I quite think we ought to make our survey of the con- 
fines of this new basin as complete as possible before we 
withdraw." 

Servadac, although he acknowledged the justness of these 
observations, could not help pleading that the explorations 



94 OFF ON A COMET 

might be deferred until after a visit had been paid to Gourbi 
Island. 

" Depend upon it, captain, you are mistaken," replied 
the lieutenant; " the right thing to do is to use the Dobryna 
while she is available." 

"Available! What do you mean?" asked the count, 
somewhat taken by surprise. 

" I mean," said Procope, " that the farther this Gallia 
of ours recedes from the sun, the lower the temperature will 
fall. It is likely enough, I think, that before long the sea 
will be frozen over, and navigation will be impossible. 
Already you have learned something of the difficulties of 
traversing a field of ice, and I am sure, therefore, you will 
acquiesce in my wish to continue our explorations while 
the water is still open." 

" No doubt you are right, lieutenant," said the count. 
" We will continue our search while we can for some 
remaining fragment of Europe. Who shall tell whether 
we may not meet with some more survivors from the 
catastrophe, to whom it might be in our power to afford 
assistance, before we go into our winter quarters?" 

Generous and altogether unselfish as this sentiment 
really was, it was obviously to the general interest that 
they should become acquainted, and if possible establish 
friendly relations, with any human inhabitant who might 
be sharing their own strange destiny in being rolled away 
upon a new planet into the infinitude of space. All differ- 
ence of race, all distinction of nationality, must be merged 
into the one thought that, few as they were, they were the 
sole surviving representatives of a world which it seemed 
exceedingly improbable that they would ever see again; 
and common sense dictated that they were bound to direct 
all their energies to insure that their asteroid should at 
least have a united and sympathizing population. 
^ It was on the 25th of February that the yacht left the 
little creek in which she had taken refuge, and setting off 
at full steam eastwards, she continued her way along the 
northern shore. A brisk breeze tended to increase the 
keenness of the temperature, the thermometer being, on an 
average, about two degrees below zero. Salt water freezes 
only at a lower temperature than fresh; the course of the 
Dobryna was therefore unimpeded by ice, but it could not 



A SECOND ENIGMA 95 

be concealed that there was the greatest necessity to main- 
tain the utmost possible speed. 

The nights continued lovely; the chilled condition of the 
atmosphere prevented the formation of clouds; the con- 
stellations gleamed forth with unsullied luster; and, much 
as Lieutenant Procope, from nautical considerations, might 
regret the absence of the moon, he could not do otherwise 
than own that the magnificent nights of Gallia were such 
as must awaken the enthusiasm of an astronomer. And, 
as if to compensate for the loss of the moonlight, the 
heavens were illuminated by a superb shower of falling 
stars, far exceeding, both in number and in brilliancy, the 
phenomena which are commonly distinguished as the Au- 
gust and November meteors; in fact, Gallia was passing 
through that meteoric ring which is known to lie exterior 
to the earth's orbit, but almost concentric with it. The 
rocky coast, its metallic surface reflecting the glow of the 
dazzling luminaries, appeared literally stippled with light, 
whilst the sea, as though spattered with burning hailstones, 
shone with a phosphorescence that was perfectly splendid. 
So great, however, was the speed at which Gallia was 
receding from the sun, that this meteoric storm lasted 
scarcely more than four and twenty hours. 

Next day the direct progress of the Dobryna was 
arrested by a long projection of land, which obliged her 
to turn southwards, until she reached what formerly would 
have been the southern extremity of Corsica. Of this, 
however, there was now no trace; the Strait of Boni- 
facio had been replaced by a vast expanse of water, which 
had at first all the appearance of being utterly desert; but 
on the following morning the explorers unexpectedly 
sighted a little island, which, unless it should prove, as was 
only too likely, to be of recent origin they concluded, from 
its situation, must be a portion of the northernmost terri- 
tory of Sardinia. 

The Dobryna approached the land as nearly as was 
prudent, the boat was lowered, and in a few minutes the 
count and Servadac had landed upon the islet, which was 
a mere plot of meadow land, not much more than two 
acres in extent, dotted here and there with a few myrtle- 
bushes and lentisks, interspersed with some ancient olives. 
Having ascertained, as they imagined, that the spot was 



96 OFF ON A COMET 

devoid of living creature, they were on the point of return- 
ing to their boat, when their attention was arrested by a 
faint bleating, and immediately afterwards a solitary she- 
goat came bounding towards the shore. The creature had 
dark, almost black hair, and small curved horns, and was a 
specimen of that domestic breed which, with considerable 
justice, has gained for itself the title of " the poor man's 
cow." So far from being alarmed at the presence of 
strangers, the goat ran nimbly towards them, and then, by 
its movements and plaintive cries, seemed to be enticing 
them to follow it. 

" Come/' said Servadac ; " let us see where it will lead 
us ; it is more than probable it is not alone." 

The count agreed; and the animal, as if comprehending 
what was said, trotted on gently for about a hundred paces, 
and stopped in front of a kind of cave or burrow that was 
half concealed by a grove of lentisks. Here a little girl, 
seven or eight years of age, with rich brown hair and 
lustrous dark eyes, beautiful as one of Murillo's angels, 
was peeping shyly through the branches. Apparently dis- 
covering nothing in the aspect of the strangers to excite her 
apprehensions, the child suddenly gained confidence, darted 
forwards with outstretched hands, and in a voice, soft and 
melodious as the language which she spoke, said in Italian : 

" I like you'; you will not hurt me, will you? " 

" Hurt you, my child ? " answered Servadac. " No, in- 
deed; we will be your friends; we will take care of you." 

And after a few moments' scrutiny of the pretty maiden, 
he added : 

"Tell us your name, little one." 

" Nina ! " was the child's reply. 

" Well, then, Nina, can you tell us where we are ? " 

" At Madalena, I think," said the little girl ; " at least, 
I know I was there when that dreadful shock came and 
altered everything." 

The count knew that Madalena was close to Caprera, to 
the north of Sardinia, which had entirely disappeared in 
the disaster. By dint of a series of questions, he gained 
from the child a very intelligent account of her experiences. 
She told him that she had no parents, and had been em- 
ployed in taking care of a flock of goats belonging to one 
of the landowners, when one day, all of a sudden, every- 



A SECOND ENIGMA 97 

thing around her, except this little piece of land, had been 
swallowed up, and that she and Marzy, her pet goat, had 
been left quite alone. She went on to say that at first she 
had been very frightened; but when she found that the 
earth did not shake any more, she had thanked the great 
God, and had soon made herself very happy living with 
Marzy. She had enough food, she said, and had been 
waiting for a boat to fetch her, and now a boat had come 
and she was quite ready to go away ; only they must let her 
goat go with her: they would both like so much to get 
back to the old farm. 

" Here, at least, is one nice little inhabitant of Gallia," 
said Captain Servadac, as he caressed the child and con- 
ducted her to the boat. 

Half an hour later, both Nina and Marzy were safely 
quartered on board the yacht. It is needless to say that 
they received the heartiest of welcomes. The Russian 
sailors, ever superstitious, seemed almost to regard the com- 
ing of the child as the appearance of an angel; and, in- 
credible as it may seem, more than one of them wondered 
whether she had wings, and amongst themselves they com- 
monly referred to her as " the little Madonna." 

Soon out of sight of Madalena, the Dobryna for some 
hours held a southeasterly course along the shore, which 
here was fifty leagues in advance of the former coast-line 
of Italy, demonstrating that a new continent must have 
been formed, substituted as it were for the old peninsula, 
of which not a vestige could be identified. At a latitude 
corresponding with the latitude of Rome, the sea took the 
form of a deep gulf, extending back far beyond the site of 
the Eternal City; the coast making a wide sweep round to 
the former position of Calabria, and jutting far beyond 
the outline of " the boot," which Italy resembles. But the 
beacon of Messina was not to be discerned; no trace, in- 
deed, survived of any portion of Sicily; the very peak of 
Etna, 11,000 feet as it had reared itself above the level 
of the sea, had vanished utterly. 

Another sixty leagues to the south, and the Dobryna 
sighted the entrance of the strait which had afforded her 
so providential a refuge from the tempest, and had con- 
ducted her to the fragmentary relic of Gibraltar. Hence 
to the Gulf of Cabes had been already explored, and as it 

Y. IX Verne 



98 OFF ON A COMET 

was universally allowed that it was unnecessary to renew 
the search in that direction, the lieutenant started off in a 
transverse course, towards a point hitherto uninvestigated. 
That point was reached on the 3rd of March, and thence 
the coast was continuously followed, as it led through what 
had been Tunis, across the province of Constantine, away 
to the oasis of Ziban; where, taking a sharp turn, it first 
reached a latitude of 32, and then returned again, thus 
forming a sort of irregular gulf, enclosed by the same un- 
varying border of mineral concrete. This colossal boun- 
dary then stretched away for nearly 150 leagues over the 
Sahara desert, and, extending to the south of Gourbi Is- 
land, occupied what, if Morocco had still existed, would 
have been its natural frontier. 

Adapting her course to these deviations of the coast- 
line, the Dobryna was steering northwards, and had barely 
reached the limit of the bay, when the attention of all on 
board was arrested by the phenomenon of a volcano, at 
" least 3,000 feet high, its crater crowned with smoke, which 
occasionally was streaked by tongues of flame. 
" A burning mountain ! " they exclaimed. 
" Gallia, then, has some internal heat," said Servadac. 
"And why not, captain? " rejoined the lieutenant. " If 
our asteroid has carried with it a portion of the old earth's 
atmosphere, why should it not likewise retain something of 
its central fire? " 

" Ah, well ! " said the captain, shrugging his shoulders, 
"I dare say there is caloric enough in our little world to 
supply the wants of its population." 

Count Timascheff interrupted the silence that followed 
this conversation by saying, " And now, gentlemen, as our 
course has brought us on our way once more towards 
Gibraltar, what do you say to our renewing our acquaintance 
with the Englishmen? They will be interested in the re- 
sult of our voyage." 

" For my part," said Servadac, " I have no desire that 
way. They know where to find Gourbi Island; they can 
betake themselves thither just when they please. They 
have plenty of provisions. If the water freezes, 120 
leagues is no very great distance. The reception they gave 
us was not so cordial that we need -put ourselves out of the 
way to repeat our visit." 



A SECOND ENIGMA 99 

" What you say is too true," replied the count. " I hope 
we shall show them better manners when they condescend 
to visit us." 

"Ay," said Servadac, "we must remember that we are 
all one people now; no longer Russian, French, or English. 
Nationality is extinct." 

" I am sadly afraid, however," continued the count, 
" that an Englishman will be an Englishman ever." 

" Yes," said the captain, " that is always their 
failing." 

And thus all further thought of making their way again 
to the little garrison of Gibraltar was abandoned. 

But even if their spirit of courtesy had disposed them to 
renew their acquaintance with the British officers, there 
were two circumstances that just then would have rendered 
such a proposal very unadvisable. In the first place, 
Lieutenant Procope was convinced that it could not be 
much longer now before the sea would be entirely frozen; 
and, besides this, the consumption of their coal, through the 
speed they had maintained, had been so great that there 
was only too much reason to fear that fuel would fail 
them. Anyhow, the strictest economy was necessary, and 
it was accordingly resolved that the voyage should not be 
much prolonged. Beyond the volcanic peak, moreover, 
the waters seemed to expand into a boundless ocean, and 
it might be a thing full of risk to be frozen up while the 
yacht was so inadequately provisioned. Taking all these 
things into account, it was agreed that further investi- 
gations should be deferred to a more favorable season, 
and that, without delay, the Dobryna should return to 
Gourbi Island. 

This decision was especially welcome to Hector Ser- 
vadac, who, throughout the whole of the last five weeks, 
had been agitated by much anxious thought on account 
of the faithful servant he had left behind. 

The transit from the volcano to the island was not long, 
and was marked by only one noticeable incident. This 
was the finding of a second mysterious document, in char- 
acter precisely similar to what they had found before. 
The writer of it was evidently engaged upon a calculation, 
probably continued from day to day, as to the motions of 
the planet Gallia upon its orbit, and committing the results 



loo OFF ON A COMET 

of his reckonings to the waves as the channel of communi- 
cation. 

Instead of being enclosed in a telescope-case, it^ was 
this time secured in a preserved-meat tin, hermetically 
sealed, and stamped with the same initials on the wax that 
fastened it. The greatest care was used in opening it, and 
it was found to contain the following message : 
"Gallia (?) 

Ab sole, au i mars, dist. 78,000,000 1. ! 
Chemin parcouru de fev. a mars : 59,000,000 1. ! 
Va bene! All right! Nil desperandum! 
Enchante!" 

"Another enigma!" exclaimed Servadac; "and still no 
intelligible signature, and no address. No clearing up of 
the mystery ! " 

" I have no doubt, in my own mind," said the count, 
" that it is one of a series. It seems to me probable that 
they are being sent broadcast upon the sea." 

" I wonder where the hare-brained savant that writes 
them can be living? " observed Servadac. 

" Very likely he may have met with the fate of ^Esop's 
abstracted astronomer, who found himself at the bottom of 
a well." 

" Ay ; but where is that well ? " demanded the captain. 

This was a question which the count was incapable of 
settling; and they could only speculate afresh as to whether 
the author of the riddles was dwelling upon some solitary 
island, or, like themselves, was navigating the waters of 
the new Mediterranean. But they could detect nothing to 
guide them to a definite decision. 

After thoughtfully regarding the document for some 
time, Lieutenant Procope proceeded to observe that he be- 
lieved the paper might be considered as genuine, and ac- 
cordingly, taking its statements as reliable, he deduced two 
important conclusions: first, that whereas, in the month 
of January, the distance traveled by the planet (hypothet- 
ically called Gallia) had been recorded as 82,000,000 
leagues, the distance traveled in February was only 59,- 
000,000 leagues a difference of 23,000,000 leagues in one 
month; secondly, that the distance of the planet from the 
sun, which on the I5th of February had been 59,000,000 
leagues, was on the ist of March 78,000,000 leagues an 



A SECOND ENIGMA 101 

increase of 19,000,000 leagues in a fortnight. Thus, in 
proportion as Gallia receded from the sun, so did the rate 
of speed diminish by which she traveled along her orbit; 
facts to be observed in perfect conformity with the known 
laws of celestial mechanism. 

"And your inference?" asked the count. 

" My inference," replied the lieutenant, " is a confirma- 
tion of my surmise that we are following an orbit decidedly 
elliptical, although we have not yet the material to determine 
its eccentricity." 

" As the writer adheres to the appellation of Gallia, do 
you not think," asked the count, " that we might call these 
new waters the Gallian Sea ? " 

"There can be no reason to the contrary, count," 
replied the lieutenant; " and as such I will insert it upon my 
new chart." 

" Our friend," said Servadac, " seems to be more and 
more gratified with the condition of things; not only has 
he adopted our motto, ' Nil desperandum! ' but see how 
enthusiastically he has wound up with his ' Enchante! ' " 

The conversation dropped. 

A few hours later the man on watch announced that 
Gourbi Island was in sight. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

AN UNEXPECTED POPULATION 

THE Dobryna was now back again at the island. Her 
cruise had lasted from the 3ist of January to the 5th of 
March, a period of thirty-five days (for it was leap year), 
corresponding to seventy days as accomplished by the new 
little world. 

Many a time during his absence Hector Servadac had 
wondered how his present vicissitudes would end, and he 
had felt some misgivings as to whether he should ever again 
set foot upon the island, and see his faithful orderly, so that 
it was not without emotion that he had approached the coast 
of the sole remaining fragment of Algerian soil. But his 
apprehensions were groundless; Gourbi Island was just as 
he had left it, with nothing unusual in its aspect, except that 
a very peculiar cloud was hovering over it, at an altitude 



102 OFF ON A COMET 

of little more than a hundred feet. As the yacht approached 
the shore, this cloud appeared to rise and fall as if acted 
upon by some invisible agency, and the captain, after watch- 
ing it carefully, perceived that it was not an accumulation 
of vapors at all, but a dense mass of birds packed as closely 
together as a swarm of herrings, and uttering deafening and 
discordant cries, amidst which from time to time the noise 
of the report of a gun could be plainly distinguished. 

The Dobryna signalized her arrival by firing her cannon, 
and dropped anchor in the little port of the Shelif. Almost 
within a minute Ben Zoof was seen running, gun in hand, 
towards the shore; he cleared the last ridge of rocks at a 
single bound, and then suddenly halted. For a few seconds 
he stood motionless, his eyes fixed, as if obeying the in- 
structions of a drill sergeant, on a point some fifteen yards 
distant, his whole attitude indicating submission and re- 
spect; but the sight of the captain, who was landing, was 
too much for his equanimity, and darting forward, he seized 
his master's hand and covered it with kisses. Instead, how- 
ever, of uttering any expressions of welcome or rejoicing 
at the captain's return, Ben Zoof broke out into the most 
vehement ejaculations. 

"Thieves, captain! beastly thieves! Bedouins! pirates! 
devils!" 

"Why, Ben Zoof, what's the matter?" said Servadac 
soothingly. 

" They are thieves ! downright, desperate thieves ! those 
infernal birds! That's what's the matter. It is a good 
thing you have come. Here have I for a whole month been 
spending my powder and shot upon them, and the more I 
kill them, the worse they get; and yet, if I were to leave 
them alone, we should not have a grain of corn upon the 
island." 

It was soon evident that the orderly had only too much 
cause for alarm. The crops had ripened rapidly during the 
excessive heat of January, when the orbit of Gallia was 
being traversed at its perihelion, and were now exposed to 
the depredations of many thousands of birds; and although 
a goodly number of stacks attested the industry of Ben 
Zoof during the time of the Dobryna's voyage, it was only 
too apparent that the portion of the harvest that remained 
ungathered was liable to the most imminent risk of being 



AN UNEXPECTED POPULATION 103 

utterly devoured. It was, perhaps, only natural that this 
clustered mass of birds, as representing the whole of the 
feathered tribe upon the surface of Gallia, should resort to 
Gourbi Island, of which the meadows seemed to be the only 
spot from which they could get sustenance at all ; but as this 
sustenance would be obtained at the expense, and probably 
to the serious detriment, of the human population, it was 
absolutely necessary that every possible resistance should 
be made to the devastation that was threatened. 

Once satisfied that Servadac and his friends would co- 
operate with him in the raid upon " the thieves," Ben Zoof 
became calm and content, and began to make various in- 
quiries. " And what has become," he said, " of all our old 
comrades in Africa?" 

" As far as I can tell you," answered the captain, " they 
are all in Africa still; only Africa isn't by any means where 
we expected to find it." 

"And France? Montmartre?" continued Ben Zoof 
eagerly. Here was the cry of the poor fellow's heart. 

As briefly as he could, Servadac endeavored to explain 
the true condition of things; he tried to communicate the 
fact that Paris, France, Europe, nay, the whole world was 
more than eighty millions of leagues away from Gourbi 
Island; as gently and cautiously as he could he expressed 
his fear that they might never see Europe, France, Paris, 
Montmartre again. 

"No, no, sir!" protested Ben Zoof emphatically; "that 
is all nonsense. It is altogether out of the question to sup- 
pose that we are not to see Montmartre again." And the 
orderly shook his head resolutely, with the air of a man 
determined, in spite of argument, to adhere to his own 
opinion. 

" Very good, my brave fellow," replied Servadac, " hope 
on, hope while you may. The message has come to us 
over the sea, * Never despair ' ; but one thing, nevertheless, 
is certain; we must forthwith commence arrangements for 
making this island our permanent home." 

Captain Servadac now led the way to the gourbi, which, 
by his servant's exertions, had been entirely rebuilt; and 
here he did the honors of his modest establishment to his 
two guests, the count and the lieutenant, and gave a wel- 
come, too, to little Nina, who had accompanied them on 



104 OFF ON A COMET 

shore, and between whom and Ben Zoof the most friendly 
relations had already been established. 

The adjacent building continued in good preservation, 
and Captain Servadac's satisfaction was very great in find- 
ing the two horses, Zephyr and Galette, comfortably housed 
there and in good condition. 

After the enjoyment of some refreshment, the party pro- 
ceeded to a general consultation as to what steps must be 
taken for their future welfare. The most pressing matter 
that came before them was the consideration of the means 
to be adopted to enable the inhabitants of Gallia to survive 
the terrible cold, which, in their ignorance of the true ec- 
centricity of their orbit, might, for aught they knew, last 
for an almost indefinite period. Fuel was far from abun- 
dant; of coal there was none; trees and shrubs were few in 
number, and to cut them down in prospect of the cold 
seemed a very questionable policy; but there was no doubt 
some expedient must be devised to prevent disaster, and 
that without delay. 

The victualing of the little colony offered no immediate 
difficulty. Water was abundant, and the cisterns could 
hardly fail to be replenished by the numerous streams that 
meandered along the plains; moreover, the Gallian Sea 
would ere long be frozen over, and the melted ice (water 
in its congealed state being divested of every particle of 
salt) would afford a supply of drink that could not be ex- 
hausted. The crops that were now ready for the harvest, 
and the flocks and herds scattered over the island, would 
form an ample reserve. There was little doubt that 
throughout the winter the soil would remain unproductive, 
and no fresh fodder for domestic animals could then be 
obtained; it would therefore be necessary, if the exact dura- 
tion of Gallia's year should ever be calculated, to proportion 
the number of animals to be reserved to the real length of 
the winter. 

The next thing requisite was to arrive at a true estimate 
of the number of the population. Without including the 
thirteen Englishmen at Gibraltar, about whom he was not 
particularly disposed to give himself much concern at pres- 
ent, Servadac put down the names of the eight Russians, 
the two Frenchman, and the little Italian girl, eleven in all, 
as the entire list of the inhabitants of Gourbi Island. 



AN UNEXPECTED POPULATION 105 

" Oh, pardon me," interposed Ben Zoof, " you are mis- 
taking the state of the case altogether. You will be sur- 
prised to learn that the total of people on the island is double 
that. It is twenty-two." 

" Twenty-two ! " exclaimed the captain ; " twenty-two 
people on this island? What do you mean? " 

" The opportunity has not occurred," answered Ben Zoof, 
" for me to tell you before, but I have had company." 

" Explain yourself, Ben Zoof/' said Servadac. " What 
company have you had ? " 

" You could not suppose," replied the orderly, " that my 
own unassisted hands could have accomplished all that har- 
vest work that you see has been done." 

" I confess," said Lieutenant Procope, " we do not seem 
to have noticed that." 

"Well, then," said Ben Zoof, "if you will be good 
enough to come with me for about a mile, I shall be able 
to show you my companions. But we must take our guns," 

"Why take our guns ? " asked Servadac. " I hope we 
are not going to fight." 

"No, not with men," said Ben Zoof; "but it does not 
answer to throw a chance away for giving battle to those 
thieves of birds." 

Leaving little Nina and her goat in the gourbi, Servadac, 
Count TimaschefT, and the lieutenant, greatly mystified, took 
up their guns and followed the orderly. All along their 
way they made unsparing slaughter of the birds that hov- 
ered over and around them. Nearly every species of the 
feathered tribe seemed to have its representative in that 
living cloud. There were wild ducks in thousands; snipe, 
larks, rooks, and swallows; a countless variety of sea-birds 
widgeons, gulls, and seamews ; beside a quantity of game 
quails, partridges, and woodcocks. The sportsmen did 
their best; every shot told; and the depredators fell by 
dozens on either hand. 

Instead of following the northern shore of the island, 
Ben Zoof cut obliquely across the plain. Making their 
progress with the unwonted rapidity which was attributable 
to their specific lightness, Servadac and his companions soon 
found themselves near a grove of sycamores and eucalyp- 
tus massed in picturesque confusion at the base of a little 
hill. Here they halted. 



io6 OFF ON A COMET 

" Ah ! the vagabonds ! the rascals ! the thieves ! " suddenly 
exclaimed Ben Zoof, stamping his foot with rage. 

" How now ? Are your friends the birds at their pranks 
again? " asked the captain. 

" No, I don't mean the birds : I mean those lazy beggars 
that are shirking their work. Look here ; look there ! " 
And as Ben Zoof spoke, he pointed to some scythes, and 
sickles, and other implements of husbandry that had been 
left upon the ground. 

" What is it you mean ? " asked Servadac, getting some- 
what impatient. 

"Hush, hush! listen!" was all Ben Zoofs reply; and he 
raised his finger as if in warning. 

Listening attentively, Servadac and his associates could 
distinctly recognize a human voice, accompanied by the 
notes of a guitar and by the measured click of castanets. 

" Spaniards ! " said Servadac. 

" No mistake about that, sir," replied Ben Zoof ; 
"a Spaniard would rattle his castanets at the cannon's 
mouth." 

" But what is the meaning of it all? " asked the captain, 
more puzzled than before. 

" Hark! " said Ben Zoof; " it is the old man's turn." 

And then a voice, at once gruff and harsh, was heard vo- 
ciferating, " My money ! my money ! when will you pay me 
my money? Pay me what you owe me, you miserable 
majos." 

Meanwhile the song continued : 

" Tu sandunga y cigarro, 
Y una cana de Jerez, 
Mi jamelgo y un trabuco, 
Que mas gloria puede haver? " 

Servadac's knowledge of Gascon enabled him partially 
to comprehend the rollicking tenor of the Spanish patriotic 
air, but his attention was again arrested by the voice of the 
old man growling savagely, " Pay me you shall ; yes, by the 
God of Abraham, you shall pay me." 

" A Jew ! " exclaimed Servadac. 

" r Ay, sir, a German Jew," said Ben Zoof. 

The party was on the point of entering the thicket, when 
a singular spectacle made them pause. A group of Span- 
iards had just begun dancing their national fandango, and 



AN UNEXPECTED POPULATION 107 

the extraordinary lightness which had become the physical 
property of every object in the new planet made the dancers 
bound to a height of thirty feet or more into the air, con- 
siderably above the tops of the trees. What followed was 
irresistibly comic. Four sturdy majos had dragged along 
with them an old man incapable of resistance, and compelled 
him, nolens volens, to join in the dance; and as they all kept 
appearing and disappearing above the bank of foliage, their 
grotesque attitudes, combined with the pitiable countenance 
of their helpless victim, could not do otherwise than recall 
most forcibly the story of Sancho Panza tossed in a blanket 
by the merry drapers of Segovia. 

Servadac, the count, Procope, and Ben Zoof now pro- 
ceeded to make their way through the thicket until they 
came to a little glade, where two men were stretched idly 
on the grass, one of them playing the guitar, and the other 
a pair of castanets; both were exploding with laughter, as 
they urged the performers to greater and yet greater exer- 
tions in the dance. At the sight of strangers they paused 
in their music, and simultaneously the dancers, with their 
victim, alighted gently on the sward. 

Breathless and half exhausted as was the Jew, he rushed 
with an effort towards Servadac, and exclaimed in 'French, 
marked by a strong Teutonic accent, " Oh, my lord gov- 
ernor, help me, help! These rascals defraud me of my 
rights; they rob me; but, in the name of the God of Israel, 
I ask you to see justice done ! " 

The captain glanced inquiringly towards Ben Zoof, and 
the orderly, by a significant nod, made his master under- 
stand that he was to play the part that was implied by the 
title. He took the cue, and promptly ordered the Jew to 
hold his tongue at once. The man bowed his head in servile 
submission, and folded his hands upon his breast. 

Servadac surveyed him leisurely. He was a man of 
about fifty, but from his appearance might well have been 
taken for at least ten years older. Small and skinny, with 
eyes bright and cunning, a hooked nose, a short yellow 
beard, unkempt hair, huge feet, and long bony hands, he 
presented all the typical characteristics of the German Jew, 
the heartless, wily usurer, the hardened miser and skinflint. 
As iron is attracted by the magnet, so was this Shylock at- 
tracted by the sight of gold, nor would he have hesitated 



io8 OFF ON A COMET 

to draw the life-blood of his creditors, if by such means he 
could secure his claims. 

His name was Isaac Hakkabut, and he was a native of 
Cologne. Nearly the whole of his time, however, he in- 
formed Captain Servadac, had been spent upon the sea, his 
real business being that of a merchant trading at all the 
ports of the Mediterranean. A tartan, a small vessel of 
two hundred tons burden, conveyed his entire stock of 
merchandise, and, to say the truth, was a sort of floating 
emporium, conveying nearly every possible article of com- 
merce, from a lucifer match to the radiant fabrics of Frank- 
fort and Epinal. Without wife or children, and having no 
settled home, Isaac Hakkabut lived almost entirely on board 
the Hansa, as he had named his tartan; and engaging a 
mate, with a crew of three men, as being adequate to work 
so light a craft, he cruised along the coasts of Algeria, Tunis, 
Egypt, Turkey, and Greece, visiting, moreover, most of the 
harbors of the Levant. Careful to be always well supplied 
with the products in most general demand coffee, sugar, 
rice, tobacco, cotton stuffs, and gunpowder and being at 
all times ready to barter, and prepared to deal in sec- 
ondhand wares, he had contrived to amass considerable 
wealth. 

On the eventful night of the ist of January the Hansa 
had been at Ceuta, the point on the coast of Morocco exactly 
opposite Gibraltar. The mate and three sailors had all 
gone on shore, and, in common with many of their fellow- 
creatures, had entirely disappeared; but the most projecting 
rock of Ceuta had been undisturbed by the general catas- 
trophe, and half a score of Spaniards, who had happened 
to be upon it, had escaped with their lives. They were all 
Andalusian majos, agricultural laborers, and naturally as 
careless and apathetic as men of their class usually are, but 
they could not help being very considerably embarrassed 
when they discovered that they were left in solitude upon 
a detached and isolated rock. They took what mutual 
counsel they could, but became only more and more per- 
plexed. One of them was named Negrete, and he, as hav- 
ing traveled somewhat more than the rest, was tacitly 
recognized as a sort of leader; but although he was by far 
the most enlightened of them all, he was quite incapable 
of forming the least conception of the nature of what had 



AN UNEXPECTED POPULATION 109 

occurred. The one thing upon which they could not fail 
to be conscious was that they had no prospect of obtaining 
provisions, and consequently their first business was to de- 
vise a scheme for getting away from their present abode. 
The Hansa was lying off shore. The Spaniards would not 
have had the slightest hesitation in summarily taking pos- 
session of her, but their utter ignorance of seamanship 
made them reluctantly come to the conclusion that the more 
prudent policy was to make terms with the owner. 

And now came a singular part of the story. Negrete 
and his companions had meanwhile received a visit from 
two English officers from Gibraltar. What passed between 
them the Jew did not know; he only knew that, immedi- 
ately after the conclusion of the interview, Negrete came 
to him and ordered him to set sail at once for the nearest 
point of Morocco. The Jew, afraid to disobey, but with 
his eye ever upon the main chance, stipulated that at the 
end of their voyage the Spaniards should pay for their 
passage terms to which, as they would to any other, they 
did not demur, knowing that they had not the slightest in- 
tention of giving him a single real. 

The Hansa had weighed anchor on the 3rd of February. 
The wind blew from the west, and consequently the work- 
ing of the tartan was easy enough. The unpracticed sail- 
ors had only to hoist their sails and, though they were quite 
unconscious of the fact, the breeze carried them to the only 
spot upon the little world they occupied which could af- 
ford them a refuge. 

Thus it fell out that one morning Ben Zoof, from his 
lookout on Gourbi Island, saw a ship, not the Dobryna, 
appear upon the horizon, and make quietly down towards 
what had formerly been the right bank of the Shelif. 

Such was Ben Zoof's version of what had occurred, as 
he had gathered it from the new-comers. He wound up 
his recital by remarking that the cargo of the Hansa would 
be of immense service to them; he expected, indeed, that 
Isaac Hakkabut would be difficult to manage, but consid- 
ered there could be no harm in appropriating the goods 
for the common welfare, since there could be no oppor- 
tunity now for selling them. 

Ben Zoof added, " And as to the difficulties between the 
Jew and his passengers, I told him that the governor gen- 



no OFF ON A COMET 

eral was absent on a tour of inspection, and that he would 
see everything equitably settled." 

Smiling at his orderly's tactics, Servadac turned to Hak- 
kabut, and told him that he would take care that his claims 
should be duly investigated and all proper demands should 
be paid. The man appeared satisfied, and, for the time 
at least, desisted from his complaints and importunities. 

When the Jew had retired, Count TimascherT asked, 
" But how in the world can you ever make those fellows 
pay anything? " 

" They have lots of money," said Ben Zoof. 

"Not likely," replied the count; "when did you ever 
know Spaniards like them to have lots of money?" 

"But I have seen it myself," said Ben Zoof; "and it is 
English money." 

" English money ! " echoed Servadac ; and his mind again 
reverted to the excursion made by the colonel and the major 
from Gibraltar, about which they had been so reticent. " We 
must inquire more about this," he said. 

Then, addressing Count Timascheff, he added, "Alto- 
gether, I think the countries of Europe are fairly repre- 
sented by the population of Gallia." 

"True, captain," answered the count; "we have only a 
fragment of a world, but it contains natives of France, 
Russia, Italy, Spain, and England. Even Germany may 
be said to have a representative in the person of this mis- 
erable Jew." 

" And even in him," said Servadac, " perhaps we shall 
not find so indifferent a representative as we at present 
imagine." 

CHAPTER XIX 
GALLIA'S GOVERNOR GENERAL 

THE Spaniards who had arrived on board the Hansa con- 
sisted of nine men and a lad of twelve years of age, named 
Pablo. They all received Captain Servadac, whom Ben 
Zoof introduced as the governor general, with due respect, 
and returned quickly to their separate tasks. The captain 
and his friends, followed at some distance by the eager 
Jew, soon left the glade and directed their steps towards 
the coast where the Hansa was moored. 



GALLIA'S GOVERNOR GENERAL in 

As they went they discussed their situation. As far as 
they had ascertained, except Gourbi Island, the sole sur- 
viving fragments of the Old World were four small islands : 
the bit of Gibraltar occupied by the Englishmen; Ceuta, 
which had just been left by the Spaniards; Madalena, where 
they had picked up the little Italian girl; and the site of the 
tomb of Saint Louis on the coast of Tunis. Around these 
there was stretched out the full extent of the Gallian Sea, 
which apparently comprised about one-half of the Mediter- 
ranean, the whole being encompassed by a barrier like a 
framework of precipitous cliffs, of an origin and a substance 
alike unknown. 

Of all these spots only two were known to be inhabited: 
Gibraltar, where the thirteen Englishmen were amply pro- 
visioned for some years to come, and their own Gourbi 
Island. Here there was a population of twenty-two, who 
would all have to subsist upon the natural products of the 
soil. It was indeed not to be forgotten that, perchance, 
upon some remote and undiscovered isle there might be 
the solitary writer of the mysterious papers which they 
had found, and if so, that would raise the census of their 
new asteroid to an aggregate of thirty-six. 

Even upon the supposition that at some future date the 
whole population should be compelled to, unite and find a 
residence upon Gourbi Island, there did not appear any rea- 
son to question but that eight hundred acres of rich soil, 
under good management, would yield them all an ample 
sustenance. The only critical matter was how long the 
cold season would last; every hope depended upon the land 
again becoming productive ; at present, it seemed impossible 
to determine, even if Gallia's orbit were really elliptic, when 
she would reach her aphelion, and it was consequently 
necessary that the Gallians for the time being should reckon 
on nothing beyond their actual and present resources. 

These resources were, first, the provisions of the Do- 
bryna, consisting of preserved meat, sugar, wine, brandy, 
and other stores sufficient for about two months; secondly, 
the valuable cargo of the Hansa, which, sooner or later, 
the owner, whether he would or not, must be compelled to 
surrender for the common benefit; and lastly, the produce 
of the island, animal and vegetable, which with proper 
economy might be made to last for a considerable period. 



ii2 OFF ON A COMET 

In the course of the conversation, Count Timascheff took 
an opportunity of saying that, as Captain Servadac had 
already been presented to the Spaniards as governor of 
the island, he thought it advisable that he should really as- 
sume that position. 

" Every body of men," he observed, " must have a head, 
and you, as a Frenchman, should, I think, take the com- 
mand of this fragment of a French colony. My men, I 
can answer for it, are quite prepared to recognize you as 
their superior officer." 

" Most unhesitatingly," replied Servadac, " I accept the 
post with all its responsibilities. We understand each other 
so well that I feel sure we shall try and work together for 
the common good; and even if it be our fate never again to 
behold our fellow creatures, I have no misgivings but that 
we shall be able to cope with whatever difficulties may be 
before us." 

As he spoke, he held out his hand. The count took it, 
at the same time making a slight bow. It was the first 
time since their meeting that the two men had shaken hands ; 
on the other hand, not a single word about their former 
rivalry had ever escaped their lips; perhaps that was all 
forgotten now. 

The silence of a few moments was broken by Servadac 
saying, " Do you not think we ought to explain our situation 
to the Spaniards ? " 

" No, no, your Excellency," burst in Ben Zoof, em- 
phatically ; " the fellows are chicken-hearted enough 
already; only tell them what has happened, and in 
sheer despondency they will not do another stroke of 
work." 

" Besides," said Lieutenant Procope, who took very much 
the same view as the orderly, " they are so miserably igno- 
rant they would be sure to misunderstand you." 

" Understand or misunderstand," replied Servadac, " I 
do not think it matters. They would not care. They are 
all fatalists. Only give them a guitar and their castanets, 
and they will soon forget all care and anxiety. For my 
own part, I must adhere to my belief that it will be ad- 
visable to tell them everything. Have you any opinion to 
offer, count?" 

" My own opinion, captain, coincides entirely with yours. 



GALLIA'S GOVERNOR GENERAL) 113 

I have followed the plan of explaining all I could to my men 
on board the Dobryna, and no inconvenience has arisen." 

"Well, then, so let it be/' said the captain; adding, "It 
is not likely that these Spaniards are so ignorant as not to 
have noticed the change in the length of the days; neither 
can they be unaware of the physical changes that have tran- 
spired. They shall certainly be told that we are being 
carried away into unknown regions of space, and that this 
island is nearly all that remains of the Old World." 

"Ha! ha!" laughed Ben Zoof, aloud; "it will be fine 
sport to watch the old Jew's face, when he is made to com- 
prehend that he is flying away millions and millions of 
leagues from all his debtors." 

Isaac Hakkabut was about fifty yards behind, and was 
consequently unable to overhear the conversation. He went 
shambling along, half whimpering and not un frequently 
invoking the God of Israel; but every now and then a 
cunning light gleamed from his eyes, and his lips became 
compressed with a grim significance. 

None of the recent phenomena had escaped his notice, 
and more than once he had attempted to entice Ben Zoof 
into conversation upon the subject; but the orderly made 
no secret of his antipathy to him, and generally replied to 
his advances either by satire or by banter. He told him 
that he had everything to gain under the new system of 
nights and days, for, instead of living the Jew's ordinary 
life of a century, he would reach to the age of two centuries; 
and he congratulated him upon the circumstance of things 
having become so light, because it would prevent him feel- 
ing the burden of his years. At another time he would 
declare that, to an old usurer like him, it could not matter 
in the least what had become of the moon, as he could not 
possibly have advanced any money upon her. And when 
Isaac, undaunted by his jeers, persevered in besetting him 
with questions, he tried to silence him by saying, " Only 
wait till the governor general comes ; he is a shrewd fellow, 
and will tell you all about it." 

" But will he protect my property ? " poor Isaac would 
ask tremulously. 

" To be sure he will ! He would confiscate it all rather 
than that you should be robbed of it." 

With this Job's comfort the Jew had been obliged to 
V. IX Verne 



ii4 OFF ON A COMET 

content himself as best he could, and to await the promised 
arrival of the governor. 

When Servadac and his companions reached the shore, 
they found that the Hansa had anchored in an exposed 
bay, protected but barely by a few projecting rocks, and in 
such a position that a gale rising from the west would in- 
evitably drive her on to the land, where she must be dashed 
in pieces. It would be the height of folly to leave her in 
her present moorings; without loss of time she must be 
brought round to the mouth of the Shelif, in immediate 
proximity to the Russian yacht. 

The consciousness that his tartan was the subject of dis- 
cussion made the Jew give way to such vehement ejacula- 
tions of anxiety, that Servadac turned round and per- 
emptorily ordered him to desist from his clamor. Leaving 
the old man under the surveillance of the count and Ben 
Zoof, the captain and the lieutenant stepped into a small 
boat and were soon alongside the floating emporium. 

A very short inspection sufficed to make them aware 
that both the tartan and her cargo were in a perfect state 
of preservation. In the hold were sugar-loaves by hun- 
dreds, chests of tea, bags of coffee, hogsheads of tobacco, 
pipes of wine, casks of brandy, barrels of dried herrings, 
bales of cotton, clothing of every kind, shoes of all sizes, 
caps of various shape, tools, household utensils, china and 
earthenware, reams of paper, bottles of ink, boxes of lucifer 
matches, blocks of salt, bags of pepper and spices, a stock of 
huge Dutch cheeses, and a collection of almanacs and mis- 
cellaneous literature. At a rough guess the value could not 
be much under 5,000 sterling. A new cargo had been 
taken in only a few days before the catastrophe, and it had 
been Isaac Hakkabut's intention to cruise from Ceuta to 
Tripoli, calling wherever he had reason to believe there was 
likely to be a market for any of his commodities. 

" A fine haul, lieutenant/' said the captain. 

"Yes, indeed," said the lieutenant; "but what if the 
owner refuses to part with it?" 

" No fear ; no fear," replied the captain. " As soon as 
ever the old rascal finds that there are no more Arabs or 
Algerians for him to fleece, he will be ready enough to 
transact a little business with us. We will pay him by bills 
of acceptance on some of his old friends in the Old World." 



GALLIA'S GOVERNOR GENERAL 115 

" But why should he want any payment ? " inquired the 
lieutenant. " Under the circumstances, he must know that 
you have a right to make a requisition of his goods." 

" No, no," quickly rejoined Servadac ; " we will not do 
that. Just because the fellow is a German we shall not be 
justified in treating him in German fashion. We will 
transact our business in a business way. Only let him once 
realize that he is on a new globe, with no prospect of getting 
back to the old one, and he will be ready enough to come 
to terms with us." 

" Perhaps you are right," replied the lieutenant ; " I hope 
you are. But anyhow, it will not do to leave the tartan 
here; not only would she be in danger in the event of a 
storm, but it is very questionable whether she could resist 
the pressure of the ice, if the water were to freeze." 

" Quite true, Procope ; and accordingly I give you the 
commission to see that your crew bring her round to the 
Shelif as soon as may be." 

" To-morrow morning it shall be done," answered the 
lieutenant, promptly. 

Upon returning to the shore, it was arranged that the 
whole of the little colony should forthwith assemble at 
the gourbi. The Spaniards were summoned and Isaac, 
although he could only with reluctance take his wistful 
gaze from his tartan, obeyed the governor's orders to 
follow. 

An hour later and the entire population of twenty-two 
had met in the chamber adjoining the gourbi. Young 
Pablo made his first acquaintance with little Nina, and the 
child seemed highly delighted to find a companion so nearly 
of her own age. Leaving the children to entertain each 
other, Captain Servadac began his address. 

Before entering upon further explanation, he said that 
he counted upon the cordial co-operation of them all for 
the common welfare. 

Negrete interrupted him by declaring that no promises 
or pledges could be given until he and his countrymen knew 
how soon they could be sent back to Spain. 

"To Spain, do you say?" asked Servadac. 

" To Spain ! " echoed Isaac Hakkabut, with a hideous 
yell. " Do they expect to go back to Spain till they have 
paid their debts? Your Excellency, they owe me twenty 



n6 OFF ON A COMET 

reals apiece for their passage here; they owe me two hun- 
dred reals. Are they to be allowed ... ? " 

" Silence, Mordecai, you fool ! " shouted Ben Zoof, who 
was accustomed to call the Jew by any Hebrew name that 
came uppermost to his memory. " Silence ! " 

Servadac was disposed to appease the old man's anxiety 
by promising to see that justice was ultimately done; but, 
in a fever of frantic excitement, he went on to implore that 
he might have the loan of a few sailors to carry his ship to 
Algiers. 

" I will pay you honestly ; I will pay you well" he cried ; 
but his ingrained propensity for making a good bargain 
prompted him to add, "provided you do not overcharge 



me." 



Ben Zoof was about again to interpose some angry ex- 
clamation; but Servadac checked him, and continued in 
Spanish: "Listen to me, my friends. Something very 
strange has happened. A most wonderful event has cut us 
off from Spain, from France, from Italy, from every coun- 
try of Europe. In fact, we have left the Old World en- 
tirely. Of the whole earth, nothing remains except this 
island on which you are now taking refuge. The old globe 
is far, far away. Our present abode is but an insignificant 
fragment that is left. I dare not tell you that there is any 
chance of your ever again seeing your country or your 
homes." 

He paused. The Spaniards evidently had no conception 
of his meaning. 

Negrete begged him to tell them all again. He repeated 
all that he had said, and by introducing some illustrations 
from familiar things, he succeeded to a certain extent in 
conveying some faint idea of the convulsion that had hap- 
pened. The event was precisely what he had foretold. 
The communication was received by all alike with the most 
supreme indifference. 

Hakkabut did not say a word. He had listened with 
manifest attention, his lips twitching now and then as if 
suppressing a smile. Servadac turned to him, and asked 
whether he was still disposed to put out to sea and make for 
Algiers. 

The Jew gave a broad grin, which, however, he was 
careful to conceal from the Spaniards. " Your Excellency 



GALLIA'S GOVERNOR GENERAL 117 

jests," he said in French ; and turning to Count Timascheff, 
he added in Russian : " The governor has made up a won- 
derful tale." 

The count turned his back in disgust, while the Jew 
sidled up to little Nina and muttered in Italian. " A lot 
of lies, pretty one; a lot of lies! " 

"Confound the knave!" exclaimed Ben Zoof; "he 
gabbles every tongue under the sun ! " 

" Yes," said Servadac ; " but whether he speaks French, 
Russian, Spanish, German, or Italian, he is neither more 
nor less than a Jew." 



CHAPTER XX 

A LIGHT ON THE HORIZON 

ON the following day, without giving himself any further 
concern about the Jew's incredulity, the captain gave 
orders for the Hansa to be shifted round to the harbor of 
the Sheli f. Hakkabut raised no objection, not only be- 
cause he was aware that the move insured the immediate 
safety of his tartan, but because he was secretly entertain- 
ing the hope that he might entice away two or three of 
the Dobryna's crew and make his escape to Algiers or some 
other port. 

Operations now commenced for preparing proper winter 
quarters. Spaniards and Russians alike joined heartily in 
the work, the diminution of atmospheric pressure and of 
the force of attraction contributing such an increase to 
their muscular force as materially facilitated all their 
labors. 

The first business was to accommodate the building 
adjacent to the gourbi to the wants of the little colony. 
Here for the present the Spaniards were lodged, the Rus- 
sians retaining their berths upon the yacht, while the Jew 
was permitted to pass his nights upon the Hansa. This 
arrangement, however, could be only temporary. The time 
could not be far distant when ships' sides and ordinary walls 
would fail to give an adequate protection from the severity 
of' the cold that must be expected; the stock of fuel was too 
limited to keep up a permanent supply of heat in their 
present quarters, and consequently they must be driven to 



n8 OFF ON A COMET 

seek some other refuge, the internal temperature of which 
would at least be bearable. 

The plan that seemed to commend itself most to their 
consideration was, that they should dig out for themselves 
some subterraneous pits similar to " silos," such as are 
used as receptacles for grain. They presumed that when 
the surface of Gallia should be covered by a thick layer of 
ice, which is a bad conductor of heat, a sufficient amount 
of warmth for animal vitality might still be retained in 
excavations of this kind. After a long consultation 
they failed to devise any better expedient, and were 
forced to resign themselves to this species of troglodyte 
existence. 

In one respect they congratulated themselves that they 
should be better off than many of the whalers in the polar 
seas, for as it is impossible to get below the surface of a 
frozen ocean, these adventurers have to seek refuge in huts 
of wood and snow erected on their ships, which at best can 
give but slight protection from extreme cold; but here, 
with a solid subsoil, the Gallians might hope to dig down 
a hundred feet or so and secure for themselves a shelter 
that would enable them to brave the hardest severity of 
climate. 

The order, then, was at once given. The work was 
commenced. A stock of shovels, mattocks, and pick-axes 
was brought from the gourbi, and with Ben Zoof as over- 
seer, both Spanish majos and Russian sailors set to work 
with a will. 

It was not long, however, before a discovery, more un- 
expected than agreeable, suddenly arrested their labors. 
The spot chosen for the excavation was a little to the 
right of the gourbi, on a slight elevation of the soil. For 
the first day everything went on prosperously enough; but 
at a depth of eight feet below the surface, the navvies 
came in contact with a hard surface, upon which all their 
tools failed to make the slightest impression. Servadac 
and the count were at once apprised of the fact, and had 
little difficulty in recognizing the substance that had revealed 
itself as the very same which composed the shores as well 
as the subsoil of the Gallian sea. It evidently formed the 
universal substructure of the new asteroid. Means for 
hollowing it failed them utterly. Harder and more resist- 



A LIGHT ON THE HORIZON 119 

ing than granite, it could not be blasted by ordinary powder ; 
dynamite alone could suffice to rend it. 

The disappointment was very great. Unless some means 
of protection were speedily devised, death seemed to be 
staring them in the face. Were the figures in the myste- 
rious documents correct? If so, Gallia must now be a hun- 
dred millions of leagues from the sun, nearly three times 
the distance of the earth at the remotest section of her orbit. 
The intensity of the solar light and heat, too, was very 
seriously diminishing, although Gourbi Island (being on 
the equator of an orb which had its axes always per- 
pendicular to the plane in which it revolved) enjoyed a 
position that gave it a permanent summer. But no ad- 
vantage of this kind could compensate for the remoteness 
of the sun. The temperature fell steadily; already, to the 
discomfiture of the little Italian girl, nurtured in sunshine, 
ice was beginning to form in the crevices of the rocks, and 
manifestly the time was impending when the sea itself would 
freeze. 

Some shelter must be found before the temperature 
should fall to 60 below zero. Otherwise death was in- 
evitable. Hitherto, for the last few days, the thermometer 
had been registering an average of about 6 below zero, 
and it had become matter of experience that the stove, 
although replenished with all the wood that was available, 
was altogether inadequate to effect any sensible mitigation 
of the severity of the cold. Nor could any amount of 
fuel be enough. It was certain that ere long the very 
mercury and spirit in the thermometers would be con- 
gealed. Some other resort must assuredly be soon found, 
or they must perish. That was clear. 

The idea of betaking themselves to the Dobryna and 
Hansa could not for a moment be seriously entertained; 
not only did the structure of the vessels make them utterly 
insufficient to give substantial shelter, but they were totally 
unfitted to be trusted as to their stability when exposed to 
the enormous pressure of the accumulated ice. 

Neither Servadac, nor the count, nor Lieutenant Procope 
were men to be easily disheartened, but it could not be 
concealed that they felt themselves in circumstances by 
which they were equally harassed and perplexed. The 
sole expedient that their united counsel could suggest was 



120 OFF ON A COMET 

to obtain a refuge below ground, and that was denied them 
by the strange and impenetrable substratum of the soil; 
yet hour by hour the sun's disc was lessening in its dimen- 
sions, and although at midday some faint radiance and glow 
were to be distinguished, during the night the pain fulness 
of the cold was becoming almost intolerable. 

Mounted upon Zephyr and Galette, the captain and the 
count scoured the island in search of some available retreat. 
Scarcely a yard of ground was left unexplored, the horses 
clearing every obstacle as if they were, like Pegasus, 
furnished with wings. But all in vain. Soundings were 
made again and again, but invariably with the same result; 
the rock, hard as adamant, never failed to reveal itself 
within a few feet of the surface of the ground. 

The excavation of any silo being thus manifestly hope- 
less, there seemed nothing to be done except to try and 
render the buildings alongside the gourbi impervious to 
frost. To contribute to the supply of fuel, orders were 
given to collect every scrap of wood, dry or green, that the 
island produced; and this involved the necessity of felling 
the numerous trees that were scattered over the plain. But 
toil as they might at the accumulation of firewood, Captain 
Servadac and his companions could not resist the conviction 
that the consumption of a very short period would exhaust 
the total stock. And what would happen then? 

Studious if possible to conceal his real misgivings, and 
anxious that the rest of the party should be affected as little 
as might be by his own uneasiness, Servadac would wander 
alone about the island, racking his brain for an idea that 
would point the way out of the serious difficulty. But still 
all in vain. 

One day he suddenly came upon Ben Zoof, and asked 
him whether he had no plan to propose. The orderly shook 
his head, but after a few moments' pondering, said : " Ah ! 
master^ if only we were at Montmartre, we would get 
shelter in the charming stone-quarries." 

"Idiot!" replied the captain, angrily, "if we were at 
Montmartre, you don't suppose that we should need to live 
in stone-quarries? " 

But the means of preservation which human ingenuity 
had failed to secure were at hand from the felicitous pro- 
vision of Nature herself. It was on the loth of March 



A LIGHT ON THE HORIZON 121 

that the captain and Lieutenant Procope started off once 
more to investigate the northwest corner of the island; on 
their way their conversation naturally was engrossed by the 
subject of the dire necessities which only too manifestly 
were awaiting them. A discussion more than usually ani- 
mated arose between them, for the two men were not alto- 
gether of the same mind as to the measures that ought to be 
adopted in order to open the fairest chance of avoiding a 
fatal climax to their exposure ; the captain persisted that an 
entirely new abode must be sought, while the lieutenant was 
equally bent upon devising a method of some sort by which 
their present quarters might be rendered sufficiently warm. 
All at once, in the very heat of his argument, Procope 
paused; he passed his hand across his eyes, as if to dispel 
a mist, and stood, with a fixed gaze centered on a point to- 
wards the south. " What is that? " he said, with a kind of 
hesitation. " No, I am not mistaken," he added ; " it is a 
light on the horizon." 

" A light ! " exclaimed Servadac ; " show me where." 

" Look there ! " answered the lieutenant, and he kept 
pointing steadily in its direction, until Servadac also dis- 
tinctly saw the bright speck in the distance. 

It increased in clearness in the gathering shades of even- 
ing. " Can it be a ship? " asked the captain. 

" If so, it must be in flames ; otherwise we should not be 
able to see it so far off," replied Procope. 

" It does not move," said Servadac ; " and unless I am 
greatly deceived, I can hear a kind of reverberation in the 



air." 



For some seconds the two men stood straining eyes and 
ears in rapt attention. Suddenly an idea struck Servadac's 
mind. " The volcano ! " he cried ; " may it not be the 
volcano that we saw, whilst we were on board the 
Dobryna?" 

The lieutenant agreed that it was very probable. 

" Heaven be praised ! " ejaculated the captain, and he 
went on in the tones of a keen excitement : " Nature has 
provided us with our winter quarters; the stream of burn- 
ing lava that is flowing there is the gift of a bounteous 
Providence; it will provide us all the warmth we need. 
No time to lose ! To-morrow, my dear Procope, to-morrow 
we will explore it all; no doubt the life, the heat we want 



122 OFF ON A COMET 

is reserved for us in the heart and bowels of our own 
Gallia!" 

Whilst the captain was indulging in his expressions of 
enthusiasm, Procope was endeavoring to collect his thoughts. 
Distinctly he remembered the long promontory which had 
barred the Dobryna's progress while coasting the southern 
confines of the sea, and which had obliged her to ascend 
northwards as far as the former latitude of Oran; he re- 
membered also that at the extremity of the promontory 
there was a rocky headland crowned with smoke; and now 
he was convinced that he was right in identifying the posi- 
tion, and in believing that the smoke had given place to an 
eruption of flame. 

When Servadac gave him a chance of speaking, he said, 
" The more I consider it, captain, the more I am satisfied 
that your conjecture is correct. Beyond a doubt, what we 
see is the volcano, and to-morrow we will not fail to 
visit it." 

On returning to the gourbi, they communicated their 
discovery to Count Timascheff only, deeming any further 
publication of it to be premature. The count at once 
placed his yacht at their disposal, and expressed his inten- 
tion of accompanying them. 

" The yacht, I think," said Procope, " had better remain 
where she is; the weather is beautifully calm, and the steam- 
launch will answer our purpose better; at any rate, it will 
convey us much closer to shore than the schooner." 

The count replied that the lieutenant was by all means 
to use his own discretion, and they all retired for the night. 

Like many other modern pleasure-yachts, the Dobryna, 
in addition to her four-oar, was fitted with a fast-going 
little steam-launch, its screw being propelled, on the Oriolle 
system, by means of a boiler, small but very effective. 
Early next morning, this handy little craft was sufficiently 
freighted with coal (of which there was still about ten tons 
on board the Dobryna), and manned by nobody except the 
captain, the count, and the lieutenant, left the harbor of the 
Shelif, much to the bewilderment of Ben Zoof, who had not 
yet been admitted into the secret. The orderly, however, 
consoled himself with the reflection that he had been tem- 
porarily invested with the full powers of governor general, 
an office of which he was not a little proud. 



A LIGHT ON THE HORIZON 123 

The eighteen miles between the island and the headland 
were made in something less than three hours. The 
volcanic eruption was manifestly very considerable, the 
entire summit of the promontory being enveloped in flames. 
To produce so large a combustion either the oxygen of 
Gallia's atmosphere had been brought into contact with the 
explosive gases contained beneath her soil, or perhaps, still 
more probable, the volcano, like those in the moon, was fed 
by an internal supply of oxygen of her own. 

It took more than half an hour to settle on a suitable 
landing-place. At length, a small semi-circular creek was 
discovered among the rocks, which appeared advantageous, 
because, if circumstances should so require, it would form a 
safe anchorage for both the Dobryna and the Hansa. 

The launch securely moored, the passengers landed on 
the side of the promontory opposite to that on which a 
torrent of burning lava was descending to the sea. With 
much satisfaction they experienced, as they approached 
the mountain, a sensible difference in the temperature, and 
their spirits could not do otherwise than rise at the pros- 
pect of having their hopes confirmed, that a deliverance 
from the threatened calamity had so opportunely been 
found. On they went, up the steep acclivity, scrambling 
over its rugged projections, scaling the irregularities of its 
gigantic strata, bounding from point to point with the agility 
of chamois, but never alighting on anything except on the 
accumulation of the same hexagonal prisms with which 
they had now become so familiar. 

Their exertions were happily rewarded. Behind a huge 
pyramidal rock they found a hole in the mountain-side, like 
the mouth of a great tunnel. Climbing up to this orifice, 
which was more than sixty feet above the level of the sea, 
they ascertained that it opened into a long dark gallery. 
They entered and groped their way cautiously along the 
sides. A continuous rumbling, that increased as they ad- 
vanced, made them aware that they must be approaching 
the central funnel of the volcano; their only fear was lest 
some insuperable wall of rock should suddenly bar their 
further progress. 

Servadac was some distance ahead. 

" Come on ! " he cried cheerily, his voice ringing through 
the darkness, " come on ! Our fire is lighted ! no stint of 



124 OFF ON A COMET 

fuel ! Nature provides that ! Let us make haste and warm 
ourselves ! " 

Inspired by his confidence, the count and the lieutenant 
advanced bravely along the unseen and winding path. The 
temperature was now at least fifteen degrees above zero, 
and the walls of the gallery were beginning to feel quite 
warm to the touch, an indication, not to be overlooked, that 
the substance of which the rock was composed was metallic 
in its nature, and capable of conducting heat. 

" Follow me ! " shouted Servadac again ; " we shall soon 
find a regular stove ! " 

Onwards they made their way, until at last a sharp turn 
brought them into a sudden flood of light. The tunnel had 
opened into a vast cavern, and the gloom was exchanged 
for an illumination that was perfectly dazzling. Although 
the temperature was high, it was not in any way intolerable. 

One glance was sufficient to satisfy the explorers that 
the grateful light and heat of this huge excavation were 
to be attributed to a torrent of lava that was rolling down- 
wards to the sea, completely subtending the aperture of the 
cave. Not inaptly might the scene be compared to the cele- 
brated Grotto of the Winds at the rear of the central fall 
of Niagara, only with the exception that here, instead of a 
curtain of rushing water, it was a curtain of roaring flame 
that hung before the cavern's mouth. 

" Heaven be praised ! " cried Servadac, with glad emo- 
tion ; " here is all that we hoped for, and more besides ! " 



CHAPTER XXI 

WINTER QUARTERS 

THE habitation that had now revealed itself, well lighted 
and thoroughly warm, was indeed marvelous. Not only 
would it afford ample accommodation for Hector Servadac 
and "his subjects," as Ben Zoof delighted to call them, 
but it would provide shelter for the two horses, and for a 
considerable number of domestic animals. 

This enormous cavern was neither more or less than 
the common junction of nearly twenty tunnels (similar to 
that which had been traversed by the explorers), forming 
ramifications in the solid rock, and the pores, as it were, by 



WINTER QUARTERS 125 

which the internal heat exuded from the heart of the moun- 
tain. Here, as long as the volcano retained its activity, 
every living creature on the new asteroid might brave the 
most rigorous of climates; and as Count Timascheff justly 
remarked, since it was the only burning mountain they had 
sighted, it was most probably the sole outlet for Gallia's 
subterranean fires, and consequently the eruption might con- 
tinue unchanged for ages to come. 

But not a day, not an hour, was to be lost now. The 
steam-launch returned to Gourbi Island, and preparations 
were forthwith taken in hand for conveying man and beast, 
corn and fodder, across to the volcanic headland. Loud 
and hearty were the acclamations of the little colony, 
especially of the Spaniards, and great was the relief of 
Nina, when Servadac announced to them the discovery of 
their future domicile; and with requickened energies they 
labored hard at packing, anxious to reach their genial winter 
quarters without delay. 

For three successive days the Dobryna, laden to her very 
gunwale, made a transit to and fro. Ben Zoof was left 
upon the island to superintend the stowage of the freight, 
whilst Servadac found abundant occupation in overlooking 
its disposal within the recesses of the mountain. First of 
all, the large store of corn and fodder, the produce of the 
recent harvest, was landed and deposited in one of the 
vaults; then, on the I5th, about fifty head of live cattle 
bullocks, cows, sheep, and pigs were conveyed to their 
rocky stalls. These were saved for the sake of preserving 
the several breeds, the bulk of the island cattle being 
slaughtered, as the extreme severity of the climate insured 
all meat remaining fresh for almost an indefinite period. 
The winter which they were expecting would probably be of 
unprecedented length ; it was quite likely that it would exceed 
the six months' duration by which many arctic explorers 
have been tried ; but the population of Gallia had no anxiety 
in the matter of provisions their stock was far more than 
adequate ; while as for drink, as long as they were satisfied 
with pure water, a frozen sea would afford them an inex- 
haustible reservoir. 

The need for haste in forwarding their preparations be- 
came more and more manifest; the sea threatened to be un- 
navigable very soon, as ice was already forming which the 



126 OFF ON A COMET 

noonday sun was unable to melt. And if haste were neces- 
sary, so also were care, ingenuity, and forethought. It was 
indispensable that the space at their command should be 
properly utilized, and yet that the several portions of the 
store should all be readily accessible. 

On further investigation an unexpected number of gal- 
leries was discovered, so that, in fact, the interior of the 
mountain was like a vast bee-hive perforated with innumer- 
able cells; and in compliment to the little Italian it was 
unanimously voted by the colony that their new home should 
be called " Nina's Hive." 

The first care of Captain Servadac was to ascertain how 
he could make the best possible use of the heat which nature 
had provided for them so opportunely and with so lavish 
a hand. By opening fresh vents in the solid rock (which 
by the action of the heat was here capable of fissure) the 
stream of burning lava was diverted into several new chan- 
nels, where it could be available for daily use; and thus 
Mochel, the Dobryna's cook, was furnished with an admir- 
able kitchen, provided with a permanent stove, where he was 
duly installed with all his culinary apparatus. 

" What a saving of expense it would be," exclaimed Ben 
Zoof, " if every household could be furnished with its own 
private volcano ! " 

The large cavern at the general junction of the galleries 
was fitted up as a drawing-room, and arranged with all the 
best furniture both of the gourbi and of the cabin of the 
Dobryna. Hither was also brought the schooner's library, 
containing a good variety of French and Russian books; 
lamps were suspended over the different tables; and the 
walls of the apartment were tapestried with the sails and 
adorned with the flags belonging to the yacht. The curtain 
of fire extending over the opening of the cavern provided 
it, as already stated, with light and heat. 

The torrent of lava fell into a small rock-bound basin 
that had no apparent communication with the sea, and was 
evidently the aperture of a deep abyss, of which the waters, 
heated by the descent of the eruptive matter, would no doubt 
retain their liquid condition long after the Gallian Sea had 
become a sheet of ice. 

A small excavation to the left of the common hall was 
allotted for the special use of Servadac and the count; an- 



WINTER QUARTERS 127 

other on the right was appropriated to the lieutenant and 
Ben Zoof; whilst a third recess, immediately at the back, 
made a convenient little chamber for Nina. The Spaniards 
and the Russian sailors took up their sleeping-quarters in 
the adjacent galleries, and found the temperature quite com- 
fortable. 

Such were the internal arrangements of Nina's Hive, 
the refuge where the little colony were full of hope that 
they would be able to brave the rigors of the stern winter- 
time that lay before them a winter-time during which 
Gallia might possibly be projected even to the orbit of Jup- 
iter, where the temperature would not exceed one twenty- 
fifth of the normal winter temperature of the earth. 

The only discontented spirit was Isaac Hakkabut. 
Throughout all the preparations which roused even the 
Spaniards to activity, the Jew, still incredulous and deaf to 
every representation of the true state of things, insisted 
upon remaining in the creek at Gourbi Island ; nothing could 
induce him to leave his tartan, where, like a miser, he would 
keep guard over his precious cargo, ever grumbling and 
growling, but with his weather-eye open in the hope of 
catching sight of some passing sail. It must be owned that 
the whole party were far from sorry to be relieved of his 
presence ; his uncomely figure and repulsive countenance was 
a perpetual bugbear. He had given out in plain terms that 
he did not intend to part with any of his property, except 
for current money, and Servadac, equally resolute, had 
strictly forbidden any purchases to be made, hoping to wear 
out the rascal's obstinacy. 

Hakkabut persistently refused to credit the real situation; 
he could not absolutely deny that some portions of the ter- 
restrial globe had undergone a certain degree of modifica- 
tion, but nothing could bring him to believe that he was not, 
sooner or later, to resume his old line of business in the 
Mediterranean. With his wonted distrust of all with whom 
he came in contact, he regarded every argument that was 
urged upon him only as evidence of a plot that had been 
devised to deprive him of his goods. Repudiating, as he 
did utterly, the hypothesis that a fragment had become de- 
tached from the earth, he scanned the horizon for hours 
together with an old telescope, the case of which had been 
patched up till it looked like a rusty stove-pipe, hoping to 



128 OFF ON A COMET 

descry the passing trader with which he might effect some 
bartering upon advantageous terms. 

At first he professed to regard the proposed removal into 
winter-quarters as an attempt to impose upon his credulity; 
but the frequent voyages made by the Dobryna to the south, 
and the repeated consignments of corn and cattle, soon 
served to make him aware that Captain Servadac and his 
companions were really contemplating a departure from 
Gourbi Island. 

The movement set him thinking. What, he began to ask 
himself what if all that was told him was true? What if 
this sea was no longer the Mediterranean? What if he 
should never again behold his German fatherland? What 
if his marts for business were gone for ever? A vague 
idea of ruin began to take possession of his mind: he must 
yield to necessity; he must do the best he could. As the 
result of his cogitations, he occasionally left his tartan and 
made a visit to the shore. At length he endeavored to min- 
gle with the busy group, who were hurrying on their prep- 
arations; but his advances were only met by jeers and 
scorn, and, ridiculed by all the rest, he was fain to turn his 
attention to Ben Zoof, to whom he offered a few pinches of 
tobacco. 

" No, old Zebulon," said Ben Zoof, steadily refusing the 
gift, " it is against orders to take anything from you. Keep 
your cargo to yourself; eat and drink it all if you can; we 
are not to touch it." 

Finding the subordinates incorruptible, Isaac determined 
to go to the fountain-head. He addressed himself to Ser- 
vadac, and begged him to tell him the whole truth, piteously 
adding that surely it was unworthy of a French officer to 
deceive a poor old man like himself. 

" Tell you the truth, man ! " cried Servadac. " Confound 
it, I have told you the truth twenty times. Once for all, I 
tell you now, you have left yourself barely time enough to 
make your escape to yonder mountain." 

" God and Mahomet have mercy on me ! " muttered the 
Jew, whose creed frequently assumed a very ambiguous 
character. 

"I will tell you what," continued the captain "you 
shall have a few men to work the Hansa across, if you 
like." 



WINTER QUARTERS 12$ 

" But I want to go to Algiers/' whimpered Hakkabut. 

" How often am I to tell you that Algiers is no longer 
in existence? Only say yes or no are you coming with 
us into winter-quarters?" 

" God of Israel! what is to become of all my property? " 

" But, mind you," continued the captain, not heeding the 
interruption, " if you do not choose voluntarily to come with 
us, I shall have the Hansa, by my orders, removed to a place 
of safety. I am not going to let your cursed obstinacy 
incur the risk of losing your cargo altogether." 

" Merciful Heaven! I shall be ruined! " moaned Isaac, in 
despair. 

" You are going the right way to ruin yourself, and it 
would serve you right to leave you to your own devices. 
But be off ! I have no more to say." 

And, turning contemptuously on his heel, Servadac left 
the old man vociferating bitterly, and with uplifted hands 
protesting vehemently against the rapacity of the Gentiles. 

By the 2Oth all preliminary arrangements were complete, 
and everything ready for a final departure from the island. 
The thermometer stood on an average at 8 below zero, and 
the water in the cistern was completely frozen. ,It 'was 
determined, therefore, for the colony to embark on the fol- 
lowing day, and take up their residence in Nina's Hive. 

A final consultation was held about the Hansa. Lieu- 
tenant Procope pronounced his decided conviction that it 
would be impossible for the tartan to resist the pressure of 
the ice in the harbor of the Shelif, and that there would be 
far more safety in the proximity of the volcano. It was 
agreed on all hands that the vessel must be shifted; and ac- 
cordingly orders were given, four Russian sailors were sent 
on board, and only a few minutes elapsed after the Dobryna 
had weighed anchor, before the great lateen sail of the 
tartan was unfurled, and the " shop-ship," as Ben Zoof de- 
lighted to call it, was also on her way to the southward. 

Long and loud were the lamentations of the Jew. He 
kept exclaiming that he had given no orders, that he was 
being moved against his will, that he had asked for no as- 
sistance, and needed -none; but it required no very keen 
discrimination to observe that all along there was a lurking 
gleam of satisfaction in his little gray eyes, and when, a 
few hours later, he found himself securely anchored, and 

V. IX Verne 



130 OFF ON A COMET 

his property in a place of safety, he quite chuckled with 
glee. 

" God of Israel ! " he said in an undertone, " they have 
made no charge; the idiots have piloted me here for noth- 
ing." 

For nothing! His whole nature exulted in the con- 
sciousness that he was enjoying a service that had been ren- 
dered gratuitously. 

Destitute of human inhabitants, Gourbi Island was now 
left to the tenancy of such birds and beasts as had escaped 
the recent promiscuous slaughter. Birds, indeed, that had 
migrated in search of warmer shores, had returned, proving 
that this fragment of the French colonly was the only shred 
of land that could yield them any sustenance; but their life 
must necessarily be short. It was utterly impossible that 
they could survive the cold that would soon ensue. 

The colony took possession of their new abode with but 
few formalities. Everyone, however, approved of all the 
internal arrangements of Nina's Hive, and were profuse in 
their expressions of satisfaction at rinding themselves 
located in such comfortable quarters. The only malcontent 
was Hakkabut; he had no share in the general enthusiasm, 
refused even to enter or inspect any of the galleries, and in- 
sisted on remaining on board his tartan. 

" He is afraid," said Ben Zoof, " that he will have to 
pay for his lodgings. But wait a bit; we shall see how he 
stands the cold out there; the frost, no doubt, will drive 
the old fox out of his hole." 

Towards evening the pots were set boiling, and a bounti- 
ful supper, to which all were invited, was spread in the 
central hall. The stores of the Dobryna contained some ex- 
cellent wine, some of which was broached to do honor to the 
occasion. The health of the governor general was drunk, 
as well as the toast " Success to his council," to which Ben 
Zoof was called upon to return thanks. The entertainment 
passed off merrily. The Spaniards were in the best of 
spirits; one of them played the guitar, another the castanets, 
and the rest joined in a ringing chorus. Ben Zoof con- 
tributed the famous Zouave refrain, well known through- 
out the French army, but rarely performed in finer style 
than by this virtuoso: 



WINTER QUARTERS 131 

" Misti goth dar dar tire lyre! 
Flic! floe! flac! lirette, lira! 
Far la rira, 
Tour tala rire, 
Tour la Ribaud, 

Ricandeau, 

Sans repos, refit, re pit, repos, ris pot, ripette! 
Si vous attrapez mon refrain, 
Fameux vous etes." 

The concert was succeeded by a ball, unquestionably the 
first that had ever taken place in Gallia. The Russian 
sailors exhibited some of their national dances, which gained 
considerable applause, even although they followed upon 
the marvelous fandangos of the Spaniards. Ben Zoof, in 
his turn, danced a pas seul (often performed in the Elysee 
Montmartre) with an elegance and vigor that earned many 
compliments from Negrete. 

It was nine o'clock before the festivities came to an end, 
and by that time the company, heated by the high tempera- 
ture of the hall, and by their own exertions, felt the want 
of a little fresh air. Accordingly the greater portion of 
the party, escorted by Ben Zoof, made their way into one 
of the adjacent galleries that led to the shore. Servadac, 
with the count and lieutenant, did not follow immediately; 
but shortly afterwards they proceeded to join them, when 
on their way they were startled by loud cries from those in 
advance. 

Their first impression was that they were cries of dis- 
tress, and they were greatly relieved to find that they were 
shouts of delight, which the dryness and purity of the at- 
mosphere caused to re-echo like a volley of musketry. 

Reaching the mouth of the gallery, they found the entire 
group pointing with eager interest to the sky. 

" Well, Ben Zoof," asked the captain, " what's the mat- 
ter now?" 

"Oh, your Excellency," ejaculated the orderly, "look 
there ! look there ! The moon ! the moon's come back ! " 

And, sure enough, what was apparently the moon was 
rising above the mists of evening. 



CHAPTER XXII 

'A FROZEN OCEAN 

THE moon! She had disappeared for weeks; was she 
now returning? Had she been faithless to the earth? and 
had she now approached to be a satellite of the new-born 
world ? 

" Impossible ! " said Lieutenant Procope ; " the earth is 
millions and millions of leagues away, and it is not probable 
that the moon has ceased to revolve about her." 

" Why not? " remonstrated Servadac. " It would not be 
more strange than the other phenomena which we have 
lately witnessed. Why should not the moon have fallen 
within the limits of Gallia's attraction, and become her 
satellite?" 

" Upon that supposition," put in the count, " I should 
think that it would be altogether unlikely that three months 
would elapse without our seeing her." 

" Quite incredible ! " continued Procope. " And there is 
another thing which totally disproves the captain's hypothe- 
sis; the magnitude of Gallia is far too insignificant for her 
power of attraction to carry off the moon." 

" But," persisted Servadac, " why should not the same 
convulsion that tore us away from the earth have torn away 
the moon as well ? After wandering about as she would for 
a while in the solar regions, I do not see why she should 
not have attached herself to us." 

The lieutenant repeated his conviction that it was not 
likely. 

" But why not? " again asked Servadac impetuously. 

" Because, I tell you, the mass of Gallia is so inferior to 
that of the moon, that Gallia would become the moon's 
satellite ; the moon could not possibly become hers." 

" Assuming, however," continued Servadac, " such to be 
the case " 

" I am afraid," said the lieutenant, interrupting him, 
" that I cannot assume anything of the sort even for a 
moment" 

Servadac smiled good-humoredly. 

" I confess you seem to have the best of the argument, 
and if Gallia had become a satellite of the moon, it would 
not have taken three months to catch sight of her. I sup- 
pose you are right." 

132 



A FROZEN OCEAN 133 

While this discussion had been going on, the satellite, 
or whatever it might be, had been rising steadily above the 
horizon, and had reached a position favorable for obser- 
vation. Telescopes were brought, and it was very soon 
ascertained, beyond a question, that the new luminary was 
not the well-known Phoebe of terrestrial nights; it had no 
feature in common with the moon. Although it was ap- 
parently much nearer to Gallia than the moon to the earth, 
its superficies was hardly one-tenth as large, and so feebly 
did it reflect the light of the remote sun, that it scarcely 
emitted radiance enough to extinguish the dim luster of 
stars of the eighth magnitude. Like the sun, it had risen 
in the west, and was now at its full. To mistake its identity 
with the moon was absolutely impossible ; not even Servadac 
could discover a trace of the seas, chasms, craters, and moun- 
tains which have been so minutely delineated in lunar charts J 
and it could not be denied that any transient hope that had 
been excited as to their once again being about to enjoy the 
peaceful smiles of " the queen of night " must all be 
resigned. 

Count Timascheff finally suggested, though somewhat 
doubtfully, the question of the probability that Gallia,. in 
her course across the zone of the minor planets, had carried 
off one of them; but whether it was one of the 169 asteroids 
already included in the astronomical catalogues, or one 
previously unknown, he did not presume to determine. The 
idea to a certain extent was plausible, inasmuch as it has 
been ascertained that several of the telescopic planets are of 
such small dimensions that a good walker might make a cir- 
cuit of them in four and twenty hours; consequently Gallia, 
being of superior volume, might be supposed capable of 
exercising a power of attraction upon any of these miniature 
microcosms. 

The first night in Nina's Hive passed without special 
incident; and next morning a regular scheme of life was 
definitely laid down. " My lord governor," as Ben Zoof 
until he was peremptorily forbidden delighted to call Ser- 
vadac, had a wholesome dread of idleness and its con- 
sequences, and insisted upon each member of the party un- 
dertaking some special duty to fulfill. There was plenty 
to do. The domestic animals required a great deal of at- 
tention; a supply of food had to be secured and preserved; 



I 3 4 OFF ON A COMET 

fishing had to be carried on while the condition of the sea 
would allow it ; and in several places the galleries had to be 
further excavated to render them more available for use. 
Occupation, then, need never be wanting, and the daily 
round of labor could go on in orderly routine. 

!A perfect concord ruled the little colony. The Russians 
and Spaniards amalgamated well, and both did their best to 
pick up various scraps of French, which was considered the 
official language of the place. Servadac himself undertook 
the tuition of Pablo and Nina, Ben Zoof being their com- 
panion in play-hours, when he entertained them with en- 
chanting stories in the best Parisian French, about " a lovely 
city at the foot of a mountain," where he always promised 
one day to take them. 

The end of March came, but the cold was not intense 
to such a degree as to confine any of the party to the 
interior of their resort; several excursions were made along 
the shore, and for a radius of three or four miles the 
adjacent district was carefully explored. Investigation, 
however, always ended in the same result ; turn their course 
in whatever direction they would, they found that the coun- 
try retained everywhere its desert character, rocky, barren, 
and without a trace of vegetation. Here and there a slight 
layer of snow or a thin coating of ice arising from at- 
mospheric condensation indicated the existence of super- 
ficial moisture, but it would require a period indefinitely 
long, exceeding human reckoning, before that moisture 
could collect into a stream and roll downwards over the 
stony strata to the sea. It seemed at present out of their 
power to determine whether the land upon which they 
were so happily settled was an island or a continent, and 
till the cold was abated they feared to undertake any 
lengthened expedition to ascertain the 'actual extent of the 
strange concrete of metallic crystallization. 

By ascending one day to the summit of the volcano, 
Captain Servadac and the count succeeded in getting a 
general idea of the aspect of the country. The mountain 
itself was an enormous block rising symmetrically to a 
height of nearly 3,000 feet above the level of the sea, in 
the form of a truncated cone, of which the topmost section 
was crowned by a wreath of smoke issuing continuously 
from the mouth of a narrow crater. 



A FROZEN OCEAN 135 

Under the old condition of terrestrial things, the ascent 
of this steep acclivity would have been attended with much 
fatigue, but as the effect of the altered condition of the 
law of gravity, the travelers performed perpetual prodigies 
in the way of agility, and in little over an hour reached the 
edge of the crater, without more sense of exertion than if 
they had traversed a couple of miles on level ground. Gallia 
had its drawbacks, but it had some compensating advantages. 

Telescopes in hand, the explorers from the summit 
scanned the surrounding view. Their anticipations had al- 
ready realized what they saw. Just as they expected, on 
the north, east, and west lay the Gallian Sea, smooth and 
motionless as a sheet of glass, the cold having, as it were, 
congealed the atmosphere so that there was not a breath 
of wind. Towards the south there seemed no limit to the 
land, and the volcano formed the apex of a triangle, of 
which the base was beyond the reach of vision. Viewed 
even from this height, whence distance would do much to 
soften the general asperity, the surface nevertheless seemed 
to be bristling with its myriads of hexagonal lamellae, and 
to present difficulties which, to an ordinary pedestrian, 
would be insurmountable. 

" Oh for some wings, or else a balloon ! " cried Servadac, 
as he gazed around him; and then, looking down to the 
.rock upon which they were standing, he added, " We seem 
to have been transplanted to a soil strange enough in its 
chemical character to bewilder the savants at a museum." 

" And do you observe, captain," asked the count, " how 
the convexity of our little world curtails our view? See, 
how circumscribed is the horizon ! " 

Servadac replied that he had noticed the same circum- 
stance from the top of the cliffs of Gourbi Island. 

"Yes/' said the count; "it becomes more and more 
obvious that ours is a very tiny world, and that Gourbi 
Island is the sole productive spot upon its surface. We 
have had a short summer, and who knows whether we are 
not entering upon a winter that may last for years, perhaps 
for centuries? " 

" But we must not mind, count," said Servadac, smiling. 
" We have agreed, you know, that, come what may, we are 
to be philosophers." 

"Ay, true, my friend," rejoined the count; " we must be 



136 OFF ON A' COMET 

philosophers and something more; we must be grateful to 
the good Protector who has hitherto befriended us, and we 
must trust His mercy to the end." 

For a few moments they both stood in silence, and con- 
templated land and sea; then, having given a last glance 
over the dreary panorama, they prepared to wend their way 
down the mountain. Before, however, they commenced 
their descent, they resolved to make a closer examination 
of the crater. They were particularly struck by what 
seemed to them almost the mysterious calmness with which 
the eruption was effected. There was none of the wild dis- 
order and deafening tumult that usually accompany the dis- 
charge of volcanic matter, but the heated lava, rising with 
a uniform gentleness, quietly overran the limits of the crater, 
like the flow of water from the bosom of a peaceful lake. 
Instead of a boiler exposed to the action of an angry fire, 
the crater rather resembled a brimming basin, of which the 
contents were noiselessly escaping. Nor were there any 
igneous stones or red-hot cinders mingled with the smoke 
that crowned the summit ; a circumstance that quite accorded 
with the absence of the pumice-stones, obsidians, and other 
minerals of volcanic origin with which the base of a burning 
mountain is generally strewn. 

Captain Servadac was of opinion that this peculiarity 
augured favorably for the continuance of the eruption. Ex- 
treme violence in physical, as well as in moral nature, is 
never of long duration. The most terrible storms, like the 
most violent fits of passion, are not lasting; but here the 
calm flow of the liquid fire appeared to be supplied from a 
source that was inexhaustible, in the same way as the waters 
of Niagara, gliding on steadily to their final plunge, would 
defy all effort to arrest their course. 

Before the evening of this day closed in, a most important 
change was effected in the condition of the Gallian Sea by 
the intervention of human agency. Notwithstanding the in- 
creasing cold, the sea, unruffled as it was by a breath of 
wind, still retained its liquid state. It is an established fact 
that water, under this condition of absolute stillness, will 
remain uncongealed at a temperature several degrees below 
zero, whilst experiment, at the same time, shows that a very 
slight shock will often be sufficient to convert it into solid ice. 

It had occurred to Servadac that if some communication 



A FROZEN OCEAN 137 

could be opened with Gourbi Island, there would be a fine 
scope for hunting expeditions. Having this ultimate object 
in view, he assembled his little colony upon a projecting 
rock at the extremity of the promontory, and having called 
Nina and Pablo out to him in front, he said : " Now, Nina, 
do you think you could throw something into the sea? " 

" I think I could," replied the child, " but I am sure that 
Pablo would throw it a great deal further than I can." 

" Never mind, you shall try first." 

Putting a fragment of ice into Nina's hand, he addressed 
himself to Pablo : 

" Look out, Pablo ; you shall see what a nice little fairy 
Nina is ! Throw, Nina, throw, as hard as you can." 

Nina balanced the piece of ice two or three times in her 
hand, and threw it forward with all her strength. 

A sudden thrill seemed to vibrate across the motionless 
waters to the distant horizon, and the Gallian Sea had be- 
come a solid sheet of ice ! 



CHAPTER XXIII 

A CARRIER-PIGEON 

WHEN, three hours after sunset, on the 23d of March, 
the Gallian moon rose upon the western horizon, it was 
observed that she had entered upon her last quarter. She 
had taken only four days to pass from syzygy to quadrature, 
and it was consequently evident that she would be visible for 
little more than a week at a time, and that her lunation would 
be accomplished within sixteen days. The lunar months, 
like the solar days, had been diminished by one-half. Three 
days later the moon was in conjunction with the sun, and 
was consequently lost to view; Ben Zoof, as the first ob- 
server of the satellite, was extremely interested in its move- 
ments, and wondered whether it would ever reappear. 

On the 26th, under an atmosphere perfectly clear and 
dry, the thermometer fell to 12 F. below zero. Of the 
present distance of Gallia from the sun, and the number of 
leagues she had traversed since the receipt of the last 
mysterious document, there were no means of judging; the 
extent of diminution in the apparent disc of the sun did not 
afford sufficient basis even for an approximate calculation; 



138 OFF ON A COMET 

and Captain Servadac was perpetually regretting that they 
could receive no further tidings from the anonymous corre- 
spondent, whom he persisted in regarding as a fellow-coun- 
tryman. 

The solidity of the ice was perfect; the utter stillness of 
the air at the time when the final congelation of the waters 
had taken place had resulted in the formation of a surface 
that for smoothness would rival a skating-rink; without a 
crack or flaw it extended far beyond the range of vision. 

The contrast to the ordinary aspect of polar seas was 
very remarkable. There, the ice-fields are an agglomeration 
of hummocks and icebergs, massed in wild confusion, often 
towering higher than the masts of the largest whalers, and 
from the instability of their foundations liable to an in- 
stantaneous loss of equilibrium; a breath of wind, a slight 
modification of the temperature, not unfrequently serving to 
bring about a series of changes outrivaling the most 
elaborate transformation scenes of a pantomime. Here, 
on the contrary, the vast white plain was level as the desert 
of Sahara or the Russian steppes; the waters of the "Gallian 
Sea were imprisoned beneath the solid sheet, which became 
continually stouter in the increasing cold. 

Accustomed to the uneven crystallizations of their own 
frozen seas, the Russians could not be otherwise than de- 
lighted with the polished surface that afforded them such 
excellent opportunity for enjoying their favorite pastime of 
skating. A supply of skates, found hidden away amongst 
the Dobryna's stores, was speedily brought into use. The 
Russians undertook the instruction of the Spaniards, and 
at the end of a few days, during which the temperature was 
only endurable through the absence of wind, there was not 
a Gallian who could not skate tolerably well, while many 
of them could describe figures involving the most com- 
plicated curves. Nina and Pablo earned loud applause by 
their rapid proficiency; Captain Servadac, an adept in 
athletics, almost outvied his instructor, the count; and Ben 
Zoof, who had upon some rare occasions skated upon the 
Lake of Montmartre (in his eyes, of course, a sea), per- 
formed prodigies in the art. 

This exercise was not only healthful in itself, but it was 
acknowledged that, in case of necessity, it might become a 
very useful means of locomotion. As Captain Servadac 



CARRIER-PIGEON 139 

remarked, it was almost a substitute for railways, and as if 
to illustrate this proposition, Lieutenant Procope, perhaps 
the greatest expert in the party, accomplished the twenty 
miles to Gourbi Island and back in considerably less than 
four hours. 

The temperature, meanwhile, continued to decrease, and 
the average reading of the thermometer was about 16 F. 
below zero; the light also diminished in proportion, and 
all objects appeared to be enveloped in a half -defined 
shadow, as though the sun were undergoing a perpetual 
eclipse. It was not surprising that the effect of this con- 
tinuously overhanging gloom should be to induce a fre- 
quent depression of spirits amongst the majority of the 
little population, exiles as they were from their mother 
earth, and not unlikely, as it seemed, to be swept far away 
into the regions of another planetary sphere. Probably 
Count Timascheff, Captain Servadac, and Lieutenant Pro- 
cope were the only members of the community who could 
bring any scientific judgment to bear upon the uncertainty 
that was before them, but a general sense of the strange- 
ness of their situation could not fail at times to weigh 
heavily upon the minds of all. Under these circumstances 
it was very necessary to counteract the tendency to de- 
spond by continual diversion; and the recreation of skating 
thus opportunely provided, seemed just the thing to arouse 
the flagging spirits, and to restore a wholesome excitement. 

With dogged obstinacy, Isaac Hakkabut refused to take 
any share either in the labors or the amusements of the 
colony. In spite of the cold, he had not been seen since 
the day of his arrival from Gourbi Island. Captain Ser- 
vadac had strictly forbidden any communication with him; 
and the smoke that rose from the cabin chimney of the Hansa 
was the sole indication of the proprietor being still on board. 
There was nothing to prevent him, if he chose, from partak- 
ing gratuitously of the volcanic light and heat which were 
being enjoyed by all besides; but rather than abandon his 
close and personal oversight of his precious cargo, he pre- 
ferred to sacrifice his own slender stock of fuel. 

Both the schooner and the tartan had been carefully 
moored in the way that seemed to promise best for with- 
standing the rigor of the winter. After seeing the vessels 
made secure in the frozen creek, Lieutenant Procope, fol- 



140 OFF ON A COMET 

lowing the example of many Arctic explorers, had the 
precaution to have the ice beveled away from the keels, 
so that there should be no risk of the ships' sides being 
crushed by the increasing pressure; he hoped that they 
would follow any rise in the level of the ice-field, and when 
the thaw should come, that they would easily regain their 
proper water-line. 

On his last visit to Gourbi Island, the lieutenant had 
ascertained that north, east, and west, far as the eye could 
reach, the Gallian Sea had become one uniform sheet of 
ice. One spot alone refused to freeze; this was the pool 
immediately below the central cavern, the receptacle for 
the stream of burning lava. It was entirely enclosed by 
rocks, and if ever a few icicles were formed there by the 
action of the cold, they were very soon melted by the fiery 
shower. Hissing and spluttering as the hot lava came in 
contact with it, the water was in a continual state of ebul- 
lition, and the fish that abounded in its depths defied the 
angler's craft ; they were, as Ben Zoof remarked, " too much 
boiled to bite." 

At the beginning of April the weather changed. The 
sky became overcast, but there was no rise in the tem- 
perature. Unlike the polar winters of the earth, which 
ordinarily are affected by atmospheric influence, and liable 
to slight intermissions of their severity at various shif tings 
of the wind, Gallia's winter was caused by her immense 
distance from the source of all light and heat, and the cold 
was consequently destined to go on steadily increasing until 
it reached the limit ascertained by Fourier to be the normal 
temperature of the realms of space. 

With the over-clouding of the heavens there arose a 
violent tempest; but although the wind raged with an almost 
inconceivable fury, it was unaccompanied by either snow or 
rain. Its effect upon the burning curtain that covered the 
aperture of the central hall was very remarkable. So far 
from there being any likelihood of the fire being extinguished 
by the vehemence of the current of air, the hurricane seemed 
rather to act as a ventilator, which fanned the flame into 
greater activity, and the utmost care was necessary to avoid 
being burnt by the fragments of lava that were drifted into 
the interior of the grotto. More than once the curtain itself 
was rifted entirely asunder, but only to close up again im- 



CARRIER-PIGEON 141 

mediately after allowing a momentary 'draught of cold air 
to penetrate the hall in a way that was refreshing and rather 
advantageous than otherwise. 

On the 4th of April, after an absence of about four days, 
the new satellite, to Ben Zoof's great satisfaction, made its 
reappearance in a crescent form, a circumstance that seemed 
to justify the anticipation that henceforward it would con- 
tinue to make a periodic revolution every fortnight. 

The crust of ice and snow was far too stout for the 
beaks of the strongest birds to penetrate, and accordingly 
large swarms had left the island, and, following the human 
population, had taken refuge on the volcanic promontory; 
not that there the barren shore had anything in the way of 
nourishment to offer them, but their instinct impelled them 
to haunt now the very habitations which formerly they 
would have shunned. Scraps of food were thrown to them 
from the galleries; these were speedily devoured, but were 
altogether inadequate in quantity to meet the demand. At 
length, emboldened by hunger, several hundred birds ven- 
tured through the tunnel, and took up their quarters actually 
in Nina's Hive. Congregating in the large hall, the half- 
famished creatures did not hesitate to snatch bread, meat, 
or food of any description from the hands of the residents 
as they sat at table, and soon became such an intolerable 
nuisance that it formed one of the daily diversions to hunt 
them down ; but although they were vigorously attacked by 
stones and sticks, and even occasionally by shot, it was with 
some difficulty that their number could be sensibly reduced. 

By a systematic course of warfare the bulk of the birds 
were all expelled, with the exception of about a hundred, 
which began to build in the crevices of the rocks. These 
were left in quiet possession of their quarters, as not only 
was it deemed advisable to perpetuate the various breeds, 
but it was found that these birds acted as a kind of police, 
never failing either to chase away or to kill any others of 
their species who infringed upon what they appeared to 
regard as their own special privilege in intruding within 
the limits of their domain. 

On the 1 5th loud cries were suddenly heard issuing from 
the mouth of the principal gallery. 

" Help, help ! I shall be killed ! " 

Pablo in a moment recognized the voice as Nina's. Out- 



142 OFF ON A COMET 

running even Ben Zoof he hurried to the assistance of his 
little playmate, and discovered that she was being attacked 
by half a dozen great sea-gulls, and only after receiving 
some severe blows from their beaks could he succeed by 
means of a stout cudgel in driving them away. 

" Tell me, Nina, what is this? " he asked as soon as the 
tumult had subsided. 

The child pointed to a bird which she was caressing ten- 
derly in her bosom. 

"A pigeon! " exclaimed Ben Zoof, who had reached the 
scene of commotion, adding: 

"A carrier-pigeon! And by all the saints of Mont- 
martre, there is a little bag attached to its neck ! " 

He took the bird, and rushing into the hall placed it in 
Servadac's hands. 

" Another message, no doubt," cried the captain, " from 
our unknown friend. Let us hope that this time he has 
given us his name and address." 

All crowded round, eager to hear the news. In the 
struggle with the gulls the bag had been partially torn open, 
but still contained the following dispatch : 
"Gallia! 

Chemin parcouru du i er Mars au i er Avril : 39,000,000 1. ! 

Distance du soleil : 1 10,000,000 1. ! 

Capte Nerina en passant. 

Vivres vont manquer et . . ." 

The rest of the document had been so damaged by the 
beaks of the gulls that it was illegible. Servadac was wild 
with vexation. He felt more and more convinced that the 
writer was a Frenchman, and that the last line indicated 
that he was in distress from scarcity of food. The very 
thought of a fellow-countryman in peril of starvation drove 
him well-nigh to distraction, and it was in vain that search 
was made everywhere near the scene of conflict in hopes of 
finding the missing scrap that might bear a signature or 
address. 

Suddenly little Nina, who had again taken possession of 
the pigeon, and was hugging it to her breast, said : 

"Look here, Ben Zoof!" 

And as she spoke she pointed to the left wing of the bird. 

The wing bore the faint impress of a postage-stamp, and 
the one word : 

" FORMENTERA." 



CHAPTER XXIV 

A SLEDGE-RIDE 

FORMENTERA was at once recognized by Servadac and the 
count as the name of one of the smallest of the Balearic 
Islands. It was more than probable that the unknown 
writer had thence sent out the mysterious documents, and 
from the message just come to hand by the carrier-pigeon, 
it appeared all but certain that at the beginning of April, a 
fortnight back, he had still been there. In one important 
particular the present communication differed from those 
that had preceded it: it was written entirely in French, 
and exhibited none of the ecstatic exclamations in other 
languages that had been remarkable in the two former 
papers. The concluding line, with its intimation of failing 
provisions, amounted almost to an appeal for help. Cap- 
tin Servadac briefly drew attention to these points, and 
concluded by saying, " My friends, we must, without delay, 
hasten to the assistance of this unfortunate man." 

" For my part," said the count, " I am quite ready to ac- 
company you; it is not unlikely that he is not alone in his 
distress." 

Lieutenant Procope expressed much surprise. 

"We must have passed close to Formentera," he said, 
" when we explored the site of the Balearic Isles ; this frag- 
ment must be very small; it must be smaller than the re- 
maining splinter of Gibraltar or Ceuta; otherwise, surely it 
would never have escaped our observation." 

" However small it may be," replied Servadac, " we must 
find it. How far off do you suppose it is ? " 

" It must be a hundred and twenty leagues away," said 
the lieutenant, thoughtfully; "and I do not quite under- 
stand how you would propose to get there." 

" Why, on skates of course; no difficulty in that, I should 
imagine," answered Servadac, and he appealed to the count 
for confirmation of his opinion. 

The count assented, but Procope looked doubtful. 

" Your enterprise is generous," he said, " and I should 
be most unwilling to throw any unnecessary obstacle in the 
way of its execution; but, pardon me, if I submit to you a 
few considerations which to my mind are very important. 
First of all, the thermometer is already down to 22 below 
zero, and the keen wind from the south is making the tem- 

143 



144 OFF ON A COMET 

perature absolutely unendurable; in the second place, sup- 
posing you travel at the rate of twenty leagues a day, you 
would be exposed for at least six consecutive days; and 
thirdly, your expedition will be of small avail unless you 
convey provisions not only for yourselves, but for those 
whom you hope to relieve." 

" We can carry our own provisions on our backs in knap- 
sacks," interposed Servadac, quickly, unwilling to recognize 
any difficulty in the way. 

" Granted that you can," answered the lieutenant, quietly ; 
"but where, on this level ice-field, will you find shelter in 
your periods of rest? You must perish with cold; you will 
not have the chance of digging out ice-huts like the 
Esquimaux." 

"As to rest," said Servadac, "we shall take none; we 
shall keep on our way continuously; by traveling day and 
night without intermission, we shall not be more than three 
days in reaching Formentera." 

" Believe me," persisted the lieutenant, calmly, " your en- 
thusiasm is carrying you too far ; the feat you propose is im- 
possible; but even conceding the possibility of your success 
in reaching your destination, what service do you imagine 
that you, half-starved and half-frozen yourself, could render 
to those who are already perishing by want and exposure? 
you would only bring them away to die." 

The obvious and dispassionate reasoning of the lieutenant 
could not fail to impress the minds of those who listened to 
him; the impracticability of the journey became more and 
more apparent ; unprotected on that drear expanse, any trav- 
eler must assuredly succumb to the snow-drifts that were 
continually being whirled across it. But Hector Servadac, 
animated by the generous desire of rescuing a suffering fel- 
low-creature, could scarcely be brought within the bounds of 
common sense. Against his better judgment he was still 
bent upon the expedition, and Ben Zoof declared himself 
ready to accompany his master in the event of Count Tima- 
scheff hesitating to encounter the peril which the undertak- 
ing involved. But the count entirely repudiated all idea of 
shrinking from what, quite as much as the captain, he re- 
garded as a sacred duty, and turning to Lieutenant Procope, 
told him that unless some better plan could be devised, he 
was prepared to start off at once and make the attempt to 



A SLEDGE-RIDE 145 

skate across to Formentera. The lieutenant, who was lost 
in thought, made no immediate reply. 

" I wish we had a sledge," said Ben Zoof. 

" I dare say that a sledge of some sort could be con- 
trived," said the count; "but then we should have no dogs 
or reindeers to draw it." 

" Why not rough-shoe the two horses? " 

" They would never be able to endure the cold," objected 
the count. 

" Never mind," said Servadac, " let us get our sledge and 
put them to the test. Something must be done ! " 

" I think," said Lieutenant Procope, breaking his thought- 
ful silence, " that I can tell you of a sledge already provided 
for your hand, and I can suggest a motive power surer and 
swifter than horses." 

" What do you mean ? " was the eager inquiry. 

" I mean the Dobryna's yawl," answered the lieutenant ; 
" and I have no doubt that the wind would carry her rapidly 
along the ice." 

The idea seemed admirable. Lieutenant Procope was 
well aware to what marvelous perfection the Americans 
had brought their sail-sledges, and had heard how in- the 
vast prairies of the United States they had been known to 
outvie the speed of an express train, occasionally attaining 
a rate of more than a hundred miles an hour. The wind 
was still blowing hard from the south, and assuming that 
the yawl could be propelled with a velocity of about fifteen 
or at least twelve leagues an hour, he reckoned that it was 
quite possible to reach Formentera within twelve hours, 
that is to say, in a single day between the intervals of 
sunrise and sunrise. 

The yawl was about twelve feet long, and capable of 
holding five or six people. The addition of a couple of 
iron runners would be all that was requisite to convert it 
into an excellent sledge, which, if a sail were hoisted, might 
be deemed certain to make a rapid progress over the smooth 
surface of the ice. For the protection of the passengers 
it was proposed to erect a kind of wooden roof lined with 
strong cloth ; beneath this could be packed a supply of provi- 
sions, some warm furs, some cordials, and a portable stove 
to be heated by spirits of wine. 

For the outward journey the wind was as favorable as 

V. IX Verne 



146 OFF ON A COMET 

could be desired ; but it was to be apprehended that, unless 
the direction of the wind should change, the return would be 
a matter of some difficulty; a system of tacking might be 
carried out to a certain degree, but it was not likely that the 
yawl would answer her helm in any way corresponding to 
what would occur in the open sea. Captain Servadac, how- 
ever, would not listen to any representation of probable diffi- 
culties; the future, he said, must provide for itself. 

The engineer and several of the sailors set vigorously 
to work, and before the close of the day the yawl was fur- 
nished with a pair of stout iron runners, curved upwards in 
front, and fitted with a metal scull designed to assist in main- 
taining the directness of her course; the roof was put on, 
and beneath it were stored the provisions, the wraps, and the 
cooking utensils. 

A strong desire was expressed by Lieutenant Procope 
that he should be allowed to accompany Captain Servadac 
instead of Count Timascheff. It was unadvisable for all 
three of them to go, as, in case of there being several per- 
sons to be rescued, the space at their command would be 
quite inadequate. The lieutenant urged that he was the 
most experienced seaman, and as such was best qualified to 
take command of the sledge and the management of the 
sails ; and as it was not to be expected that Servadac would 
resign his intention of going in person to relieve his fellow- 
countryman, Procope submitted his own wishes to the count. 
The count was himself very anxious to have his share in the 
philanthropic enterprise, and demurred considerably to the 
proposal; he yielded, however, after a time, to Servadac's 
representations that in the event of the expedition proving 
disastrous, the little colony would need his services alike as 
governor and protector, and overcoming his reluctance to 
be left out of the perilous adventure, was prevailed upon to 
remain behind for the general good of the community at 
Nina's Hive. 

At sunrise on the following morning, the i6th of April, 
Captain Servadac and the lieutenant took their places in 
the yawl. The thermometer was more than 20 below 
zero, and it was with deep emotion that their companions 
beheld them thus embarking upon the vast white plain. Ben 
Zoof's heart was too full for words; Count Timascheff 
could not forbear pressing his two brave friends to his 



A SLEDGE-RIDE 147 

bosom ; the Spaniards and the Russian sailors crowded round 
for a farewell shake of the hand, and little Nina, her great 
eyes flooded with tears, held up her face for a parting kiss. 
The sad scene was not permitted to be long. The sail was 
quickly hoisted, and the sledge, just as if it had expanded a 
huge white wing, was in a little while carried far away be- 
yond the horizon. 

Light and unimpeded, the yawl scudded on with incred- 
ible speed. Two sails, a brigantine and a jib, were arranged 
to catch the wind to the greatest advantage, and the trav- 
elers estimated that their progress would be little under the 
rate of twelve leagues an hour. The motion of their novel 
vehicle was singularly gentle, the oscillation being less than 
that of an ordinary railway-carriage, while the diminished 
force of gravity contributed to the swiftness. Except that 
the clouds of ice-dust raised by the metal runners were an 
evidence that they had not actually left the level surface of 
the ice, the captain and lieutenant might again and again 
have imagined that they were being conveyed through the 
air in a balloon. 

Lieutenant Procope, with ,his head all muffled up for fear 
of frost-bite, took an occasional peep through an aperture 
that had been intentionally left in the roof, and by the 
help of a compass, maintained a proper and straight course 
for Formentera. Nothing could be more dejected than the 
aspect of that frozen sea; not a single living creature re- 
lieved the solitude; both the travelers, Procope from a 
scientific point of view, Servadac from an aesthetic, were 
alike impressed by the solemnity of the scene, and where 
the lengthened shadow' of the sail cast upon the ice by the 
oblique rays of the setting sun had disappeared, and day had 
given place to night, the two men, drawn together as by an 
involuntary impulse, mutually held each other's hands in 
silence. 

There had been a new moon on the previous evening; 
but, in the absence of moonlight, the constellations shone 
with remarkable brilliancy. The new pole-star close upon 
the horizon was resplendent, and even had Lieutenant Pro- 
cope been destitute of a compass, he would have had no 
difficulty in holding his course by the guidance of that alone. 
However great was the distance that separated Gallia from 
the sun, it was after all manifestly insignificant in compari- 



148 OFF. ON A COMET 

son with the remoteness of the nearest of the fixed stars. 

Observing that Servadac was completely absorbed in his 
own thoughts, Lieutenant Procope had leisure to contem- 
plate some of the present perplexing problems, and to ponder 
over the true astronomical position. The last of the three 
mysterious documents had represented that Gallia, in con- 
formity with Kepler's second law, had traveled along her 
orbit during the month of March twenty millions of leagues 
less than she had done in the previous month; yet, in the 
same time, her distance from the sun had nevertheless been 
increased by thirty-two millions of leagues. She was now, 
therefore, in the center of the zone of telescopic planets that 
revolve between the orbits of Mars and Jupiter, and had cap- 
tured for herself a satellite which, according to the docu- 
ment, was Nerina, one of the asteroids most recently 
identified. If thus, then, it was within the power of the un- 
known writer to estimate with such apparent certainty Gal- 
lia's exact position, was it not likely that his mathematical 
calculations would enable him to arrive at some definite con- 
clusion as to the date at which she would begin again to 
approach the sun? Nay, was it not to be expected that he 
had already estimated, with sufficient approximation to 
truth, what was to be the true length of the Gallian year? 

So intently had they each separately been following their 
own train of thought, that daylight reappeared almost be- 
fore the travelers were aware of it. On consulting their 
instruments, they found that they must have traveled close 
upon a hundred leagues since they started, and they resolved 
to slacken their speed. The sails were accordingly taken in 
a little, and in spite of the intensity of the cold, the explorers 
ventured out of their shelter, in order that they might re- 
connoiter the plain, which was apparently as boundless as 
ever. It was completely desert; not so much as a single 
point of rock relieved the bare uniformity of its surface. 

"Are we not considerably to the west of Formentera?" 
asked Servadac, after examining the chart. 

" Most likely," replied Procope. " I have taken the same 
course as I should have done at sea, and I have kept some 
distance to windward of the island; we can bear straight 
down upon it whenever we like." 

" Bear down then, now ; and as quickly as you can." 

The yawl was at once put with her head to the north- 



A SLEDGE-RIDE 149 

east, and Captain Servadac, in defiance of the icy blast, 
remained standing at the bow, his gaze fixed on the horizon. 

All at once his eye brightened. 

" Look ! look ! " he exclaimed, pointing to a faint outline 
that broke the monotony of the circle that divided the plain 
from the sky. 

In an instant the lieutenant had seized his telescope. 

"I see what you mean," said he; "it is a pylone that 
has been used for some geodesic survey." 

The next moment the sail was filled, and the yawl was 
bearing down upon the object with inconceivable swiftness, 
both Captain Servadac and the lieutenant too excited to 
utter a word. Mile after mile the distance rapidly grew 
less, and as they drew nearer the pylone they could see 
that it was erected on a low mass of rocks that was the 
sole interruption to the dull level of the field of ice. No 
wreath of smoke rose above the little island; it was mani- 
festly impossible, they conceived, that any human being 
could there have survived the cold; the sad presentiment 
forced itself upon their minds that it was a mere cairn to 
which they had been hurrying. 

Ten minutes later, and they were so near the rock that 
the lieutenant took in his sail, convinced that the impetus 
already attained would be sufficient to carry him to the 
land. Servadac's heart bounded as he caught sight of a 
fragment of blue canvas fluttering in the wind from the top 
of the pylone : it was all that now remained of the French 
national standard. At the foot of the pylone stood a miser- 
able shed, its shutters tightly closed. No other habitation 
was to be seen; the entire island was less than a quarter of 
a mile in circumference; and the conclusion was irresistible 
that it was the sole surviving remnant of Formentera, once 
a member of the Balearic Archipelago. 

To leap on shore, to clamber over the slippery stones, 
and to reach the cabin was but the work of a few moments. 
The worm-eaten door was bolted on the inside. Servadac 
began to knock with all his might. No answer. Neither 
shouting nor knocking could draw forth a reply. 

" Let us force it open, Procope ! " he said. 

The two men put their shoulders to the door, which 
soon yielded to their vigorous efforts, and they found 
themselves inside the shed, and in almost total darkness. 



ISO OFF ON A COMET 

By opening a shutter they admitted what daylight they 
could. At first sight the wretched place seemed to be 
deserted; the little grate contained the ashes of a fire long 
since extinguished; all looked black and desolate. Another 
instant's investigation, however, revealed a bed in the ex- 
treme corner, and extended on the bed a human form. 

" Dead ! " sighed Servadac; " dead of cold and hunger! " 

Lieutenant Procope bent down and anxiously contem- 
plated the body. 

"No; he is alive!" he said, and drawing a small flask 
from his pocket he poured a few drops of brandy between 
the lips of the senseless man. 

There was a faint sigh, followed by a feeble voice, which 
uttered the one word, " Gallia? " 

" Yes, yes ! Gallia ! " echoed Servadac, eagerly. 

" My comet, my comet ! " said the voice, so low as to be 
almost inaudible, and the unfortunate man relapsed again 
into unconsciousness. 

"Where have I seen this man?" thought Servadac to 
himself; " his face is strangely familiar to me." 

But it was no time for deliberation. Not a moment was 
to be lost in getting the unconscious astronomer away 
from his desolate quarters. He was soon conveyed to the 
yawl; his books, his scanty wardrobe, his papers, his in- 
struments, and the blackboard which had served for his 
calculations, were quickly collected; the wind, by a for- 
tuitous Providence, had shifted into a favorable quarter; 
they set their sail with all speed, and ere long were on their 
journey back from Formentera. 

Thirty-six hours later, the brave travelers were greeted 
by the acclamations of their fellow-colonists, who had been 
most anxiously awaiting their reappearance, and the still 
senseless savant, who had neither opened his eyes nor 
spoken a word throughout the journey, was safely de- 
posited in the warmth and security of the great hall of 
Nina's Hive. 



END OF FIRST BOOK 




BOOK II 

CHAPTER I 

THE ASTRONOMER 

Y the return of the expedition, conveying its 
contribution from Formentera, the known 
population of Gallia was raised to a total of 
thirty-six. 

On learning the details of his friends' dis- 
coveries, Count Timascheff did not hesitate in 
believing that the exhausted individual who was lying be- 
fore him was the author alike of the two unsigned docu- 
ments picked up at sea, and of the third statement so 
recently brought to hand by the carrier-pigeon. Mani- 
festly, he had arrived at some knowledge of Gallia's move- 
ments : he had estimated her distance from the sun ; he had 
calculated the diminution of her tangential speed; but there 
was nothing to show that he had arrived at the conclusions 
which were of the most paramount interest to them all. 
Had he ascertained the true character of her orbit? had he 
established any data from which it would be possible to 
reckon what time must elapse before she would again ap- 
proach the earth? 

The only intelligible words which the astronomer had 
uttered had been, " My comet ! " 

To what could the exclamation refer? Was it to be 
conjectured that a fragment of the earth had been chipped 
off by the collision of a comet? and if so, was it implied 
that the name of the comet itself was Gallia, and were 
they mistaken in supposing that such was the name given 
by the savant to the little world that had been so suddenly 
launched into space? Again and again they discussed 
these questions; but no satisfactory answer could be found. 
The only man who was able to throw any light upon the 
subject was lying amongst them in an unconscious and 
half-dying condition. 

Apart from motives of humanity, motives of self-inter- 
est made it a matter of the deepest concern to restore 
animation to that senseless form. Ben Zoof, after making 
the encouraging remark that savants have as many lives 
as a cat, proceeded, with Negrete's assistance, to give the 

151 



152 OFF ON A COMET 

body such a vigorous rubbing as would have threatened 
serious injury to any ordinary mortal, whilst they admin- 
istered cordials and restoratives from the Dobryna's med- 
ical stores powerful enough, one might think, to rouse the 
very dead. 

Meanwhile the captain was racking his brain in his exer- 
tions to recall what were the circumstances of his previous 
acquaintance with the Frenchman upon whose features he 
was gazing; he only grew more and more convinced that he 
had once been familiar with them. Perhaps it was not 
altogether surprising that he had almost forgotten him; he 
had never seen him since the days of his youth, that time 
of life which, with a certain show of justice, has been 
termed the age of ingratitude; for, in point of fact, the 
astronomer was none other than Professor Palmy rin 
Rosette, Servadac's old science-master at the Lycee Charle- 
magne. 

After completing his year of elementary studies, Hector 
Servadac had entered the school at Saint Cyr, and from 
that time he and his former tutor had never met, so that 
naturally they would well-nigh pass from each other's recol- 
lection. One thing, however, on the other hand, might con- 
duce to a mutual and permanent impression on their 
memories; during the year at the Lycee, young Servadac, 
never of a very studious turn of mind, had contrived, as the 
ringleader of a set of like caliber as himself, to lead the 
poor professor a life of perpetual torment. On the dis- 
covery of each delinquency he would fume and rage in a 
manner that was a source of unbounded delight to his 
audience. 

Two years after Servadac left the Lycee, Professor 
Rosette had thrown up all educational employment in order 
\that he might devote himself entirely to the study of 
astronomy. He endeavored to obtain a post at the Ob- 
servatory, but his ungenial character was so well known 
in scientific circles that he failed in his application; how- 
ever, having some small private means, he determined on 
his own account to carry on his researches without any 
official salary. He had really considerable genius for the 
science that he had adopted; besides discovering three of 
the latest of the telescopic planets, he had worked out the 
elements of the three hundred and twenty-fifth comet in 



THE ASTRONOMER 153 

the catalogue; but his chief delight was to criticize the 
publications of other astronomers, and he was never better 
pleased than when he detected a flaw in their reckonings. 

When Ben Zoof and Negrete had extricated their patient 
from the envelope of furs in which he had been wrapped 
by Servadac and the lieutenant, they found themselves face 
to face with a shrivelled little man, about five feet two 
inches high, with a round bald head, smooth and shiny as 
an ostrich's egg, no beard unless the unshorn growth of a 
week could be so described, and a long hooked nose that 
supported a huge pair of spectacles such as with many 
near-sighted people seems to have become a part of their 
individuality. His nervous system was remarkably de- 
veloped, and his body might not inaptly be compared to 
one of the RhumkorfFs bobbins of which the thread, several 
hundred yards in length, is permeated throughout by 
electric fluid. But whatever he was, his life, if possible, 
must be preserved. When he had been partially divested 
of his clothing, his heart was found to be still beating, 
though very feebly. Asserting that while there was life 
there was hope, Ben Zoof recommenced his friction with 
more vigor than ever. 

When the rubbing had been continued without a mo- 
ment's intermission for the best part of half an hour, the 
astronomer heaved a faint sigh, which ere long was followed 
by another and another. He half opened his eyes, closed 
them again, then opened them completely, but without ex- 
hibiting any consciousness whatever of his situation. A 
few words seemed to escape his lips, but they were quite 
unintelligible. Presently he raised his right hand to his 
forehead as though instinctively feeling for something that 
was missing; then, all of a sudden, his features became 
contracted, his face flushed with apparent irritation, and 
he exclaimed fretfully, "My spectacles! where are my 
spectacles ? " 

In order to facilitate his operations, Ben Zoof had re- 
moved the spectacles in spite of the tenacity with which 
they seemed to adhere to the temples of his patient; but 
he now rapidly brought them back and readjusted them 
as best he could to what seemed to be their natural position 
on the aquiline nose. The professor heaved a long sigh of 
relief, and once more closed his eyes. 



154 OFF ON A COMET 

Before long the astronomer roused himself a little more, 
and glanced inquiringly about him, but soon relapsed into 
his comatose condition. When next he opened his eyes, 
Captain Servadac happened to be bending down closely 
over him, examining his features with curious scrutiny. 
The old man darted an angry look at him through the 
spectacles, and said sharply, " Servadac, five hundred lines 
to-morrow ! " 

It was an echo of days of old. The words were few, 
but they were enough to recall the identity which Servadac 
was trying to make out. 

" Is it possible? " he exclaimed. " Here is my old tutor, 
Mr. Rosette, in very flesh and blood." 

"Can't say much for the flesh," muttered Ben Zoof. 

The old man had again fallen back into a torpid slumber. 
Ben Zoof continued, " His sleep is getting more composed. 
Let him alone; he will come round yet. Haven't I heard 
of men more dried up than he is, being brought all the 
way from Egypt in cases covered with pictures?" 

" You idiot ! those were mummies ; they had been dead 
for ages." 

Ben Zoof did not answer a word. He went on pre- 
paring a warm bed, into which he managed to remove his 
patient, who soon fell into a calm and natural sleep. 

Too impatient to await the awakening of the astronomer 
and to hear what representations he had to make, Servadac, 
the count, and the lieutenant, constituting themselves what 
might be designated "the Academy of Sciences " of the 
colony, spent the whole of the remainder of the day in start- 
ing and discussing the wildest conjectures about their situa- 
tion. The hypothesis, to which they had now accustomed 
themselves for so long, that a new asteroid had been formed 
by a fracture of the earth's surface, seemed to fall to the 
ground when they found that Professor Palmy rin Rosette 
had associated the name of Gallia, not with their present 
home, but with what he called " my comet " ; and that 
theory being abandoned, they were driven to make the most 
improbable speculations to replace it. 

Alluding to Rosette, Servadac took care to inform his 
companions that, although the professor was always eccen- 
tric, and at times very irascible, yet he was really exceed- 
ingly good-hearted; his bark was worse than his bite; and 



THE ASTRONOMER 155 

if suffered to take their course without observation, his out- 
breaks of ill-temper seldom lasted long. 

" We will certainly do our best to get on with him/' 
said the count. " He is no doubt the author of the papers, 
and we must hope that he will be able to give us some 
valuable information." 

" Beyond a question the documents have originated with 
him," assented the lieutenant. " Gallia was the word writ- 
ten at the top of every one of them, and Gallia was the first 
word uttered by him in our hearing." 

The astronomer slept on. Meanwhile, the three together 
had no hesitation in examining his papers, and scrutinizing 
the figures on his extemporized blackboard. The hand- 
writing corresponded with that of the papers already re- 
ceived; the blackboard was covered with algebraical 
symbols traced in chalk, which they were careful not to 
obliterate; and the papers, which consisted for the most 
part of detached scraps, presented a perfect wilderness of 
geometrical figures, conic sections of every variety being 
repeated in countless profusion. 

Lieutenant Procope pointed out that these curves evi- 
dently had reference to the orbits of comets, which are 
variously parabolic, hyperbolic, or elliptic. If either of the 
first two, the comet, after once appearing within the range 
of terrestrial vision, would vanish forever in the outlying 
regions of space; if the last, it would be sure, sooner or 
later, after some periodic interval, to return. 

From the primd facie appearance of his papers, then, it 
seemed probable that the astronomer, during his sojourn 
at Formentera, had been devoting himself to the study of 
cometary orbits; and as calculations of this kind are ordi- 
narily based upon the assumption that the orbit is a para- 
bola, it was not unlikely that he had been endeavoring to 
trace the path of some particular comet. 

" I wonder whether these calculations were made before 
or after the ist of January; it makes all the difference," 
said Lieutenant Procope. 

" We must bide our time and hear," replied the count 

Servadac paced restlessly up and down. " I would give 
a month of my life," he cried, impetuously, " for every 
hour that the old fellow goes sleeping on." 

" You might be making a bad bargain," said Procope, 



156 OFF ON A COMET 

smiling. " Perhaps after all the comet has had nothing to 
do with the convulsion that we have experienced." 

" Nonsense ! " exclaimed the captain ; " I know better 
than that, and so do you. Is it not as clear as daylight 
that the earth and this comet have been in collision, and 
the result has been that our little world has been split off 
and sent flying far into space ? " 

Count Timascheff and the lieutenant looked at each other 
in silence. " I do not deny your theory," said Procope 
after a while. "If it be correct, I suppose we must con- 
clude that the enormous disc we observed on the night of 
the catastrophe was the comet itself; and the velocity with 
which it was traveling must have been so great that it was 
hardly arrested at all by the attraction of the earth." 

"Plausible enough," answered Count Timascheff; "and 
it is to this comet that our scientific friend here has given 
the name of Gallia." 

It still remained a puzzle to them all why the astron- 
omer should apparently be interested in the comet so 
much more than in the new little world in which their 
strange lot was cast. 

" Can you explain this ? " asked the count. 

" There is no accounting for the freaks of philosophers, 
you know," said Servadac ; " and have I not told you that 
this philosopher in particular is one of the most eccentric 
beings in creation? " 

" Besides," added the lieutenant, " it is exceedingly likely 
that his observations had been going on for some consider- 
able period before the convulsion happened." 

Thus, the general conclusion arrived at by the Gallian 
Academy of Science was this: That on the night of the 
3 ist of December, a comet, crossing the ecliptic, had come 
into collision with the earth, and that the violence of the 
shock had separated a huge fragment from the globe, which 
fragment from that date had been traversing the remote 
inter-planetary regions. Palmyrin Rosette would doubtless 
confirm their solution of the phenomenon. 



CHAPTER II 

A REVELATION 

To the general population of the colony the arrival of the 
stranger was a matter of small interest. The Spaniards 
were naturally too indolent to be affected in any way by 
an incident that concerned themselves so remotely; while 
the Russians felt themselves simply reliant on their master, 
and as long as they were with him were careless as to 
where or how they spent their days. Everything went on 
with them in an accustomed routine; and they lay down 
night after night, and awoke to their avocations morning 
after morning, just as if nothing extraordinary had oc- 
curred. 

All night long Ben Zoof would not leave the professor's 
bedside. He had constituted himself sick nurse, and con- 
sidered his reputation at stake if he failed to set his patient 
on his feet again. He watched every movement, listened 
to every breath, and never failed to administer the strongest 
cordials upon the slightest pretext. Even in his sleep 
Rosette's irritable nature revealed itself. Ever and again, 
sometimes in a tone of uneasiness, and sometimes with the 
expression of positive anger, the name of Gallia escaped 
his lips, as though he were dreaming that his claim to the 
discovery of the comet was being contested or denied; but 
although his attendant was on the alert to gather all he 
could, he was able to catch nothing in the incoherent 
sentences that served to throw any real light upon the 
problem that they were all eager to solve. 

When the sun reappeared on the western horizon the 
professor was still sound asleep; and Ben Zoof, who was 
especially anxious that the repose which promised to be 
so beneficial should not be disturbed, felt considerable an- 
noyance at hearing a loud knocking, evidently of some 
blunt heavy instrument against a door that had been placed 
at the entrance of the gallery, more for the purpose of re- 
taining internal warmth than for guarding against intrusion 
from without. 

" Confound it! " said Ben Zoof. " I must put a stop to 
this ; " and he made his way towards the door. 

" Who's there?" he cried, in no very amiable tone. 

" I," replied the quavering voice. 

"Who are you?" 

157 



158 OFF ON A COMET 

" Isaac Hakkabut. Let me in ; do, please, let me in." 

" Oh, it is you, old Ashtaroth, is it? What do you want? 
Can't you get anybody to buy your stuffs? " 

" Nobody will pay me a proper price." 

" Well, old Shimei, you won't find a customer here. 
You had better be off." 

" No; but do, please do, please, let me in," supplicated 
the Jew. " I want to speak to his Excellency, the gov- 
ernor." 

' The governor is in bed, and asleep." 

" I can wait until he awakes." 

" Then wait where you are." 

And with this inhospitable rejoinder the orderly was 
about to return to his place at the side of his patient, when 
Servadac, who had been roused by the sound of voices, 
called out, " What's the matter, Ben Zoof ? " 

"Oh, nothing, sir; only that hound of a Hakkabut says 
he wants to speak to you." 

" Let him in, then." 

Ben Zoof hesitated. 

" Let him in, I say," repeated the captain, peremptorily. 

However reluctantly, Ben Zoof obeyed. The door was 
unfastened, and Isaac Hakkabut, enveloped in an old over- 
coat, shuffled into the gallery. In a few moments Servadac 
approached, and the Jew began to overwhelm him with 
the most obsequious epithets. Without vouchsafing any 
reply, the captain beckoned to the old man to follow him, 
and leading the way to the central hall, stopped, and turn- 
ing so as to look him steadily in the face, said, " Now is 
your opportunity. Tell me what you want." 

" Oh, my lord, my lord," whined Isaac, " you must have 
some news to tell me." 

"News? What do you mean?" 

" From my little tartan yonder, I saw the yawl go out 
from the rock here on a journey, and I saw it come back, 
and it brought a stranger; and I thought I thought I 
thought " 

" Well, you thought what did you think? " 

" Why, that perhaps the stranger had come from the 
northern shores of the Mediterranean, and that I might 
ask him " 

He paused again, and gave a glance at the captain. 



A REVELATION 159 

" Ask him what? Speak out, man? " 

"Ask him if he brings any tidings of Europe," Hak- 
kabut blurted out at last. 

Servadac shrugged his shoulders in contempt and turned 
away. Here was a man who had been resident three 
months in Gallia, a living witness of all the abnormal 
phenomena that had occurred, and yet refusing to believe 
that his hope of making good bargains with European 
traders was at an end. Surely nothing, thought the cap- 
tain, will convince the old rascal now ; and he moved off in 
disgust. The orderly, however, who had listened with 
much amusement, was by no means disinclined for the con- 
versation to be continued. " Are you satisfied, old 
Ezekiel?" he asked. 

" Isn't it so? Am I not right? Didn't a stranger arrive 
here last night? " inquired the Jew. 

" Yes, quite true." 

"Where from?" 

" From the Balearic Isles." 

"The Balearic Isles? " echoed Isaac. 

" Yes." 

" Fine quarters for trade ! Hardly twenty leagues from 
Spain! He must have brought news from Europe! " 

" Well, old Manasseh, what if he has?" 

" I should like to see him." 

" Can't be." 

The Jew sidled close up to Ben Zoof, and laying his 
hand on his arm, said in a low and insinuating tone, " I am 
poor, you know; but I would give you a few reals if you 
would let me talk to this stranger." 

But as if he thought he was making too liberal an offer, 
he added, " Only it must be at once." 

" He is too tired; he is worn out; he is fast asleep," an- 
swered Ben Zoof. 

" But I would pay you to wake him." 

The captain had overheard the tenor of the conversation, 
and interposed sternly, "Hakkabut! if you make the least 
attempt to disturb our visitor, I shall have you turned out- 
side that door immediately." 

" No offense, my lord, I hope," stammered out the Jew. 
" I only meant " 

" Silence ! " shouted Servadac. 



160 OFF ON A COMET 

The old man hung his head, abashed. 

" I will tell you what," said Servadac after a brief in- 
terval ; " I will give you leave to hear what this stranger 
has to tell as soon as he is able to tell us anything; at present 
we have not heard a word from his lips." 

The Jew looked perplexed. 

"Yes," said Servadac; "when we hear his story, you 
shall hear it too." 

" And I hope it will be to your liking, old Ezekiel ! " 
added Ben Zoof in a voice of irony. 

They had none of them long to wait, for within a few 
minutes Rosette's peevish voice was heard calling, " Joseph ! 
Joseph!" 

The professor did not open his eyes, and appeared to 
be slumbering on, but very shortly afterwards called out 
again, "Joseph! Confound the fellow! where is he?" It 
was evident that he was half dreaming about a former 
servant now far away on the ancient globe. " Where's my 
blackboard, Joseph? " 

" Quite safe, sir," answered Ben Zoof, quickly. 

Rosette unclosed his eyes and fixed them full upon the 
orderly's face. " Are you Joseph ? " he asked. 

" At your service, sir," replied Ben Zoof with imperturb- 
able gravity. 

" Then get me my coffee, and be quick about it." 

Ben Zoof left to go into the kitchen, and Servadac ap- 
proached the professor in order to assist him in rising to a 
sitting posture. 

"Do you recognize your quondam pupil, professor?" 
he asked. 

" Ah, yes, yes ; you are Servadac," replied Rosette. " It 
is twelve years or more since I saw you; I hope you have 
improved." 

" Quite a reformed character, sir, I assure you," said 
Servadac, smiling. 

"Well, that's as it should be; that's right," said the 
astronomer with fussy importance. " But let me have my 
coffee," he added impatiently; "I cannot collect my 
thoughts without my coffee." 

Fortunately, Ben Zoof appeared with a great cup, hot 
and strong. After draining it with much apparent relish, 
the professor got out of bed, walked into the common hall, 



A REVELATION 161 

round which he glanced with a pre-occupied air, and pro- 
ceeded to seat himself in an armchair, the most comfort- 
able which the cabin of the Dobryna had supplied. Then, 
in a voice full of satisfaction, and that involuntarily re- 
called the exclamations of delight that had wound up the 
two first of the mysterious documents that had been re- 
ceived, he burst out, " Well, gentlemen, what do you think 
of Gallia?" 

There was no time for anyone to make a reply before 
Isaac Hakkabut had darted forward. 

" By the God " 

"Who is that?" asked the startled professor; and he 
frowned, and made a gesture of repugnance. 

Regardless of the efforts that were made to silence him, 
the Jew continued, " By the God of Abraham, I beseech 
you, give me some tidings of Europe ! " 

" Europe? " shouted the professor, springing from his 
seat as if he were electrified; "what does the man want 
with Europe?" 

" I want to get there ! " screeched the Jew ; and in spite 
of every exertion to get him away, he clung most tena- 
ciously to the professor's chair, and again and again im- 
plored for news of Europe. 

Rosette made no immediate reply. After a moment or 
two's reflection, he turned to Servadac and asked him 
whether it was not the middle of April. 

" It is the twentieth/' answered the captain. 

" Then to-day," said the astronomer, speaking with the 
greatest deliberation " to-day we are just three millions 
of leagues away from Europe. 

The Jew was utterly crestfallen. 

" You seem here," continued the professor, " to be very 
ignorant of the state of things." 

" How far we are ignorant," rejoined Servadac, " I can- 
not tell. But I will tell you all that we do know, and all 
that we have surmised." And as briefly as he could, he re- 
lated all that had happened since the memorable night of 
the thirty-first of December; how they had experienced 
the shock; how the Dobryna had made her voyage; how 
they had discovered nothing except the fragments of the 
old continent at Tunis, Sardinia, Gibraltar, and now at 
Formentera: how at intervals the three anonymous docu- 

V, IX Vern 



ite OFF ON A COMET 

ments had been received; and, finally, how the settlement 
at Gourbi Island had been abandoned for their present 
quarters at Nina's Hive. 

The astronomer had hardly patience to hear him to the 
end. " And what do you say is your surmise as to your 
present position ? " he asked. 

" Our supposition," the captain replied, " is this. We 
imagine that we are on a considerable fragment of the 
terrestrial globe that has been detached by collision with a 
planet to which you appear to have given the name of 
Gallia." 

" Better than that ! " cried Rosette, starting to his feet 
with excitement. 

" How ? Why ? What do you mean ? " cried the voices 
of the listeners. 

" You are correct to a certain degree," continued the 
professor. " It is quite true that at 47' 35-6" after two 
o'clock on the morning of the first of January there was 
a collision; my comet grazed the earth; and the bits of the 
earth which you have named were carried clean away." 

They were all fairly bewildered. 

" Where, then," cried Servadac eagerly, " where are 
.we?" 

" You are on my comet, on Gallia itself! " 

And the professor gazed around him with a perfect air 
of triumph. 



CHAPTER III 
THE PROFESSOR'S EXPERIENCES 

" YES, my comet ! " repeated the professor, and from time 
to time he knitted his brows, and looked around him with 
a defiant air, as though he could not get rid of the im- 
pression that someone was laying an unwarranted claim 
to its proprietorship, or that the individuals before him 
were intruders upon his own proper domain. 

But for a considerable while, Servadac, the count, and 
the lieutenant remained silent and sunk in thought. Here 
then, at last, was the unriddling of the enigma they had 
been so long endeavoring to solve; both the hypotheses 
they had formed in succession had now to give way before 



THE PROFESSOR'S EXPERIENCES 163 

the announcement of the real truth. The first supposition, 
that the rotatory axis of the earth had been subject to 
some accidental modification, and the conjecture that re- 
placed it, namely, that a certain portion of the terrestrial 
sphere had been splintered off and carried into space, had 
both now to yield to the representation that the earth had 
been grazed by an unknown comet, which had caught up 
some scattered fragments from its surface, and was bearing 
them far away into sidereal regions. Unfolded lay the 
past and the present before them; but this only served to 
awaken a keener interest about the future. Could the 
professor throw any light upon that? they longed to in- 
quire, but did not yet venture to ask him. 

Meanwhile Rosette assumed a pompous professional 
air, and appeared to be waiting for the entire party to be 
ceremoniously introduced to him. Nothing unwilling to 
humor the vanity of the eccentric little man, Servadac pro- 
ceeded to go through the expected formalities. 

" Allow me to present to you my excellent friend, the 
Count Timascheff," he said. 

"You are very welcome/' said Rosette, bowing to the 
count with a smile of condescension. 

" Although I am not precisely a voluntary resident on 
your comet, Mr. Professor, I beg to acknowledge your 
courteous reception," gravely responded Timascheff. 

Servadac could not quite conceal his amusement at the 
count's irony, but continued, " This is Lieutenant Procope, 
the officer in command of the Dobryna." 

The professor bowed again in frigid dignity. 

" His yacht has conveyed us right round Gallia," added 
the captain. 

"Round Gallia?" eagerly exclaimed the professor. 

"Yes, entirely round it," answered Servadac, and with- 
out allowing time for reply, proceeded, " And this is my 
orderly, Ben Zoof." 

"Aide-de-camp to his Excellency the Governor of Gal- 
lia," interposed Ben Zoof himself, anxious to maintain his 
master's honor as well as his own. 

Rosette scarcely bent his head. 

The rest of the population of the Hive were all pre- 
sented in succession : the Russian sailors, the Spaniards, 
young Pablo, and little Nina, on whom the professor, evi- 



164 OFF ON A COMET 

dently no lover of children, glared fiercely through his 
formidable spectacles. Isaac Hakkabut, after his introduc- 
tion, begged to be allowed to ask one question. 

"How soon may we hope to get back?" he inquired, 

"Get back!" rejoined Rosette, sharply; "who talks of 
getting back? We have hardly started yet." 

Seeing that the professor was inclined to get angry, 
Captain Servadac adroitly gave a new turn to the con- 
versation by asking him whether he would gratify them 
by relating his own recent experiences. The astronomer 
seemed pleased with the proposal, and at once commenced 
a verbose and somewhat circumlocutory address, of which 
the following summary presents the main features. 

The French Government, being desirous of verifying the 
measurement already made of the arc of the meridian of 
Paris, appointed a scientific commission for that purpose. 
From that commission the name of Palmy rin Rosette was 
omitted, apparently for no other reason than his personal 
unpopularity. Furious at the slight, the professor resolved 
to set to work independently on his own account, and de- 
claring that there were inaccuracies in the previous geodesic 
operations, he determined to re-examine the results of the 
last triangulation which had united Formentera to the 
Spanish coast by a triangle, one of the sides of which 
measured over a hundred miles, the very operation which 
had already been so successfully accomplished by Arago 
and Biot. 

Accordingly, leaving Paris for the Balearic Isles, he 
placed his observatory on the highest point of Formentera, 
and accompanied as he was only by his servant, Joseph, 
led the life of a recluse. He secured the services of a 
former assistant, and dispatched him to a high peak on 
the coast of Spain, where he had to superintend a rever- 
berator, which, with the aid of a glass, could be seen from 
Formentera. A few books and instruments, and two 
months' victuals, was all the baggage he took with him, 
except an excellent astronomical telescope, which was, in- 
deed, almost part and parcel of himself, and with which 
he assiduously scanned the heavens, in the sanguine antici- 
pation of making some discovery which would immortalize 
his name. 

The task he had undertaken demanded the utmost 



THE PROFESSOR'S EXPERIENCES 165 

patience. Night after night, in order to fix the apex of 
his triangle, he had to linger on the watch for the assist- 
ant's signal-light, but he did not forget that his predeces- 
sors, Arago and Biot, had had to wait sixty-one days for a 
similar purpose. What retarded the work was the dense 
fog which, it has been already mentioned, at that time 
enveloped not only that part of Europe, but almost the en- 
tire world. 

Never failing to turn to the best advantage the few 
intervals when the mist lifted a little, the astronomer would 
at the same time cast an inquiring glance at the firmament, 
as he was greatly interested in the revision of the chart of 
the heavens, in the region contiguous to the constellation 
Gemini. 

To the naked eye this constellation consists of only six 
stars, but through a telescope ten inches in diameter, as 
many as six thousand are visible. Rosette, however, did 
not possess a reflector of this magnitude, and was obliged 
to content himself with the good but comparatively small 
instrument he had. 

On one of these occasions, whilst carefully gauging the 
recesses of Gemini, he espied a bright speck which was 
unregistered in the chart, and which at first he took for 
a small star that had escaped being entered in the cata- 
logue. But the observation of a few separate nights soon 
made it manifest that the star was rapidly changing its 
position with regard to the adjacent stars, and the astron- 
omer's heart began to leap at the thought that the renown 
of the discovery of a new planet would be associated with 
his name. 

Redoubling his attention, he soon satisfied himself that 
what he saw was not a planet; the rapidity of its displace- 
ment rather forced him to the conjecture that it must 
be a comet, and this opinion was soon strengthened 
by the appearance of a coma, and subsequently confirmed, 
as the body approached the sun, by the development of 
a tail. 

A comet! The discovery was fatal to all further prog- 
ress in the triangulation. However conscientiously the as- 
sistant on the Spanish coast might look to the kindling of 
the beacon, Rosette had no glances to spare for that direc- 
tion ; he had no eyes except for the one object of his notice, 



166 OFF ON A COMET 

no thoughts apart from that one quarter of the firmament. 

A comet! No time must be lost in calculating its ele- 
ments. 

Now, in order to calculate the elements of a comet, 
it is always deemed the safest mode of procedure to assume 
the orbit to be a parabola. Ordinarily, comets are con- 
spicuous at their perihelia, as being their shortest distances 
from the sun, which is the focus of their orbit, and inas- 
much as a parabola is but an ellipse with its axis indefinitely 
produced, for some short portion of its pathway the orbit 
may be indifferently considered either one or the other; but 
in this particular case the professor was right in adopting 
the supposition of its being parabolic. 

Just as in a circle, it is necessary to know three points 
to determine the circumference; so in ascertaining the ele- 
ments of a comet, three different positions must be observed 
before what astronomers call its " ephemeris " can be estab- 
lished. 

But Professor Rosette did not content himself with three 
positions; taking advantage of every rift in the fog he made 
ten, twenty, thirty observations both in right ascension and 
in declination, and succeeded in working out with the most 
minute accuracy the five elements of the comet which was 
evidently advancing with astounding rapidity towards the 
earth. 

These elements were: 

1. The inclination of the plane of the cometary orbit to 
the plane of the ecliptic, an angle which is generally con- 
siderable, but in this case the planes were proved to coincide. 

2. The position of the ascending node, or the point where 
the comet crossed the terrestrial orbit. 

These two elements being obtained, the position in space 
of the comet's orbit was determined. 

3. The direction of the axis major of the orbit, which 
was found by calculating the longitude of the comet's 
perihelion. 

4. The perihelion distance from the sun, which settled 
the precise form of the parabola. 

5. The motion of the comet, as being retrograde, or, 
unlike the planets, from east to west. 

Rosette thus found himself able to calculate the date 
at which the comet would reach its perihelion, and, over- 



THE PROFESSOR'S EXPERIENCES 167 

joyed at his discovery, without thinking of calling it 
Palmyra or Rosette, after his own name, he resolved that 
it should be known as Gallia. 

His next business was to draw up a formal report. 
Not only did he at once recognize that a collision with 
the earth was possible, but he soon foresaw that it was in- 
evitable, and that it must happen on the night of the 3ist 
of December; moreover, as the bodies were moving in op- 
posite directions, the shock could hardly fail to be violent. 

To say that he was elated at the prospect was far below 
the truth; his delight amounted almost to delirium. Any- 
one else would have hurried from the solitude of Formen- 
tera in sheer fright ; but, without communicating a word of 
his startling discovery, he remained resolutely at his post. 
From occasional newspapers which he had received, he had 
learnt that fogs, dense as ever, continued to envelop both 
hemispheres, so that he was assured that the existence of 
the comet was utterly unknown elsewhere; and the igno- 
rance of the world as to the peril that threatened it averted 
the panic that would have followed the publication of the 
facts, and left the philosopher of Formentera in sole pos- 
session of the great secret. He clung to his post with the 
greater persistency, because his calculations had led hirri to 
the conclusion that the comet would strike the earth some- 
where to the south of Algeria, and as it had a solid nucleus, 
he felt sure that, as he expressed it, the effect would be 
" unique/' and he was anxious to be in the vicinity. 

The shock came, and with it the results already re- 
corded. Palmyrin Rosette was suddenly separated from 
his servant Joseph, and when, after a long period of un- 
consciousness, he came to himself, he found that he was 
the solitary occupant of the only fragment that survived 
of the Balearic Archipelago. 

Such was the substance of the narrative iwhich the pro- 
fessor gave with sundry repetitions and digressions; while 
he was giving it, he frequently paused and frowned as if 
irritated in a way that seemed by no means justified by 
the patient and good-humored demeanor of his audience. 

" But now, gentlemen," added the professor, " I must 
tell you something more. Important changes have re- 
sulted from the collision; the cardinal points have been 
displaced; gravity has been diminished: not that I ever 



168 OFF ON A COMET 

supposed for a minute, as you did, that I was still upon 
the earth. No! the earth, attended by her moon, con- 
tinued to rotate along her proper orbit. But we, gentle- 
men, have nothing to complain of; our destiny might have 
been far worse; we might all have been crushed to death, 
or the comet might have remained in adhesion to the earth ; 
and in neither of these cases should we have had the satis- 
faction of making this marvelous excursion through un- 
traversed solar regions. No, gentlemen, I repeat it, we 
have nothing to regret." 

And as the professor spoke, he seemed to kindle with 
the emotion of such supreme contentment that no one had 
the heart to gainsay his assertion. Ben Zoof alone ven- 
tured an unlucky remark to the effect that if the comet 
had happened to strike against Montmartre, instead of a 
bit of Africa, it would have met with some resistance. 

"Pshaw!" said Rosette, disdainfully. "A mole-hill 
like Montmartre would have been ground to powder in a 
moment." 

"Mole-hill!" exclaimed Ben Zoof, stung to the quick. 
" I can tell you it would have caught up your bit of a 
comet and worn it like a feather in a cap." 

The professor looked angry, and Servadac having im- 
posed silence upon his orderly, explained the worthy sol- 
dier's sensitiveness on all that concerned Montmartre. 
Always obedient to his master, Ben Zoof held his tongue; 
but he felt that he could never forgive the slight that had 
been cast upon his beloved home. 

It was now all-important to learn whether the astronomer 
had been able to continue his observations, and whether he 
had learned sufficient of Gallia's path through space to 
make him competent to determine, at least approximately, 
the period of its revolution round the sun. With as much 
tact and caution as he could, Lieutenant Procope endeavored 
to intimate the general desire for some information on this 
point. 

" Before the shock, sir," answered the professor, " I had 
conclusively demonstrated the path of the comet; but, in 
consequence of the modifications which that shock has en- 
tailed upon my comet's orbit, I have been compelled entirely 
to recommence my calculations." 

The lieutenant looked disappointed. 



THE PROFESSOR'S EXPERIENCES 169 

"Although the orbit of the earth was unaltered," con- 
tinued the professor, " the result of the collision was the 
projection of the comet into a new orbit altogether." 

" And may I ask/' said Procope, deferentially, " whether 
you have got the elements of the fresh orbit? " 

" Yes." 

" Then perhaps you know " 

" I know this, sir, that at 47 minutes 35.6 seconds after 
two o'clock on the morning of the 1st of January last, Gallia, 
in passing its ascending node, came in contact with the earth; 
that on the loth of January it crossed the orbit of Venus; 
that it reached its perihelion on the i.Sth; that it re-crossed 
the orbit of Venus; that on the 1st of February it passed 
its descending node; on the I3th crossed the orbit of Mars; 
entered the zone of the telescopic planets on the loth of 
March, and, attracting Nerina, carried it off as a satellite." 

Servadac interposed: 

" We are already acquainted with well-nigh all these ex- 
traordinary facts; many of them, moreover, we have 
learned from documents which we have picked up, and 
which, although unsigned, we cannot entertain- a doubt have 
originated with you." 

Professor Rosette drew himself up proudly and said: 
"Of course they originated with me. I sent them off by 
hundreds. From whom else could they come ? " 

" From no one but yourself, certainly," rejoined the 
count, with grave politeness. 

Hitherto the conversation had thrown no light upon the 
future movements of Gallia, and Rosette was disposed ap- 
parently to evade, or at least to postpone, the subject. 
When, therefore, Lieutenant Procope was about to press 
his inquiries in a more categorical form, Servadac, think- 
ing it advisable not prematurely to press the little savant 
too far, interrupted him by asking the professor how he 
accounted for the earth having suffered so little from such 
a formidable concussion. 

" I account for it in this way," answered Rosette : " the 
earth was traveling at the rate of 28,000 leagues an hour, 
and Gallia at the rate of 57,000 leagues an hour, therefore 
the result was the same as though a train rushing along at 
a speed of about 86,000 leagues an hour had suddenly en- 
countered some obstacle. The nucleus of the comet, being 



170 OFF ON A COMET 

excessively hard, has done exactly what a ball would do 
fired with that velocity close to a pane of glass. It has 
crossed the earth without cracking it." 

" It is possible you may be right," said Servadac, thought- 
fully. 

" Right! of course I am right! " replied the snappish pro- 
fessor. Soon, however, recovering his equanimity, he con- 
tinued : " It is fortunate that the earth was only touched 
obliquely; if the comet had impinged perpendicularly, it 
must have plowed its way deep below the surface, and the 
disasters it might have caused are beyond reckoning. Per- 
haps," he added, with a smile, " even Montmartre might 
not have survived the calamity." 

" Sir ! " shouted Ben Zoof, quite unable to bear the un- 
provoked attack. 

"Quiet, Ben Zoof!" said Servadac sternly. 

Fortunately for the sake of peace, Isaac Hakkabut, who 
at length was beginning to realize something of the true 
condition of things, came forward at this moment, and in 
a voice trembling with eagerness, implored the professor to 
tell him when they would all be back again upon the earth. 

" Are you in a great hurry? " asked the professor coolly. 

The Jew was about to speak again, when Captain Serva- 
dac interposed : " Allow me to say that, in somewhat more 
scientific terms, I was about to ask you the same question. 
Did I not understand you to say that, as the consequence 
of the collision, the character of the comet's orbit has been 
changed?" 

"You did, sir." 

"Did you imply that the orbit has ceased to be a 
parabola?" 

"Just so." 

"Is it then an hyperbola? and are we to be carried on 
far and away into remote distance, and never, never to 
return?" 

" I did not say an hyperbola." 

"And is it not?" 

" It is not." 

" Then it must be an ellipse? " 

" Yes." 

" And does its plane coincide with the plane of the 
earth?" 



THE PROFESSOR'S EXPERIENCES 171 

" Yes." 

" Then it must be a periodic comet? " 

" It is." 

Servadac involuntarily raised a ringing shout of joy 
that echoed again along the gallery. 

"Yes/' continued the professor, " Gallia is a periodic 
comet, and allowing for the perturbations to which it is 
liable from the attraction of Mars and Jupiter and Saturn, 
it will return to the earth again in two years precisely." 

;< You mean that in two years after the first shock, Gallia 
will meet the earth at the same point as they met before? " 
said Lieutenant Procope. 

" I am afraid so," said Rosette. 

"Why afraid?" 

" Because we are doing exceedingly well as we are." The 
professor stamped his foot upon the ground, by way of em- 
phasis, and added, " If I had my will, Gallia should never 
return to the earth again ! " 



CHAPTER IV 

A REVISED CALENDAR 

ALL previous hypotheses, then, were now forgotten in 
the presence of the one great fact that Gallia was a comet 
and gravitating through remote solar regions. Captain 
Servadac became aware that the huge disc that had been 
looming through the clouds after the shock was the form 
of the retreating earth, to the proximity of which the one 
high tide they had experienced was also to be attributed. 

As to the fulfillment of the professor's prediction of an 
ultimate return to the terrestrial sphere, that was a point on 
which it must be owned that the captain, after the first 
flush of his excitement was over, was not without many 
misgivings. 

The next day or two were spent in providing for the 
accommodation of the new comer. Fortunately his desires 
were very moderate; he seemed to live among the stars, 
and as long as he was well provided with coffee, he cared 
little for luxuries, and paid little or no regard to the inge- 
nuity with which all the internal arrangements of Nina's 
Hive had been devised. Anxious to show all proper re- 



OFF ON A COMET 

spect to his former tutor, Servadac proposed to leave the 
most comfortable apartment of the place at his disposal; 
but the professor resolutely declined to occupy it, saying 
that what he required was a small chamber, no matter how 
small, provided that it was elevated and secluded, which he 
could use as an observatory and where he might prosecute 
his studies without disturbance. A general search was in- 
stituted, and before long they were lucky enough to find, 
about a hundred feet above the central grotto, a small recess 
or reduct hollowed, as it were, in the mountain side, which 
would exactly answer their purpose. It contained room 
enough for a bed, a table, an arm-chair, a chest of drawers, 
and, what was of still more consequence, for the indis- 
pensable telescope. One small stream of lava, an off-shoot 
of the great torrent, sufficed to warm the apartment enough. 

In these retired quarters the astronomer took up his 
abode. It was on all hands acknowledged to be advisable 
to let him go on entirely in his own way. His meals were 
taken to him at stated intervals; he slept but little; carried 
on his calculations by day, his observations by night, and 
very rarely made his appearance amongst the rest of the 
little community. 

The cold now became very intense, the thermometer reg- 
istering 30 F. below zero. The mercury, however, never 
exhibited any of those fluctuations that are ever and again 
to be observed in variable climates, but continued slowly and 
steadily to fall, and in all probability would continue to do 
so until it reached the normal temperature of the regions 
of outlying space. 

This steady sinking of the mercury was accompanied by 
a complete stillness of the atmosphere; the very air seemed 
to be congealed; no particle of it stirred; from zenith to 
horizon there was never a cloud; neither were there any of 
the damp mists or dry fogs which so often extend over the 
polar regions of the earth; the sky was always clear; the 
sun shone by day and the stars by night without causing 
any perceptible difference in the temperature. 

These peculiar conditions rendered the cold endurable 
even in the open air. The cause of so many of the diseases 
that prove fatal to Arctic explorers resides in the cutting 
winds, unwholesome fogs, or terrible snow drifts, which, 
by drying up, relaxing, or otherwise affecting the lungs, 



A REVISED CALENDAR 173 

make them incapable of fulfilling their proper functions. 
But during periods of calm weather, when the air has been 
absolutely still, many polar navigators, well-clothed and 
properly fed, have been known to withstand a temperature 
when the thermometer has fallen to 60 below zero. It 
was the experience of Parry upon Melville Island, of Kane 
beyond latitude 81 north, and of Hall and the crew of the 
Polaris, that, however intense the cold, in the absence of the 
wind they could always brave its rigor. 

Notwithstanding, then, the extreme lowness of the tem- 
perature, the little population found that they were able to 
move about in the open air with perfect immunity. The 
governor general made it his special care to see that his 
people were all well fed and warmly clad. Food was both 
wholesome and abundant, and besides the furs brought from 
the Dobryna's stores, fresh skins could very easily be pro- 
cured and made up into wearing apparel. A daily course 
of out-door exercise was enforced upon everyone ; not even 
Pablo and Nina were exempted from the general rule; the 
two children, muffled up in furs, looking like little Esqui- 
meaux, skated along together, Pablo ever at his companion's 
side, ready to give her a helping hand whenever she was 
weary with her exertions. 

After his interview with the newly arrived astronomer, 
Isaac Hakkabut slunk back again to his tartan. A change 
had come over his ideas; he could no longer resist the con- 
viction that he was indeed millions and millions of miles 
away from the earth, where he had carried on so varied 
and remunerative a traffic. It might be imagined that this 
realization of his true position would have led him to a 
better mind, and that, in some degree at least, he would 
have been induced to regard the few fellow-creatures with 
whom his lot had been so strangely cast, otherwise than 
as mere instruments to be turned to his own personal and 
pecuniary advantage; but no the desire of gain was too 
thoroughly ingrained into his hard nature ever to be eradi- 
cated, and secure in his knowledge that he was under the 
protection of a French officer, who, except under the most 
urgent necessity, would not permit him to be molested in 
retaining his property, he determined to wait for some 
emergency to arise which should enable him to use his pres- 
ent situation for his own profit. 



174 OFF ON A COMET 

On the one hand, the Jew took it into account that al- 
though the chances of returning to the earth might be re- 
mote, yet from what he had heard from the professor he 
could not believe that they were improbable; on the other, 
he knew that a considerable sum of money, in English and 
Russian coinage, was in the possession of various members 
of the little colony, and this, although valueless now, would 
be worth as much as ever if the proper condition of things 
should be restored; accordingly, he set his heart on getting 
all the monetary wealth of Gallia into his possession, and 
to do this he must sell his goods. But he would not sell 
them yet ; there might come a time when for many articles 
the supply would not be equal to the demand; that would 
be the time for him; by waiting he reckoned he should be 
able to transact some lucrative business. 

Such in his solitude were old Isaac's cogitations, whilst 
the universal population of Nina's Hive were congratulat- 
ing themselves upon being rid of his odious presence. 

As already stated in the message brought by the carrier 
pigeon, the distance traveled by Gallia in April was 39,000,- 
ooo leagues, and at the end of the month she was 
110,000,000 leagues from the sun, A diagram represent- 
ing the elliptical orbit of the planet, accompanied by an 
ephemeris made out in minute detail, had been drawn out 
by the professor. The curve was divided into twenty-four 
sections of unequal length, representing respectively the 
distance described in the twenty-four months of the Gallian 
year, the twelve former divisions, according to Kepler's 
law, gradually diminishing in length as they approached 
the point denoting the aphelion and increasing as they 
neared the perihelion. 

It was on the I2th of May that Rosette exhibited this 
result of his labors to Servadac, the count, and the lieu- 
tenant, who visited his apartment and naturally examined 
the drawing with the keenest interest. Gallia's path, ex- 
tending beyond the orbit of Jupiter, lay clearly defined 
before their eyes, the progress along the orbit and the solar 
distances being inserted for each month separately. Noth- 
ing could look plainer, and if the professor's calculations 
were correct (a point upon which they dared not, if they 
would, express the semblance of a doubt), Gallia would 
accomplish her revolution in precisely two years, and would 



A REVISED CALENDAR 175 

meet the earth, which would in the same period of time 
have completed two annual revolutions, in the very same 
spot as before. What would be the consequences of a 
second collision they scarcely ventured to think. 

Without lifting his eye from the diagram, which he 
was still carefully scrutinizing, Servadac said, " I see that 
during the month of May, Gallia will only travel 30,400,000 
leagues, and that this will leave her about 140,000,000 
leagues distant from the sun." 

" Just so," replied the professor. 

"Then we have already passed the zone of the telescopic 
planets, have we not? " asked the count. 

"Can you not use your eyes?" said the professor, 
testily. "If you will look you will see the zone marked 
clearly enough upon the map." 

Without noticing the interruption, Servadac continued 
his own remarks, " The comet then, I see, is to reach its 
aphelion on the I5th of January, exactly a twelvemonth 
after passing its perihelion." 

"A twelvemonth! Not a Gallian twelvemonth?" ex- 
claimed Rosette. 

Servadac looked bewildered. Lieutenant Procope could 
not suppress a smile. 

"What are you laughing at?" demanded the professor, 
turning round upon him angrily. 

" Nothing, sir ; only it amuses me to see how you want 
to revise the terrestrial calendar." 

" I want to be logical, that's all." 

" By all manner of means, my dear professor, let us be 
logical." 

" Well, then, listen to me," resumed the professor, stiffly. 
" I presume you are taking it for granted that the Gallian 
year by which I mean the time in which Gallia makes 
one revolution round the sun is equal in length to two 
terrestrial years." 

They signified their assent. 

" And that year, like every other year, ought to be 
divided into twelve months." 

" Yes, certainly, if you wish it," said the captain, 
acquiescing. 

"If I wish it!" exclaimed Rosette. "Nothing of the 
sort! Of course a year must have twelve months! " 



176 OFF ON A COMET 

" Of course," said the captain. 

"And how many days will make a month?" asked the 
professor. 

" I suppose sixty or sixty-two, as the case may be. The 
days now are only half as long as they used to be," answered 
the captain. 

" Servadac, don't be thoughtless ! " cried Rosette, with 
all the petulant impatience of the old pedagogue. "If the 
days are only half as long as they were, sixty of them 
cannot make up a twelfth part of Gallia's year cannot be 
a month." 

" I suppose not," replied the confused captain. 

" Do you not see, then," continued the astronomer, " that 
if a Gallian month is twice as long as a terrestrial month, 
and a Gallian day is only half as long as a terrestrial day, 
there must be a hundred and twenty days in every month? " 

" No doubt you are right, professor," said Count Tima- 
scheff; " but do you not think that the use of a new calendar 
such as this would practically be very troublesome ? " 

" Not at all ! not at all ! I do not intend to use any 
other," was the professor's bluff reply. 

After pondering for a few moments, the captain spoke 
again. " According, then, to this new calendar, it isn't the 
middle of May at all ; it must now be some time in March." 

" Yes," said the professor, " to-day is the 26th of March. 
It is the 266th day of the Gallian year. It corresponds 
with the 1 33d day of the terrestrial year. You are quite 
correct, it is the 26th of March." 

" Strange ! " muttered Servadac. 

"And a month, a terrestrial month, thirty old days, 
sixty new days hence, it will be the 86th of March." 

"Ha, ha!" roared the captain; "this is logic with a 
vengeance ! " 

The old professor had an undefined consciousness that 
his former pupil was laughing at him ; and as it was grow- 
ing late, he made an excuse that he had no more leisure. 
The visitors accordingly quitted the observatory. 

It must be owned that the revised calendar was left to the 
professor's sole use, and the colony was fairly puzzled 
whenever he referred to such unheard-of dates as the 47th 
of April or the i i8th of May. 

According to the old calendar, June had now arrived; 



nth?" asked the 

i;is may be. The 
:o be," answered 

' cried Rosette, with 

" If the 

f them 

mnct be 

A NIGHT VIEW ON SATURN. 

' 

Although the light received from the sun is comparatively feeble, 
the nights upon Saturn must be splendid. Eight satellites Mimas, 
Enceladus, Tethys, Uione, Rhea, Titan, Hyperion, and Japetus accom- 
pany the planet; Mimas, the -nearest to its primary, rotating on its 
axis in 22j^ hours, and revolving at a distance of only 120,800 miles, 
whilst Japetus, the most remote, occupies 79 days in its rotation, and 
revolves at a distance of 2,314,000 m^t- the USC of a new Calc 

Another most important contribution to the magnificence of the 
nights upon Saturn is the triple ring with which, as a brilliant setting, 
the planet is encompassed. To an "observer at the equator, this ring, 
which has been estimated by Sir William Herschel as scarcely 100 miles 
in thickness, must have the appearance of a narrow band of light pass- 
ing through the zenith 12,000 miles above his head. Page 213. SpOK 

the 

rch. 

ds 

ar. You are quite 



thirty old days, 

ih a 

: ess that 

ow- 

ire. 

r t to the 

Vol.9. 

c had now arrived; 



A REVISED CALENDAR 177 

and by the professor's tables Gallia during the month 
would have advanced 27,500,000 leagues farther along its 
orbit, and would have attained a distance of 155,000,000 
leagues from the sun. The thermometer continued to fall ; 
the atmosphere remained clear as heretofore. The popula- 
tion performed their daily avocations with systematic 
routine; and almost the only thing that broke the monot- 
ony of existence was an occasional visit from the bluster- 
ing, nervous, little professor, when some sudden fancy in- 
duced him to throw aside his astronomical studies for a 
time, and pay a visit to the common hall. His arrival there 
was generally hailed as the precursor of a little season of 
excitement. Somehow or other the conversation would 
eventually work its way round to the topic of a future colli- 
sion between the comet and the earth; and in the same de- 
gree as this was a matter of sanguine anticipation to Cap- 
tain Servadac and his friends, it was a matter of aversion to 
the astronomical enthusiast, who had no desire to quit his 
present quarters in a sphere which, being of his own dis- 
covery, he could hardly have cared for more if it had been 
of his own creation. The interview would often terminate 
in a scene of considerable animation. 

On the 27th of June (old calendar) the professor burst 
like a cannon-ball into the central hall, where they were all 
assembled, and without a word of salutation or of preface, 
accosted the lieutenant in the way in which in earlier days 
he had been accustomed to speak to an idle school-boy, 
" Now, lieutenant ! no evasions ! no shufflings ! Tell me, 
have you or have you not circumnavigated Gallia? " 

The lieutenant drew himself up stiffly. "Evasions! 

shufflings! I am not accustomed, sir " he began in a 

tone evidencing no little resentment; but catching a hint 
from the count he subdued his voice, and simply said, " We 
have." 

" And may I ask/' continued the professor, quite unaware 
of his previous discourtesy, " whether, when you made your 
voyage, you took any account of distances?" 

"As approximately as I could," replied the lieutenant; 
" I did what I could by log and compass. I was unable to 
take the altitude of sun or star." 

"At what result did you arrive? What is the measure- 
ment of our equator? " 

V. IX Verne 



178 OFF ON A COMET 

" I estimate the total circumference of the equator to be 
about 1,400 miles." 

"Ah!" said the professor, more than half speaking to 
himself, "a circumference of 1,400 miles would give a 
diameter of about 450 miles. That would be approxi- 
mately about one-sixteenth of the diameter of the earth." 

Raising his voice, he continued, " Gentlemen, in order to 
complete my account of my comet Gallia, I require to know 
its area, its mass, its volume, its density, its specific gravity." 

" Since we know the diameter," remarked the lieutenant, 
" there can be no difficulty in rinding its surface and its 
volume." 

" And did I say there was any difficulty? " asked the pro- 
fessor, fiercely. " I have been able to reckon that ever 
since I was born." 

" Cock-a-doodle-doo ! " cried Ben Zoof , delighted at any 
opportunity of paying off his old grudge. 

The professor looked at him, but did not vouchsafe a 
word. Addressing the captain, he said, " Now, Servadac, 
take your paper and a pen, and find me the surface of 
Gallia." 

With more submission than when he was a school-boy, 
the captain sat down and endeavored to recall the proper 
formula. 

"The surface of a sphere? Multiply circumference by 
diameter." 

" Right! " cried Rosette; " but it ought to be done by this 
time." 

"Circumference, 1,400; diameter, 450; area of surface, 
630,000," read the captain. 

"True," replied Rosette, "630,000 square miles; just 
292 times less than that of the earth." 

"Pretty little comet! nice little comet!" muttered Ben 
Zoof. 

The astronomer bit his lip, snorted, and cast at him a 
withering look, but did not take any further notice. 

" Now, Captain Servadac," said the professor, " take 
your pen again, and find me the volume of Gallia." 

The captain hesitated. 

"Quick, quick!" cried the professor, impatiently; 
" surely you have not forgotten how to find the volume of 
a sphere ! " 



A REVISED CALENDAR 179 

" A moment's breathing time, please." 

" Breathing time, indeed ! A mathematician should not 
want breathing time! Come, multiply the surface by the 
third of the radius. Don't you recollect? " 

Captain Servadac applied himself to his task while the 
by-standers waited, with some difficulty suppressing their 
inclination to laugh. There was a short silence, at the end 
of which Servadac announced that the volume of the comet 
was 47,880,000 cubic miles. 

"Just about 5,000 times less than the earth," observed 
the lieutenant. 

" Nice little comet! pretty little comet! " said Ben Zoof. 

The professor scowled at him, and was manifestly an- 
noyed at having the insignificant dimensions of his comet 
pointed out in so disparaging a manner. Leiutenant Pro- 
cope further remarked that from the earth he supposed it 
to be about as conspicuous as a star of the seventh magni- 
tude, and would require a good telescope to see it. 

" Ha, ha ! " laughed the orderly, aloud ; " charming little 
comet ! so pretty ; and so modest ! " 

"You rascal!" roared the professor, and clenched his 
hand in passion, as if about to strike him. Ben Zoof 
laughed the more, and was on the point of repeating his 
satirical comments, when a stern order from the captain 
made him hold his tongue. The truth was that the pro- 
fessor was just as sensitive about his comet as the orderly 
was about Montmartre, and if the contention between the 
two had been allowed to go on unchecked, it is impossible 
to say what serious quarrel might not have arisen. 

When Professor Rosette's equanimity had been restored, 
he said, " Thus, then, gentlemen, the diameter, the surface, 
the volume of my comet are settled; but there is more to be 
done. I shall not be satisfied until, by actual measurement, 
I have determined its mass, its density, and the force of 
gravity at its surface." 

" A laborious problem," remarked Count TimaschefT. 

" Laborious or not, it has to be accomplished. I am 
resolved to find out what my comet weighs." 

" Would it not be of some assistance, if we knew of 
what substance it is composed ? " asked the lieutenant. 

"That is of no moment at all," replied the professor; 
" the problem is independent of it." 



i8o OFF ON A COMET 

"Then we await your orders," was the captain's reply. 

" You must understand, however," said Rosette, " that 
there are various preliminary calculations to be made; you 
will have to wait till they are finished." 

" As long as you please," said the count. 

" No hurry at all," observed the captain, who was not in 
the least impatient to continue his mathematical exercises. 

" Then, gentlemen," said the astronomer,. " with your 
leave we will for this purpose make an appointment a few 
weeks hence. What do you say to the 62d of April? " 

Without noticing the general smile which the novel date 
provoked, the astronomer left the hall, and retired to his 
observatory. 

CHAPTER V 
WANTED: A STEELYARD 

UNDER the still diminishing influence of the sun's attrac- 
tion, but without let or hindrance, Gallia continued its inter- 
planetary course, accompanied by Nerina, its captured satel- 
lite, which performed its fortnightly revolutions with un- 
varying regularity. 

Meanwhile, the question beyond all others important was 
ever recurring to the minds of Servadac and his two com- 
panions : were the astronomer's calculations correct, and 
was there a sound foundation for his prediction that the 
comet would again touch the earth? But whatever might 
be their doubts or anxieties, they were fain to keep all their 
misgivings to themselves; the professor was of a temper far 
too cross-grained for them to venture to ask him to revise 
or re-examine the results of his observations. 

The rest of the community by no means shared in their 
uneasiness. Negrete and his fellow-countrymen yielded to 
their destiny with philosophical indifference. Happier and 
better provided for than they had ever been in their lives, 
it did not give them a passing thought, far less cause any 
serious concern, whether they were still circling round the 
sun, or whether they were being carried right away within 
the limits of another system. Utterly careless of the 
future, the majos, light-hearted as ever, carolled out their 
favorite songs, just as if they had never quitted the shores 
of their native land. 



WANTED: A STEELYARD 181 

Happiest of all were Pablo and Nina. Racing through 
the galleries of the Hive, clambering over the rocks upon 
the shore, one day skating far away across the frozen 
ocean, the next fishing in the lake that was kept liquid 
by the heat of the lava-torrent, the two children led a life 
of perpetual enjoyment. Nor was their recreation allowed 
to interfere with their studies. Captain Servadac, who in 
common with the count really liked them both, conceived 
that the responsibilities of a parent in some degree had 
devolved upon him, and took great care in superintending 
their daily lessons, which he succeeded in making hardly 
less pleasant than their sports. 

Indulged and loved by all, it was little wonder that young 
Pablo had no longing for the scorching plains of Andalusia, 
or that little Nina had lost all wish to return with her pet 
goat to the barren rocks of Sardinia. They had now a 
home in which they had nothing to desire. 

"Have you no father nor mother?" asked Pablo, one 
day. 

" No," she answered. 

" No more have I," said the boy, " I used to run along 
by the side of the diligences when I was in Spain." 

" I used to look after goats at Madalena," said Nina ; 
"but it is much nicer here I am so happy here. I have 
you for a brother, and everybody is so kind. I am afraid 
they will spoil us, Pablo," she added, smiling. 

"Oh, no, Nina; you are too good to be spoiled, and 
when I am with you, you make me good too," said Pablo, 
gravely. 

July had now arrived. During the month Gallia's ad- 
vance along its orbit would be reduced to 22,000,000 
leagues, the distance from the sun at the end being 172,- 
000,000 leagues, about four and a half times as great as the 
average distance of the earth from the sun. It was trav- 
eling now at about the same speed as the earth, which 
traverses the ecliptic at a rate of 21,000,000 leagues a 
month, or 28,800 leagues an hour. 

In due time the 62d April, according to the revised 
Gallian calendar, dawned; and in punctual fulfillment of 
the professor's appointment, a note was delivered to Ser- 
vadac to say that he was ready, and hoped that day to 
commence operations for calculating the mass and density 



182 OFF ON A COMET 

of his comet, as well as the force of gravity at its surface. 

A point of far greater interest to Captain Servadac and 
his friends would have been to ascertain the nature of the 
substance of which the comet was composed, but they felt 
pledged to render the professor any aid they could in the 
researches upon which he had set his heart. Without de- 
lay, therefore, they assembled in the central hall, where 
they were soon joined by Rosette, who seemed to be in 
fairly good temper. 

" Gentlemen," he began, " I propose to-day to endeavor 
to complete our observations of the elements of my comet. 
Three matters of investigation are before us. First, the 
measure of gravity at its surface; this attractive force we 
know, by the increase of our own muscular force, must of 
course be considerably less than that at the surface of the 
earth. Secondly, its mass, that is, the quality of its mat- 
ter. And thirdly, its density or quantity of matter in a 
unit of its volume. We will proceed, gentlemen, if you 
please, to weigh Gallia." 

Ben Zoof, who had just entered the hall, caught the 
professor's last sentence, and without saying a word, went 
out again and was absent for some minutes. When he re- 
turned, he said, " If you want to weigh this comet of yours, 
I suppose you want a pair of scales; but I have been to look, 
and I cannot find a pair anywhere. And what's more," he 
added mischievously, "you won't get them anywhere." 

A frown came over the professor's countenance. Ser- 
vadac saw it, and gave his orderly a sign that he should 
desist entirely from his bantering. 

" I require, gentlemen," resumed Rosette, " first of all 
to know by how much the weight of a kilogramme here 
differs from its weight upon the earth; the attraction, as 
we have said, being less, the weight will proportionately 
be less also." 

" Then an ordinary pair of scales, being under the in- 
fluence of attraction, I suppose, would not answer your 
purpose," submitted the lieutenant. 

" And the very kilogramme weight you used would have 
become lighter," put in the count, deferentially. 

" Pray, gentlemen, do not interrupt me," said the pro- 
fessor, authoritatively, as if ex cathedra. " I need no in- 
struction on these points." 



WANTED: A STEELYARD 183 

Procope and Timascheff demurely bowed their heads. 

The professor resumed. " Upon a steelyard, or spring- 
balance, dependent upon mere tension or flexibility, the at- 
traction will have no influence. If I suspend a weight 
equivalent to the weight of a kilogramme, the index will 
register the proper weight on the surface of Gallia. Thus 
I shall arrive at the difference I want: the difference be- 
tween the earth's attraction and the comet's. Will you, 
therefore, have the goodness to provide me at once with a 
steelyard and a tested kilogramme ? " 

The audience looked at one another, and then at Ben 
Zoof, who was thoroughly acquainted with all their re- 
sources. "We have neither one nor the other," said the 
orderly. 

The professor stamped with vexation. 

" I believe old Hakkabut has a steelyard on board his 
tartan," said Ben Zoof, presently. 

" Then why didn't you say so before, you idiot? " roared 
the excitable little man. 

Anxious to pacify him, Servadac assured him that every 
exertion should be made to procure the instrument, and di- 
rected Ben Zoof to go to the Jew and borrow it. 

" No, stop a moment," he said, as Ben Zoof was moving 
away on his errand; "perhaps I had better go with you 
myself; the old Jew may make a difficulty about lending 
us any of his property." 

" Why should we not all go ? " asked the count ; " we 
should see what kind of a life the misanthrope leads on 
board the Hansa." 

The proposal met with general approbation. Before they 
started, Professor Rosette requested that one of the men 
might be ordered to cut him a cubic decimeter out of the 
solid substance of Gallia. " My engineer is the man for 
that," said the count; " he will do it well for you if you will 
give him the precise measurement." 

" What ! you don't mean," exclaimed the professor, again 
going off into a passion, " that you haven't a proper meas- 
ure of length? " 

Ben Zoof was sent off to ransack the stores for the article 
in question, but no measure was forthcoming. " Most 
likely we shall find one oil the tartan," said the orderly. 

" Then let us lose no time in trying," answered the pro- 



184 OFF ON A COMET 

fessor, as he bustled with hasty strides into the gallery. 

The rest of the party followed, and were soon in the 
open air upon the rocks that overhung the shore. They 
descended to the level of the frozen water and made their 
way towards the little creek where the Dobryna and the 
Hansa lay firmly imprisoned in their icy bonds. 

The temperature was low beyond previous experience; 
but well muffled up in fur, they all endured it without much 
actual suffering. Their breath issued in vapor, which was 
at once congealed into little crystals upon their whiskers, 
beards, eyebrows, and eyelashes, until their faces, covered 
with countless snow-white prickles, were truly ludicrous. 
The little professor, most comical of all, resembled nothing 
so much as the cub of an Arctic bear. 

It was eight o'clock in the morning. The sun was 
rapidly approaching the zenith; but its disc, from the ex- 
treme remoteness, was proportionately dwarfed; its beams 
being all but destitute of their proper warmth and radiance. 
The volcano to its very summit and the surrounding rocks 
were still covered with the unsullied mantle of snow that 
had fallen while the atmosphere was still to some extent 
charged with vapor; but on the north side the snow had 
given place to the cascade of fiery lava, which, making its 
way down the sloping rocks as far as the vaulted opening 
of the central cavern, fell thence perpendicularly into the 
sea. Above the cavern, 150 feet up the mountain, was a 
dark hole, above which the stream of lava made a bifur- 
cation in its course. From this hole projected the case of 
an astronomer's telescope; it was the opening of Palmyrin 
Rosette's observatory. 

Sea and land seemed blended into one dreary whiteness, 
to which the pale blue sky offered scarcely any contrast. 
The shore was indented with the marks of many footsteps 
left by the colonists either on their way to collect ice for 
drinking purposes, or as the result of their skating expe- 
ditions; the edges of the skates had cut out a labyrinth of 
curves complicated as the figures traced by aquatic insects 
upon the surface of a pool. 

Across the quarter of a mile of level ground that lay 
between the mountain and the creek, a series of footprints, 
frozen hard into the snow, marked the course taken by 
Isaac Hakkabut on his last return from Nina's Hive. 



WANTED: A STEELYARD 185 

On approaching the creek, Lieutenant Procope drew his 
companions' attention to the elevation of the Dobryna's 
and Hansa's waterline, both vessels being now some fifteen 
feet above the level of the sea. 

" What a strange phenomenon ! " exclaimed the captain. 

" It makes me very uneasy," rejoined the lieutenant; " in 
shallow places like this, as the crust of ice thickens, it forces 
everything upwards with irresistible force." 

" But surely this process of congelation must have a 
limit I " said the count. 

" But who can say what that limit will be ? Remember 
that we have not yet reached our maximum of cold," 
replied Procope. 

" Indeed, I hope not! " exclaimed the professor; " where 
would be the use of our traveling 200,000,000 leagues from 
the sun, if we are only to experience the same temperature 
as we should find at the poles of the earth? " 

" Fortunately for us, however, professor," said the lieu- 
tenant, with a smile, " the temperature of the remotest space 
never descends beyond 70 below zero." 

"And as long as there is no wind," added Servadac, 
" we may pass comfortably through the winter, without a 
single attack of catarrh." 

Lieutenant Procope proceeded to impart to the count 
his anxiety about the situation of his yacht. He pointed 
put that by the constant superposition of new deposits of 
ice, the vessel would be elevated to a great height, and 
consequently in the event of a thaw, it must be exposed 
to a calamity similar to those which in polar seas cause 
destruction to so many whalers. 

There was no time now for concerting measures off- 
hand to prevent the disaster, for the other members of the 
party had already reached the spot where the Hansa lay 
bound in her icy trammels. A flight of steps, recently 
hewn by Hakkabut himself, gave access for the present to 
the gangway, but it was evident that some different con- 
trivance would have to be resorted to when the tartan 
should be elevated perhaps to a hundred feet. 

A thin curl of blue smoke issued from the copper funnel 
that projected above the mass of snow which had accu- 
mulated upon the deck of the Hansa. The owner was spar- 
ing of his fuel, and it was only the non-conducting layer of 



i86 OFF ON A COMET 

ice enveloping the tartan that rendered the internal tempera- 
ture endurable. 

" Hi ! old Nebuchadnezzar, where are you ? " shouted 
Ben Zoof, at the full strength of his lungs. 

At the sound of his voice, the cabin door opened, and 
the Jew's head and shoulders protruded onto the deck. 



CHAPTER VI 

MONEY AT A PREMIUM 

"WHO'S there? I have nothing here for anyone. Go 
away ! " Such was the inhospitable greeting with which 
Isaac Hakkabut received his visitors. 

" Hakkabut ! do you take us for thieves ? " asked Ser- 
vadac, in tones of stern displeasure. 

" Oh, your Excellency, my lord, I did not know that it 
;was you," whined the Jew, but without emerging any 
farther from his cabin. 

" Now, old Hakkabut, come out of your shell ! Come 
and show the governor proper respect, when he gives you 
the honor of his company," cried Ben Zoof, who by this 
time had clambered onto the deck. 

After considerable hesitation, but still keeping his hold 
upon the cabin-door, the Jew made up his mind to step out- 
side. "What do you want? " he inquired, timorously. 

" I want a word with you," said Servadac, " but I do not 
want to stand talking out here in the cold." 

Followed by the rest of the party, he proceeded to mount 
the steps. The Jew trembled from head to foot. " But I 
cannot let you into my cabin. I am a poor man; I have 
nothing to give you," he moaned piteously. 

"Here he is!" laughed Ben Zoof, contemptuously; "he 
is beginning his chapter of lamentations over again, But 
standing out here will never do. Out of the way, old Hak- 
kabut, I say ! out of the way ! " and, without more ado, he 
thrust the astonished Jew on one side and opened the door 
of the cabin. 

Servadac, however, declined to enter until he had taken 
the pains to explain to the owner of the tartan that he had 
no intention of laying violent hands upon his property, and 
that if the time should ever come that his cargo was in 



MONEY AT A PREMIUM 187 

requisition for the common use, he should receive a proper 
price for his goods, the same as he would in Europe. 

" Europe, indeed ! " muttered the Jew maliciously be- 
tween his teeth. " European prices will not do for me. I 
must have Gallian prices and of my own fixing, too!" 

So large a portion of the vessel had been appropriated 
to the cargo that the space reserved for the cabin was of 
most meager dimensions. In one corner of the compart- 
ment stood a small iron stove, in which smoldered a bare 
handful of coals; in another was a trestle-board which 
served as a bed; two or three stools and a rickety deal 
table, together with a few cooking utensils, completed a 
stock of furniture which was worthy of its proprietor. 

On entering the cabin, Ben Zoof's first proceeding was 
to throw on the fire a liberal supply of coals, utterly re- 
gardless of the groans of poor Isaac, who would almost 
as soon have parted with his own bones as submit to such 
reckless expenditure of his fuel. The perishing tempera- 
ture of the cabin, however, was sufficient justification for 
the orderly's conduct, and by a little skillful manipulation 
he soon succeeded in getting up a tolerable fire. 

The visitors having taken what seats they could, Hak- 
kabut closed the door, and, like a prisoner awaiting his 
sentence, stood with folded hands, expecting the captain 
to speak. 

" Listen," said Servadac ; " we have come to ask a favor." 

Imagining that at least half his property was to be con- 
fiscated, the Jew began to break out into his usual formula 
about being a poor man and having nothing to spare; but 
Servadac, without heeding his complainings, went on: 
" We are not going to ruin you, you know." 

Hakkabut looked keenly into the captain's face. 

" We have only come to know whether you can lend us 
a steelyard."- 

So far from showing any symptom of relief, the old 
miser exclaimed, with a stare of astonishment, as if he had 
been asked for some thousand francs: "A steelyard?" 

" Yes ! " echoed the professor, impatiently; " a steelyard." 

" Have you not one? " asked Servadac. 

" To be sure he has ! " said Ben Zoof. 

Old Isaac stammered and stuttered, but at last con- 
fessed that perhaps there might be one amongst the stores. 



i88 OFF ON A COMET 

" Then, surely, you will not object to lend it to us? " said 
the captain. 

" Only for one day," added the professor. 

The Jew stammered again, and began to object. " It is 
a very delicate instrument, your Excellency. The cold, 
you know, the cold may do injury to the spring; and per- 
haps you are going to use it to weigh something very heavy." 

" Why, old Ephraim, do you suppose we are going to 
weigh a mountain with it? " said Ben Zoof. 

" Better than that ! " cried out the professor, triumphantly ; 
" we are going to weigh Gallia with it ; my comet." 

" Merciful Heaven! " shrieked Isaac, feigning consterna- 
tion at the bare suggestion. 

Servadac knew well enough that the Jew was holding 
out only for a good bargain, and assured him that the steel- 
yard was required for no other purpose than to weigh a 
kilogramme, which (considering how much lighter every- 
thing had become) could not possibly put the slightest strain 
upon the instrument. 

The Jew still spluttered, and moaned, and hesitated. 

" Well, then," said Servadac, " if you do not like to lend 
us your steelyard, do you object to sell it to us? " 

Isaac fairly shrieked aloud. "God of Israel!" he 
ejaculated, " sell my steelyard? Would you deprive me of 
one of the most indispensable of my means of livelihood? 
How should I weigh my merchandise without my steelyard 
my solitary steelyard, so delicate and so correct? " 

The orderly wondered how his master could refrain from 
strangling the old miser upon the spot ; but Servadac, rather 
amused than otherwise, determined to try another form of 
persuasion. " Come, Hakkabut, I see that you are not dis- 
posed either to lend or to sell your steelyard. What do you 
say to letting us hire it? " 

The Jew's eyes twinkled with a satisfaction that he was 
unable to conceal. "But what security would you give? 
The instrument is very valuable ; " and he looked more cun- 
ning than ever. 

" What is it worth? If it is worth twenty francs, I will 
leave a deposit of a hundred. Will that satisfy you? " 

He shook his head doubtfully. " It is very little ; indeed, 
it is too little, your Excellency. Consider, it is the only 
steelyard in all this new world of ours; it is worth more, 



MONEY AT A PREMIUM 189 

much more. If I take your 'deposit it must be in gold all 
gold. But how much do you agree to give me for the hire 
-. the hire, one day ? " 

" You shall have twenty francs," said Servadac. 

" Oh, it is dirt cheap ; but never mind, for one day, you 
shall have it. Deposit in gold money a hundred francs, and 
twenty francs for the hire." The old man folded his hands 
in meek resignation. 

" The fellow knows how to make a good bargain," said 
Servadac, as Isaac, after casting a distrustful look around, 
went out of the cabin. 

"Detestable old wretch!" replied the count, full of dis- 
gust. 

Hardly a minute elapsed before the Jew was back again, 
carrying his precious steelyard with ostentatious care. It 
was of an ordinary kind. A spring balance, fitted with a 
hook, held the article to be weighed ; a pointer, revolving on 
a disc, indicated the weight of the article. Professor 
Rosette was manifestly right in asserting that such a 
machine would register results quite independently of any 
change in the force of attraction. On the earth it would 
have registered a kilogramme as a kilogramme; here it re- 
corded a different value altogether, as the result of the 
altered force of gravity. 

Gold coinage to the worth of one hundred and twenty 
francs was handed over to the Jew, who clutched at the 
money with unmistakable eagerness. The steelyard was 
committed to the keeping of Ben Zoof, and the visitors pre- 
pared to quit the Hansa. 

All at once it occurred to the professor that the steel- 
yard would be absolutely useless to him, unless he had the 
means for ascertaining the precise measurement of the unit 
of the soil of Gallia which he proposed to weigh. " Some- 
thing more you must lend me," he said, addressing the Jew. 

" I must have a measure, and I must have a kilogramme." 

" I have neither of them," answered Isaac. " I have 
neither. I am sorry; I am very sorry." And this time 
the old Jew spoke the truth. He would have been really 
glad to do another stroke or two of business upon terms as 
advantageous as the transaction he had just concluded. 

Palmyrin Rosette scratched his head in perplexity, glar- 
ing round upon his companions as if they were personally 



190 OFF ON A COMET 

responsible for his annoyance. He muttered something 
about finding a way out of his difficulty, and hastily mounted 
the cabin-ladder. The rest followed, but they had hardly 
reached the deck when the chink of money was heard in the 
room below. Hakkabut was locking away the gold in one 
of the drawers. 

Back again, down the ladder, scrambled the little pro- 
fessor, and before the Jew was aware of his presence he 
had seized him by the tail of his slouchy overcoat. " Some 
of your money ! I must have money ! " he said. 

"Money!" gasped Hakkabut; "I have no money." 
He was pale with fright, and hardly knew what he was 
saying. 

" Falsehood ! " roared Rosette. " Do you think I cannot 
see?" And peering down into the drawer which the Jew 
was vainly trying to close, he cried, "Heaps of money! 
French money ! Five-franc pieces ! the very thing I want ! 
I must have them ! " 

The captain and his friends, who had returned to the 
cabin looked on with mingled amusement and bewilder- 
ment. 

" They are mine ! " shrieked Hakkabut. 

" I will have them ! " shouted the professor. 

' You shall kill me first! " bellowed the Jew. 

" No, but I must! " persisted the professor again. 

It was manifestly time for Servadac to interfere. . " My 
dear professor," he said, smiling, " allow me to settle this 
little matter for you." 

" Ah ! your Excellency," moaned the agitated Jew, " pro- 
tect me ! I am but a poor man " 

" None of that, Hakkabut. Hold your tongue." And, 
turning to Rosette, the captain said, " If, sir, I understand 
right, you require some silver five-franc pieces for your 
operation? " 

" Forty," said Rosette, surlily. 

' Two hundred francs ! " whined Hakkabut. 

" Silence ! " cried the captain. 

" I must have more than that," the professor continued. 
" I want ten two-franc pieces, and twenty half-francs." 

"Let me see," said Servadac, "how much is that in all? 
Two hundred and thirty francs, is it not ? " 

" I dare say it is," answered the professor. 



MONEY AT A PREMIUM 191 

" Count, may I ask you," continued Servadac, " to be 
security to the Jew for this loan to the professor? " 

" Loan! " cried the Jew, " do you mean only a loan? " 

" Silence ! " again shouted the captain. 

Count Timascheff, expressing his regret that his purse 
contained only paper money, begged to place it at Captain 
Servadac's disposal. 

" No paper, no paper ! " exclaimed Isaac. " Paper has 
no currency in Gallia." 

" About as much as silver," coolly retorted the count. 

" I am a poor man," began the Jew. 

" Now, Hakkabut, stop these miserable lamentations of 
yours, once for all. Hand us over two hundred and thirty 
francs in silver money, or we will proceed to help our- 
selves." 

Isaac began to yell with all his might : " Thieves ! 
thieves!" 

In a moment Ben Zoof's hand was clasped tightly over 
his mouth. " Stop that howling, Belshazzar ! " 

"Let him alone, Ben Zoof. He will soon come to his 
senses," said Servadac, quietly. 

When the old Jew had again recovered himself, the cap- 
tain addressed him. " Now, tell us, what interest do you 
expect?" 

Nothing could overcome the Jew's anxiety to make an- 
other good bargain. He began : " Money is scarce, very 
scarce, you know " 

" No more of this ! " shouted Servadac. " What interest, 
I say, what interest do you ask? " 

Faltering and undecided still, the Jew went on. " Very 
scarce, you know. Ten francs a day, I think, would not be 
unreasonable, considering " 

The count had no patience to allow him to finish what 
he was about to say. He flung down notes to the value of 
several rubles. With a greediness that could not be con- 
cealed, Hakkabut grasped them all. Paper, indeed, they 
were ; but the cunning Israelite knew that they would in any 
case be security far beyond the value of his cash. He was 
making some eighteen hundred per cent, interest, and ac- 
cordingly chuckled within himself at his unexpected stroke 
of business. 

The professor pocketed his French coins with a satis- 



192 OFF ON A COMET 

faction far more demonstrative. " Gentlemen," he said, 
" with these franc pieces I obtain the means of determining 
accurately both a meter and a kilogramme." 



CHAPTER VII 

GALLIA WEIGHED 

A QUARTER of an hour later, the visitors to the Hansa 
had reassembled in the common hall of Nina's Hive. 

" Now, gentlemen, we can proceed," said the professor. 
" May I request that this table may be cleared? " 

Ben Zoof removed the various articles that were lying 
on the table, and the coins which had just been borrowed 
from the Jew were placed upon it in three piles, according 
to their value. 

The professor commenced. " Since none of you gentle- 
men, at the time of the shock, took the precaution to save 
either a meter measure or a kilogramme weight from the 
earth, and since both these articles are necessary for the 
calculation on which we are engaged, I have been obliged 
to devise means of my own to replace them." 

This exordium delivered, he paused and seemed to watch 
its effect upon his audience, who, however, were too well 
acquainted with the professor's temper to make any attempt 
to exonerate themselves from the rebuke of carelessness, 
and submitted silently to the implied reproach. 

" I have taken pains," he continued, " to satisfy myself 
that these coins are in proper condition for my purpose. 
I find them unworn and unchipped ; indeed, they are almost 
new. They have been hoarded instead of circulated; ac- 
cordingly, they are fit to be utilized for my purpose of 
obtaining the precise length of a terrestrial meter." 

Ben Zoof looked on in perplexity, regarding the lecturer 
with much the same curiosity as he would have watched the 
performances of a traveling mountebank at a fair in Mont- 
martre; but Servadac and his two friends had already 
divined the professor's meaning. They knew that French 
coinage is all decimal, the franc being the standard of which 
the other coins, whether gold, silver, or copper, are multiples 
or measures; they knew, too, that the caliber or diameter 
of each piece of money is rigorously determined by law, and 



GALLIA WEIGHED 193 

that the diameters of the silver coins representing five 
francs, two francs, and fifty centimes measure thirty-seven, 
twenty-seven, and eighteen millimeters respectively; and 
they accordingly guessed that Professor Rosette had con- 
ceived the plan of placing such a number of these coins in 
juxtaposition that the length of their united diameters 
should measure exactly the thousand millimeters that make 
up the terrestrial meter. 

The measurement thus obtained was by means of a pair 
of compasses divided accurately into ten equal portions, or 
decimeters, each of course 3.93 inches long. A lath was 
then cut of this exact length and given to the engineer of 
the Dobryna, who was directed to cut out of the solid rock 
the cubic decimeter required by the professor. 

The next business was to obtain the precise weight of 
a kilogramme. This was by no means a difficult matter. 
Not only the diameters, but also the weights, of the French 
coins are rigidly determined by law, and as the silver five- 
franc pieces always weigh exactly twenty-five grammes, the 
united weight of forty of these coins is known to amount 
to one kilogramme. 

" Oh! " cried Ben Zoof ; " to be able to do all this I see 
you must be rich as well as learned." 

With a good-natured laugh at the orderly's remark, the 
meeting adjourned for a few hours. By the appointed time 
the engineer had finished his task, and with all due care 
had prepared a cubic decimeter of the material of the 
comet. 

" Now, gentlemen," said Professor Rosette, " we are in 
a position to complete our calculation; we can now arrive 
at Gallia's attraction, density, and mass." 

Everyone gave him his complete attention. 

" Before I proceed," he resumed, " I must recall to your 
minds Newton's general law, 'that the attraction of two 
bodies is directly proportional to the product of their 
masses, and inversely proportional to the square of their 
distances.' ' 

" Yes," said Servadac; " we remember that." 

" Well, then," continued the professor, " keep it in mind 
for a few minutes now. Look here ! In this bag are forty 
five-franc pieces altogether they weigh exactly a kilo- 
gramme ; by which I mean that if we were on the earth, and 

y. IX Verne 



194 OFF ON A' COMET 

I were to hang the bag on the hook of the steelyard, the in- 
dicator on the dial would register one kilogramme. This is 
clear enough, I suppose?" 

As he spoke the professor designedly kept his eyes fixed 
upon Ben Zoof. He was avowedly following the example of 
Arago, who was accustomed always in lecturing to watch 
the countenance of the least intelligent of his audience, and 
when he felt that he had made his meaning clear to him, 
he concluded that he must have succeeded with all the rest. 
In this case, however, it was technical ignorance, rather 
than any lack of intelligence, that justified the selection of 
the orderly for this special attention. 

Satisfied with his scrutiny of Ben Zoof s face, the pro- 
fessor went on. "And now, gentlemen, we have to see 
what these coins weigh here upon Gallia." 

He suspended the money bag to the hook; the needle 
oscillated, and stopped. " Read it off ! " he said. 

The weight registered was one hundred and thirty-three 
grammes. 

" There, gentlemen, one hundred and thirty-three 
grammes! Less than one-seventh of a kilogramme! You 
see, consequently, that the force of gravity here on Gallia 
is not one-seventh of what it is upon the earth!" 

"Interesting!" cried Servadac, "most interesting! But 
let us go on and compute the mass." 

" No, captain, the density first," said Rosette. 

" Certainly," said the lieutenant ; " for, as we already 
know the volume, we can determine the mass as soon as 
we have ascertained the density." 

The professor took up the cube of rock. "You know 
what this is," he went on to say. "You know, gentle- 
men, that this block is a cube hewn from the substance of 
which everywhere, all throughout your voyage of circum- 
navigation, you found Gallia to be composed a substance 
to which your geological attainments did not suffice to as- 
sign a name." 

" Our curiosity will be gratified," said Servadac, " if you 
will enlighten our ignorance." 

But Rosette did not take the slightest notice of the inter- 
ruption. 

" A substance it is which no doubt constitutes the sole 
material of the comet, extending from its surface to its 



GALLIA WEIGHED 195 

innermost depths. The probability is that it would be so; 
your experience confirms that probability: you have found 
no trace of any other substance. Of this rock here is a 
solid decimeter; let us get at its weight, and we shall have 
the key which will unlock the problem of the whole weight 
of Gallia. We have demonstrated that the force of attrac- 
tion here is only one-seventh of what it is upon the earth, 
and shall consequently have to multiply the apparent weight 
of our cube by seven, in order to ascertain its proper weight. 
Do you understand me, goggle-eyes ? " 

This was addressed to Ben Zoof, who was staring hard 
at him. " No ! " said Ben Zoof. 

" I thought not; it is of no use waiting for your puzzle- 
brains to make it out. I must talk to those who can under- 
stand." 

The professor took the cube, and, on attaching it to the 
hook of the steelyard, found that its apparent weight was 
one kilogramme and four hundred and thirty grammes. 

" Here it is, gentlemen ; one kilogramme, four hundred 
and thirty grammes. Multiply that by seven; the product 
is, as nearly as possible, ten kilogrammes. What, there- 
fore, is our conclusion? Why, that the density of Gallia 
is just about double the density of the earth, which we 
know is only five kilogrammes to a cubic decimeter. Had 
it not been for this greater density, the attraction of Gallia 
would only have been one-fifteenth instead of one-seventh 
of the terrestrial attraction." 

The professor could not refrain from exhibiting his 
gratification that, however inferior in volume, in density, at 
least, his comet had the advantage over the earth. 

Nothing further now remained than to apply the inves- 
tigations thus finished to the determining of the mass or 
weight. This was a matter of little labor. 

"Let me see," said the captain; "what is the force of 
gravity upon the various planets ? " 

" You can't mean, Servadac, that you have forgotten 
that? But you always were a disappointing pupil." 

The captain could not help himself: he was forced to 
confess that his memory had failed him. 

" Well, then," said the professor, " I must remind you. 
Taking the attraction on the earth as I, that on Mercury 
is 1.15, on Venus it is .92, on Mars .5, and on Jupiter 2.45; 



196 OFF ON A COMET 

on the moon the attraction is .16, whilst on the surface of 
the sun a terrestrial kilogramme would weigh 28 kilo- 
grammes." 

" Therefore, if a man upon the surface of the sun were 
to fall down, he would have considerable difficulty in get- 
ting up again. A cannon ball, too, would only fly a few 
yards," said Lieutenant Procope. 

" A jolly battle-field for cowards! " exclaimed Ben Zoof. 

" Not so jolly, Ben Zoof, as you fancy," said his master; 
" the cowards would be too heavy to run away." 

Ben Zoof ventured the remark that, as the smallness of 
Gallia secured to its inhabitants such an increase of strength 
and agility, he was almost sorry that it had not been a little 
smaller still. 

"Though it could not anyhow have been very much 
smaller," he added, looking slyly at the professor. 

" Idiot ! " exclaimed Rosette. " Your head is too light 
already ; a puff of wind would blow it away." 

" I must take care of my head, then, and hold it on," re- 
plied the irrepressible orderly. 

Unable to get the last word, the professor was about to 
retire, when Servadac detained him. 

" Permit me to ask you one more question," he said. 
"Can you tell me what is the nature of the soil of Gallia? " 

" Yes, I can answer that. And in this matter I do not 
think your impertinent orderly will venture to put Mont- 
martre into the comparison. This soil is of a substance not 
unknown upon the earth." And speaking very slowly, the 
professor said : " It contains 70 per cent, of tellurium, and 
30 per cent, of gold." 

Servadac uttered an exclamation of surprise. 

" And the sum of the specific gravities of these two sub- 
stances is 10, precisely the number that represents Gallia' s 
density." 

" A comet of gold ! " ejaculated the captain. 

"Yes; a realization of what the illustrious Maupertuis 
has already deemed probable," replied the astronomer. 

"If Gallia, then, should ever become attached to the 
earth, might it not bring about an important revolution in 
all monetary affairs ? " inquired the count. 

"No doubt about it!" said Rosette, with manifest sat- 
isfaction. " It would supply the world with about 246,000 
trillions of francs." 



GALLIA WEIGHED 197 

" It would make gold about as cheap as dirt, I suppose," 
said Servadac. 

The last observation, however, was entirely lost upon 
the professor, who had left the hall with an air almost ma- 
jestic, and was already on his way to the observatory. 

"And what, I wonder, is the use of all these big fig- 
ures ?" said Ben Zoof to his master, when next day they 
were alone together. 

" That's just the charm of them, my good fellow," was 
the captain's cool reply, " that they are of no use whatever." 



CHAPTER VIII 

JUPITER SOMEWHAT CLOSE 

EXCEPT as to the time the comet would take to revolve 
round the sun, it must be confessed that all the professor's 
calculations had comparatively little interest for anyone but 
himself, and he was consequently left very much to pursue 
his studies in solitude. 

The following day was the ist of August, or, according 
to Rosette, the 63rd of April. In the course of this month 
Gallia would travel 16,500,000 leagues, attaining at the end 
a distance of 197,000,000 leagues from the sun. This 
would leave 81,000,000 leagues more to be traversed before 
reaching the aphelion of the I5th of January, after which 
it would begin once more to approach the sun. 

But meanwhile, a marvelous world, never before so close 
within the range of human vision, was revealing itself. No 
wonder that Palmyrin Rosette cared so little to quit his 
observatory; for throughout those calm, clear Gallian 
nights, when the book of the firmament lay open before 
him, he could revel in a spectacle which no previous as- 
tronomer had ever been permitted to enjoy. 

The glorious orb that was becoming so conspicuous an 
object was none other than the planet Jupiter, the largest 
of all the bodies existing within the influence of solar at- 
traction. During the seven months that had elapsed since 
its collision with the earth, the comet had been continuously 
approaching the planet, until the distance between them was 
scarcely more than 61,006,000 leagues, and this would go 
on diminishing until the I5th of October. 

Under these circumstances, was it perfectly certain that 



198 OFF ON A COMET 

no danger could accrue? Was not Gallia, when its path- 
way led it into such close proximity to this enormous planet, 
running a risk of being attracted within its influence? 
Might not that influence be altogether disastrous? The 
professor, it is true, in his estimate of the duration of his 
comet's revolution, had represented that he had made all 
proper allowances for any perturbations that would be 
caused either by Jupiter, by Saturn, or by Mars ; but what 
if there were any errors in his calculations? what if there 
should be any elements of disturbance on which he had 
not reckoned? 

Speculations of this kind became more and more fre- 
quent, and Lieutenant Procope pointed out that the danger 
incurred might be of a fourfold character: first, that the 
comet, being irresistibly attracted, might be drawn on to 
the very surface of the planet, and there annihilated; sec- 
ondly, that as the result of being brought under that attrac- 
tion, it might be transformed into a satellite, or even a 
sub-satellite, of that mighty world; thirdly, that it might be 
diverted into a new orbit, which would never be coincident 
with the ecliptic ; or, lastly, its course might be so retarded 
that it would only reach the ecliptic too late to permit any 
junction with the earth. The occurrence of any one of 
these contingencies would be fatal to their hopes of re- 
union with the globe, from which they had been so strangely 
severed. 

To Rosette, who, without family ties which he had never 
found leisure or inclination to contract, had no shadow of 
desire to return to the earth, it would be only the first of 
these probabilities that could give him any concern. Total 
annihilation might not accord with his views, but he would 
be quite content for Gallia to miss its mark with regard to 
the earth, indifferent whether it revolved as a new satellite 
around Jupiter, or whether it wended its course through 
the untraversed regions of the milky way. The rest of the 
community, however, by no means sympathized with the 
professor's sentiments, and the following month was a 
period of considerable doubt and anxiety. 

On the ist of September the distance between Gallia and 
Jupiter was precisely the same as the mean distance between 
the earth and the sun; on the i6th, the distance was fur- 
ther reduced to 26,000,000 leagues. The planet began to 



JUPITER SOMEWHAT CLOSE 199 

assume enormous dimensions, and it almost seemed as if 
the comet had already been deflected from its elliptical orbit, 
and was rushing on in a straight line towards the over- 
whelming luminary. 

The more they contemplated the character of this gi- 
gantic planet, the more they became impressed with the 
likelihood of a serious perturbation in their own course. 
The diameter of Jupiter is 85,390 miles, nearly eleven times 
as great as that of the earth; his volume is 1,387 times, and 
his mass 300 times greater; and although the mean density 
is only about a quarter of that of the earth, and only a 
third of that of water (whence it has been supposed that 
the superficies of Jupiter is liquid), yet his other propor- 
tions were large enough to warrant the apprehension that 
important disturbances might result from his proximity. 

" I forget my astronomy, lieutenant," said Servadac. 
" Tell me all you can about this formidable neighbor." 

The lieutenant having refreshed his memory by refer- 
ence to Flammarion's Recits de I'lnfini, of which he had a 
Russian translation, and some other books, proceeded to 
recapitulate that Jupiter accomplishes his revolution round 
the sun in 4,332 days 14 hours and 2 minutes; that he 
travels at the rate of 467 miles a minute along an orbit 
measuring 2,976 millions of miles ; and that his rotation on 
his axis occupies only 9 hours and 55 minutes. 

"His days, then, are shorter than ours?" interrupted 
the captain. 

" Considerably," answered the lieutenant, who went on 
to describe how the displacement of a point at the equator 
of Jupiter was twenty-seven times as rapid as on the earth, 
causing the polar compression to be about 2,378 miles; how 
the axis, being nearly perpendicular, caused the days and 
nights to be nearly of the same length, and the seasons to 
be invariable; and how the amount of light and heat re- 
ceived by the planet is only a twenty-fifth part of that 
received by the earth, the average distance from the sun 
being 475,693,000 miles. 

"And how about these satellites? Sometimes, I sup- 
pose, Jupiter has the benefit of four moons all shining at 
once?" asked Servadac. 

Of the satellites, Lieutenant Procope went on to say 
that one is rather smaller than our own moon ; that another 



200 OFF ON A COMET 

moves round its primary at an interval about equal to the 
moon's distance from ourselves; but that they all revolve 
in considerably less time: the first takes only i day 18 
hours 27 minutes; the second takes 3 days 13 hours 14 
minutes; the third, 7 days 3 hours 42 minutes; whilst the 
largest of all takes but 16 days 16 hours 32 minutes. The 
most remote revolves round the planet at a distance of 
1,192,820 miles. 

" They have been enlisted into the service of science," 
said Procope. " It is by their movements that the velocity 
of light has been calculated; and they have been made avail- 
able for the determination of terrestrial longitudes/' 

" It must be a wonderful sight," said the captain. 

" Yes," answered Procope. " I often think Jupiter is 
like a prodigious clock with four hands." 

" I only hope that we are not destined to make a fifth 
hand," answered Servadac. 

Such was the style of the conversation that was day by 
day reiterated during the whole month of suspense. What- 
ever topic might be started, it seemed soon to settle down 
upon the huge orb that was looming upon them with such 
threatening aspect. 

" The more remote that these planets are from the sun," 
said Procope, " the more venerable and advanced in forma- 
tion are they found to be. Neptune, situated 2,746,271,000 
miles from the sun, issued from the solar nebulosity, thou- 
sands of millions of centuries back. Uranus, revolving 
1,753,851,000 miles from the center of the planetary sys- 
tem, is of an age amounting to many hundred millions 
of centuries. Jupiter, the colossal planet, gravitating at 
a distance of 475,693,000 miles, may be reckoned as 70,- 
000,000 centuries old. Mars has existed for 1,000,000,000 
years at a distance of 139,212,000 miles. The earth, 91,- 
430,000 miles from the sun, quitted his burning bosom 
100,000,000 years ago. Venus, revolving now 66,131,000 
miles away, may be assigned the age of 50,000,000 years 
at least; and Mercury, nearest of all, and youngest of all, 
has been revolving at a distance of 35,393,000 miles for the 
space of 10,000,000 years the same time as the moon has 
been evolved from the earth." 

Servadac listened attentively. He was at a loss what 
to say; and the only reply he made to the recital of this 



JUPITER SOMEWHAT CLOSE 201 

novel theory was to the effect that, if it were true, he would 
prefer being captured by Mercury than by Jupiter, for Mer- 
cury, being so much the younger, would probably prove 
the less imperative and self-willed master. 

It was on the ist of September that the comet had crossed 
the orbit of Jupiter, and on the ist of October the two 
bodies were calculated to be at their minimum separation. 
No direct shock, however, could be apprehended; the 
demonstration was sufficiently complete that the orbit of 
Gallia did not coincide with that of the planet, the orbit 
of Jupiter being inclined at an angle of i 19' to the orbit 
of the earth, with which that of Gallia was, no doubt, co- 
incident. 

As the month of September verged towards its close, 
Jupiter began to wear an aspect that must have excited the 
admiration of the most ignorant or the most indifferent 
observer. Its salient points were illumined with novel and 
radiant tints, and the solar rays, reflected from its disc, 
glowed with a mingled softness and intensity upon Gallia, 
so that Nerina had to pale her beauty. 

Who could wonder that Rosette, enthusiast as he was, 
should be irremovable from his observatory? Who could 
expect otherwise than that, with the prospect before him of 
viewing the giant among planets, ten times nearer than 
any mortal eye had ever done, he should have begrudged 
every moment that distracted his attention? 

Meanwhile, as Jupiter grew large, the sun grew small. 

From its increased remoteness the diameter of the sun's 
disc was diminished to 5' 46". 

And what an increased interest began to be associated 
with the satellites! They were visible to the naked eye! 
Was it not a new record in the annals of science? 

Although it is acknowledged that they are not ordinarily 
visible on earth without the aid of a somewhat powerful 
telescope, it has been asserted that a favored few, endued 
with extraordinary powers of vision, have been able to 
identify them with an unassisted eye; but here, at least, in 
Nina's Hive were many rivals, for everyone could so far 
distinguish them one from the other as to describe them 
by their colors. The first was of a dull white shade; the 
second was blue; the third was white and brilliant; the 
fourth was orange, at times approaching to a red. It was 



202 OFF ON A COMET 

further observed that Jupiter itself was almost void of 
scintillation. 

Rosette, in his absorbing interest for the glowing glories 
of the planet, seemed to be beguiled into comparative for- 
getfulness of the charms of his comet; but no astronomical 
enthusiasm of the professor could quite allay the general 
apprehension that some serious collision might be im- 
pending. 

Time passed on. There was nothing to justify appre- 
hension. The question was continually being asked, " What 
does the professor really think?" 

" Our friend the professor," said Servadac, "is not likely 
to tell us very much ; but we may feel pretty certain of one 
thing: he wouldn't keep us long in the dark, if he thought 
we were not going back to the earth again. The greatest 
satisfaction he could have would be to inform us that we 
had parted from the earth for ever." 

" I trust from my very soul," said the count, " that his 
prognostications are correct." 

" The more I see of him, and the more I listen to him," 
replied Servadac, " the more I become convinced that his 
calculations are based on a solid foundation, and will prove 
correct to the minutest particular." 

Ben Zoof here interrupted the conversation. " I have 
something on my mind," he said. 

" Something on your mind? Out with it ! " said the cap- 
tain. 

" That telescope ! " said the orderly ; " it strikes me that 
that telescope which the old professor keeps pointed up at 
yonder big sun is bringing it down straight upon us." 

The captain laughed heartily. 

" Laugh, captain, if you like; but I feel disposed to break 
the old telescope into atoms." 

" Ben Zoof," said Servadac, his laughter exchanged for 
a look of stern displeasure, " touch that telescope, and you 
shall swing for it!" 

The orderly looked astonished. 

" I am governor here," said Servadac. 

Ben Zoof knew what his master meant, and to him his 
master's wish was law. 

The interval between the comet and Jupiter was, by the 
ist of October, reduced to 43,000,000 miles. The belts all 



JUPITER SOMEWHAT CLOSE 203 

parallel to Jupiter's equator were very distinct in their 
markings. Those immediately north and south of the 
equator were of a dusky hue; those toward the poles were 
alternately dark and light; the intervening spaces of the 
planet's superficies, between edge and edge, being intensely 
bright The belts themselves were occasionally broken by 
spots, which the records of astronomy describe as varying 
both in form and in extent. 

The physiology of belts and spots alike was beyond the 
astronomer's power to ascertain; and even if he should be 
destined once again to take his place in an astronomical 
congress on the earth, he would be just as incapable as ever 
of determining whether or no they owed their existence 
to the external accumulation of vapor, or to some internal 
agency. It would not be Professor Rosette's lot to en- 
lighten his brother savants to any great degree as to the 
mysteries that are associated with this, which must ever 
rank as one of the most magnificent amongst the heavenly 
orbs. 

As the comet approached the critical point of its career 
it cannot be denied that there was an unacknowledged con- 
sciousness of alarm. Mutually reserved, though ever 
courteous, the count and the captain were secretly drawn 
together by the prospect of a common danger; and as their 
return to the earth appeared to them to become more and 
more dubious, they abandoned their views of narrow isola- 
tion, and tried to embrace the wider philosophy that ac- 
knowledges the credibility of a habitable universe. 

But no philosophy could be proof against the common 
instincts of their humanity; their hearts, their hopes, were 
set upon their natural home; no speculation, no science, no 
experience, could induce them to give up their fond and 
sanguine anticipation that once again they were to come in 
contact with the earth. 

" Only let us escape Jupiter," said Lieutenant Procope, 
repeatedly, " and we are free from anxiety." 

" But would not Saturn lie ahead ? " asked Servadac 
and the count in one breath. 

" No ! " said Procope ; " the orbit of Saturn is remote, 
and does not come athwart our path. Jupiter is our sole 
hindrance. Of Jupiter we must say, as William Tell said, 
* Once through the ominous pass and all is well/ " 



204 OFF ON A COMET 

The 1 5th of October came, the date of the nearest ap- 
proximation of the comet to the planet. They were only 
31,000,000 miles apart. What would now transpire? 
Would Gallia be diverted from its proper way? or would 
it hold the course that the astronomer had predicted? 

Early next morning the captain ventured to take the 
count and the lieutenant up to the observatory. The pro- 
fessor was in the worst of tempers. 

That was enough. It was enough, without a word, to 
indicate the course which events had taken. The comet 
was pursuing an unaltered way. 

The astronomer, correct in his prognostications, ought 
to have been the most proud and contented of philosophers; 
his pride and contentment were both overshadowed by the 
certainty that the career of his comet was destined to be so 
transient, and that it must inevitably once again come into 
collision with the earth. 



CHAPTER IX 

MARKET PRICES IN GALLIA 

" ALL right ! " said Servadac, convinced by the pro- 
fessor's ill humor that the danger was past ; " no doubt we 
are in for a two years' excursion, but fifteen months more 
will take us back to the earth ! " 

" And we shall see Montmartre again ! " exclaimed Ben 
Zoof, in excited tones that betrayed his delight in the antici- 
pation. 

To use a nautical expression, they had safely " rounded 
the point," and they had to be congratulated on their suc- 
cessful navigation; for if, under the influence of Jupiter's 
attraction, the comet had been retarded for a single hour, 
in that hour the earth would have already traveled 2,500,000 
miles from the point where contact would ensue, and many 
centuries would elapse before such a coincidence would 
possibly again occur. 

On the ist of November Gallia and Jupiter were 40,- 
000,000 miles apart. It was little more than ten weeks to 
the 1 5th of January, when the comet would begin to re- 
approach the sun. Though light and heat were now reduced 
to a twenty-fifth part of their terrestrial intensity, so that 



MARKET PRICES IN GALLIA 205 

a perpetual twilight seemed to have settled over Gallia, 
yet the population felt cheered even by the little that was 
left, and buoyed up by the hope that they should ultimately 
regain their proper position with regard to the great lumi- 
nary, of which the temperature has been estimated as not 
less than 5,000,000 degrees. 

Of the anxiety endured during the last two months Isaac 
Hakkabut had known nothing. Since the day he had done 
his lucky stroke of business he had never left the tartan; 
and after Ben Zoof, on the following day, had returned 
the steelyard and the borrowed cash, receiving back the 
paper roubles deposited, all communication between the 
Jew and Nina's Hive had ceased. In the course of the 
few minutes' conversation which Ben Zoof had held with 
him, he had mentioned that he knew that the whole soil 
of Gallia was made of gold; but the old man, guessing that 
the orderly was only laughing at him as usual, paid no at- 
tention to the remark, and only meditated upon the means 
he could devise to get every bit of the money in the new 
world into his own possession. No one grieved over the 
life of solitude which Hakkabut persisted in leading. 
Ben Zoof giggled heartily, as he repeatedly observed " it 
was astonishing how they reconciled themselves to his 
absence." 

The time came, however, when various circumstances 
prompted him to think he must renew his intercourse with 
the inhabitants of the Hive. Some of his goods were be- 
ginning to spoil, and he felt the necessity of turning them 
into money, if he would not be a loser; he hoped, moreover, 
that the scarcity of his commodities would secure very high 
prices. 

It happened, just about this same time, that Ben Zoof 
had been calling his master's attention to the fact that some 
of their most necessary provisions would soon be running 
short, and that their stock of coffee, sugar, and tobacco 
would want replenishing. Servadac's mind, of course, 
turned to the cargo on board the Hansa, and he resolved, 
according to his promise, to apply to the Jew and become 
a -purchaser. Mutual interest and necessity thus conspired 
to draw Hakkabut and the captain together. 

Often and often had Isaac gloated in his solitude over 
the prospect of first selling a portion of his merchandise 



206 OFF ON A COMET 

for all the gold and silver in the colony. His recent usuri- 
ous transaction had whetted his appetite. He would next 
part with some more of his cargo for all the paper money 
they could give him; but still he should have goods left, 
and they would want these. Yes, they should have these, 
too, for promissory notes. Notes would hold good when they 
got back again to the earth; bills from his Excellency the 
governor would be good bills; anyhow there would be the 
sheriff. By the God of Israel! he would get good prices, 
and he would get fine interest! 

Although he did not know it, he was proposing to follow 
the practice of the Gauls of old, who advanced money on 
bills for payment in a future life. Hakkabut's " future 
life," however, was not many months in advance of the 
present. 

Still Hakkabut hesitated to make the first advance, and 
it was accordingly with much satisfaction that he hailed 
Captain Servadac's appearance on board the Hansa. 

" Hakkabut," said the captain, plunging without further 
preface into business, " we want some coffee, some tobacco, 
and other things. I have come to-day to order them, to 
settle the price, and to-morrow Ben Zoof shall fetch the 
goods away." 

" Merciful heavens! " the Jew began to whine; but Ser- 
vadac cut him short. 

"None of that miserable howling! Business! I am 
come to buy your goods. I shall pay for them." 

" Ah yes, your Excellency," whispered the Jew, his voice 
trembling like a street beggar. " Don't impose on me. I 
am poor; I am nearly ruined already." 

" Cease your wretched whining ! " cried Servadac. " I 
have told you once, I shall pay for all I buy." 

"Ready money?" asked Hakkabut. 

"Yes, ready money. What makes you ask?" said the 
captain, curious to hear what the Jew would say. 

"Well, you see you see, your Excellency," stammered 
out the Jew, " to give credit to one wouldn't do, unless I 
gave credit to another. You are solvent I mean honor- 
able, and his lordship the count is honorable; but maybe 
__ may be " 

"Well?" said Servadac, waiting, but inclined to kick 
the old rascal out of his sight. 



MARKET PRICES IN GALLIA 207 

" I shouldn't like to give credit," he repeated. 

" I have not asked you for credit. I have told you, you 
shall have ready money." 

"Very good, your Excellency. But how will you pay 
me?" 

" Pay you? Why, we shall pay you in gold and silver 
and copper, while our money lasts, and when that is gone 
we shall pay you in bank notes." 

" Oh, no paper, no paper ! " groaned out the Jew, re- 
lapsing into his accustomed whine. 

" Nonsense, man ! " cried Servadac. 

" No paper ! " reiterated Hakkabut. 

"Why not? Surely you can trust the banks of Eng- 
land, France, and Russia." 

" Ah no ! I must have gold. Nothing so safe as gold." 

"Well then," said the captain, not wanting to lose his 
temper, " you shall have it your own way ; we have plenty 
of gold for the present. We will leave the bank notes for 
by and by." The Jew's countenance brightened, and Serva- 
dac, repeating that he should come again the next day, was 
about to quit the vessel. 

" One moment, your Excellency," said Hakkabut, sidling 
up with a hypocritical smile; "I suppose I am to fix my 
own prices." 

" You will, of course, charge ordinary prices proper 
market prices; European prices, I mean." 

"Merciful heavens!" shrieked the old man, "you rob 
me of my rights; you defraud me of my privilege. The 
monopoly of the market belongs to me. It is the custom; 
it is my right; it is my privilege to fix my own prices." 

Servadac made him understand that he had no inten- 
tion of swerving from his decision. 

" Merciful heavens! " again howled the Jew, "it is sheer 
ruin. The time of monopoly is the time for profit; it is the 
time for speculation." 

"The very thing, Hakkabut, that I am anxious to pre- 
vent. Just stop now, and think a minute. You seem to 
forget my rights; you are forgetting that, if I please, I can 
confiscate all your cargo for the common use. You ought 
to think yourself lucky in getting any price at all. Be 
contented with European prices; you will get no more. I 
am not going to waste my breath on you. I will come 



2o8 OFF ON A COMET 

again to-morrow ; " and, without allowing Hakkabut time 
to renew his lamentations, Servadac went away. 

All the rest of the day the Jew was muttering bitter 
curses against the thieves of Gentiles in general, and the 
governor of Gallia in particular, who were robbing him of 
his just profits, by binding him down to a maximum price 
for his goods, just as if it were a time of revolution in the 
state. But he would be even with them yet ; he would have 
it all out of them : he would make European prices pay, after 
all. He had a plan he knew how; and he chuckled to 
himself, and grinned maliciously. 

True to his word, the captain next morning arrived at 
the tartan. He was accompanied by Ben Zoof and two 
Russian sailors. " Good-morning, old Eleazar ; we have 
come to do our little bit of friendly business with you, you 
know," was Ben Zoof's greeting. 

" What do you want to-day? " asked the Jew. 

" To-day we want coffee, and we want sugar, and we 
want tobacco. We must have ten kilogrammes of each. 
Take care they are all good; all first rate. I am commis- 
sariat officer, and I am responsible." 

" I thought you were the governor's aide-de-camp," said 
Hakkabut. 

" So I am, on state occasions ; but to-day, I tell you. I 
am superintendent of the commissariat department. Now, 
look sharp ! " 

Hakkabut hereupon descended into the hold of the tartan, 
and soon returned, carrying ten packets of tobacco, each 
weighing one kilogramme, and securely fastened by strips 
of paper, labeled with the French government stamp. 

" Ten kilogrammes of tobacco at twelve francs a kilo- 
gramme : a hundred and twenty francs," said the Jew. 

Ben Zoof was on the point of laying down the money, 
when Servadac stopped him. 

" Let us just see whether the weight is correct." 

Hakkabut pointed out that the weight was duly regis- 
tered on every packet, and that the packets had never been 
unfastened. The captain, however, had his own special 
object in view, and would not be diverted. The Jew 
fetched his steelyard, and a packet of the tobacco was sus- 
pended to it. 

"Merciful heavens!" screamed Isaac. 



MARKET PRICES IN GALLIA 209 

The index registered only 133 grammes! 

" You see, Hakkabut, I was right. I was perfectly jus- 
tified in having your goods put to the test," said Servadac, 
quite seriously. 

" But but, your Excellency " stammered out the 

bewildered man. 

" You will, of course, make up the deficiency," the cap- 
tain continued, not noticing the interruption. 

" Oh, my lord, let me say " began Isaac again. 

" Come, come, old Caiaphas, do you hear ? You are to 
make up the deficiency," exclaimed Ben Zoof. 

" Ah, yes, yes; but " 

The unfortunate Israelite tried hard to speak, but his 
agitation prevented him. He understood well enough the 
cause of the phenomenon, but he was overpowered by the 
conviction that the " cursed Gentiles " wanted to cheat him. 
He deeply regretted that he had not a pair of common 
scales on board. 

" Come, I say, old Jedediah, you are a long while making 
up what's short," said Ben Zoof, while the Jew was still 
stammering on. 

As soon as he recovered his power of articulation, Isaac 
began to pour out a medley of lamentations and petitions 
for mercy. The captain was inexorable. " Very sorry, 
you know, Hakkabut. It is not my fault that the packet 
is short weight; but I cannot pay for a kilogramme except 
I have a kilogramme." 

Hakkabut pleaded for some consideration. 

" A bargain is a bargain," said Servadac. " You must 
complete your contract." 

And, moaning and groaning, the miserable man was 
driven to make up the full weight as registered by his own 
steelyard. He had to repeat the process with the sugar 
and coffee: for every kilogramme he had to weigh seven. 
Ben Zoof and the Russians jeered him most unmercifully. 

" I say, old Mordecai, wouldn't you rather give your 
goods away, than sell them at this rate? I would." 

" I say, old Pilate, a monopoly isn't always a good thing, 
is it?" 

" I say, old Sepharvaim, what a flourishing trade you're 
driving ! " 

Meanwhile seventy kilogrammes of each of the articles 



210 OFF ON A COMET 

required were weighed, and the Jew for each seventy had 
to take the price of ten. 

All along Captain Servadac had been acting only in jest. 
Aware that old Isaac was an utter hypocrite, he had no 
compunction in turning a business transaction with him into 
an occasion for a bit of fun. But the joke at an end, 
he took care that the Jew was properly paid all his legit- 
imate due. 

CHAPTER X 

FAR INTO SPACE 

A MONTH passed away. Gallia continued its course, 
bearing its little population onwards, so far removed from 
the ordinary influence of human passions that it might 
almost be said that its sole ostensible vice was represented 
by the greed and avarice of the miserable Jew. 

After all, they were but making a voyage a strange, yet 
a transient, excursion through solar regions hitherto un- 
tra versed; but if the professor's calculations were correct 
and why should they be doubted? their little vessel was 
destined, after a two years' absence, once more to return 
" to port." The landing, indeed, might be a matter of 
difficulty; but with the good prospect before them of once 
again standing on terrestrial shores, they had nothing to 
do at present except to make themselves as comfortable 
as they could in their present quarters. 

Thus confident in their anticipations, neither the cap- 
tain, the count, nor the lieutenant felt under any serious 
obligation to make any extensive provisions for the future; 
they saw no necessity for expending the strength of the 
people, during the short summer that would intervene upon 
the long severity of winter, in the cultivation or the preser- 
vation of their agricultural resources. Nevertheless, they 
often found themselves talking over the measures they 
would have been driven to adopt, if they had found them- 
selves permanently attached to their present home. 

Even after the turning-point in their career, they knew 
that at least nine months would have to elapse before the 
sea would be open to navigation; but at the very first 
arrival of summer they would be bound to arrange for the 
Dobryna and the Hansa to retransport themselves and all 






FAR INTO SPACE 211 

their animals to the shores of Gourbi Island, where they 
would have to commence their agricultural labors to secure 
the crops that must form their winter store. During four 
months or thereabouts, they would lead the lives of farmers 
and of sportsmen; but no sooner would their haymaking 
and their corn harvest have been accomplished, than they 
would be compelled again, like a swarm of bees, to retire 
to their semi-troglodyte existence in the cells of Nina's 
Hive. 

Now and then the captain and his friends found them- 
selves speculating whether, in the event of their having to 
spend another winter upon Gallia, some means could not 
be devised by which the dreariness of a second residence 
in the recesses of the volcano might be escaped. Would 
not another exploring expedition possibly result in the dis- 
covery of a vein of coal or other combustible matter, which 
could be turned to account in warming some erection which 
they might hope to put up? A prolonged existence in their 
underground quarters w r as felt to be monotonous and de- 
pressing, and although it might be all very well for a man 
like Professor Rosette, absorbed in astronomical studies, it 
was ill suited to the temperaments of any of themselves for 
any longer period than was absolutely indispensable. 

One contingency there was, almost too terrible to be 
taken into account. Was it not to be expected that the 
time might come when the internal fires of Gallia would 
lose their activity, and the stream of lava would conse- 
quently cease to flow? Why should Gallia be exempt from 
the destiny that seemed to await every other heavenly 
body? Why should it not roll onwards, like the moon, a 
dark cold mass in space? 

In the event of such a cessation of the volcanic eruption, 
whilst the comet was still at so great a distance from the 
sun, they would indeed be at a loss to find a substitute for 
what alone had served to render life endurable at a tempera- 
ture of 60 below zero. Happily, however, there was at 
present no symptom of the subsidence of the lava's stream; 
the volcano continued its regular and unchanging discharge, 
and Servadac, ever sanguine, declared that it was useless to 
give themselves any anxiety upon the matter. 

On the 1 5th of December, Gallia was 276,000,000 
leagues from the sun, and, as it was approximately to the 



212 OFF ON A COMET 

extremity of its axis major, would travel only some n,- 
000,000 or 12,000,000 leagues during the month. Another 
world was now becoming a conspicuous object in the 
heavens, and Palmyrin Rosette, after rejoicing in an ap- 
proach nearer to Jupiter than any other mortal man had 
ever attained, was now to be privileged to enjoy a similar 
opportunity of contemplating the planet Saturn. Not that 
the circumstances were altogether so favorable. Scarcely 
31,000,000 miles had separated Gallia from Jupiter; the 
minimum distance of Saturn would not be less than 415,- 
000,000 miles; but even this distance, although too great 
to affect the comet's progress more than had been duly 
reckoned on, was considerably shorter than what had ever 
separated Saturn from the earth. 

To get any information about the planet from Rosette 
appeared quite impossible. Although equally by night and 
by day he never seemed to quit his telescope, he did not 
evince the slightest inclination to impart the result of his 
observations. It was only from the few astronomical 
works that happened to be included in the Dobryna's li- 
brary that any details could be gathered, but these were suf- 
ficient to give a large amount of interesting information. 

Ben Zoof, when he was made aware that the earth would 
be invisible to the naked eye from the surface of Saturn, 
declared that he then, for his part, did not care to learn any 
more about such a planet; to him it was indispensable that 
the earth should remain in sight, and it was his great con- 
solation that hitherto his native sphere had never vanished 
from his gaze. 

At this date Saturn was revolving at a distance of 420,- 
000,000 miles from Gallia, and consequently 874,440,000 
miles from the sun, receiving only a hundredth part of the 
light and heat which that luminary bestows upon the earth. 
On consulting their books of reference, the colonists found 
that Saturn completes his revolution round the sun in a 
period of 29 years and 167 days, traveling at the rate of 
more than 21,000 miles an hour along an orbit measuring 
5,490 millions of miles in length. His circumference is 
about 220,000 miles; his superficies, 144,000 millions of 
square miles; his volume, 143,846 millions of cubic miles. 
Saturn is 735 times larger than the earth, consequently he 
is smaller than Jupiter; in mass he is only 90 times greater 



FAR INTO SPACE 213 

than the earth, which gives him a density less than that of 
water. He revolves on his axis in 10 hours 29 minutes, 
causing his own year to consist of 86,630 days ; and his sea- 
sons, on account of the great inclination of his axis to the 
plane of his orbit, are each of the length of seven terrestrial 
years. 

Although the light received from the sun is compara- 
tively feeble, the nights upon Saturn must be splendid. 
Eight satellites Mimas, Enceladus, Tethys, Dione, Rhea, 
Titan, Hyperion, and Japetus accompany the planet; 
Mimas, the nearest to its primary, rotating on its axis in 
22^2 hours, and revolving at a distance of only 120,800 
miles, whilst Japetus, the most remote, occupies 79 days in 
its rotation, and revolves at a distance of 2,314,000 miles. 

Another most important contribution to the magnificence 
of the nights upon Saturn is the triple ring with which, as 
a brilliant setting, the planet is encompassed. To an ob- 
server at the equator, this ring, which has been estimated by 
Sir William Herschel as scarcely 100 miles in thickness, 
must have the appearance of a narrow band of light pass- 
ing through the zenith 12,000 miles above his head. As 
the observer, however, increases his latitude either north 
or south, the band will gradually widen out into three de- 
tached and concentric rings, of which the innermost, dark 
though transparent, is 9,625 miles in breadth; the inter- 
mediate one, which is brighter than the planet itself, being 
17,605 miles broad; and the outer, of a dusky hue, being 
8,660 miles broad. 

Such, they read, is the general outline of this strange ap- 
pendage, which revolves in its own plane in 10 hours 32 
minutes. Of what matter it is composed, and how it re- 
sists disintegration, is still an unsettled question; but it 
might almost seem that the Designer of the universe, in 
permitting its existence, had been willing to impart to His 
intelligent creatures the manner in which celestial bodies 
are evolved, and that this remarkable ring-system is a rem- 
nant of the nebula from which Saturn was himself devel- 
oped, and which, from some unknown cause, has become 
solidified. If at any time it should disperse, it would either 
fall into fragments upon the^surface of Saturn, or the frag- 
ments, mutually coalescing, would form additional satellites 
to circle round the planet in its path. 



2i 4 OFF ON A COMET 

To any observer stationed on the planet, between the 
extremes of lat. 45 on either side of the equator, these 
wonderful rings would present various strange phenomena. 
Sometimes they would appear as an illuminated arch, with 
the shadow of Saturn passing over it like the hour-hand 
over a dial ; at other times they would be like a semi-aureole 
of light. Very often, too, for periods of several years, 
daily eclipses of the sun must occur through the interposi- 
tion of this triple ring. 

Truly, with the constant rising and setting of the satel- 
lites, some with bright discs at their full, others like silver 
crescents, in quadrature, as well as by the encircling rings, 
the aspect of the heavens from the surface of Saturn must 
be as impressive as it is gorgeous. 

Unable, indeed, the Gallians were to realize all the mar- 
vels of this strange world. After all, they were practically 
a thousand times further off than the great astronomers 
have been able to approach by means of their giant tele- 
scopes. But they did not complain; their little comet, they 
knew, was far safer where it was; far better out of the 
reach of an attraction which, by affecting their path, might 
have annihilated their best hopes. 

The distances of several of the brightest of the fixed 
stars have been estimated. Amongst others, Vega in the 
constellation Lyra is 100 millions of millions of miles away; 
Sirius in Canis Major, 123 millions of millions; the Pole- 
star, 282 millions of millions; and Capella, 340 millions of 
millions of miles, a figure represented by no less than fif- 
teen digits. 

The hard numerical statement of these enormous fig- 
ures, however, fails altogether in any adequate way to con- 
vey a due impression of the magnitude of these distances. 
Astronomers, in their ingenuity, have endeavored to use 
some other basis, and have found "the velocity of light" 
to be convenient for their purpose. They have made their 
representations something in this way : 

" Suppose," they say, " an observer endowed with an in- 
finite length of vision: suppose him stationed on the sur- 
face of Capella; looking thence towards the earth, he would 
be a spectator of events that had happened seventy years 
previously ; transport him to a star ten times distant, and he 
will be reviewing the terrestrial sphere of 720 years back; 



FAR INTO SPACE 215 

carry him away further still, to a star so remote that it re- 
quires something less than nineteen centuries for light to 
reach it, and he would be a witness of the birth and death of 
Christ; convey him further again, and he shall be looking 
upon the dread desolation of the Deluge; take him away 
further yet (for space is infinite), and he shall be a specta- 
tor of the Creation of the spheres. History is thus stereo- 
typed in space; nothing once accomplished can ever be ef- 
faced." 

Who can altogether be astonished that Palmyrin Rosette, 
with his burning thirst for astronomical research, should 
have been conscious of a longing for yet wider travel 
through the sidereal universe? With his comet now under 
the influence of one star, now of another, what various sys- 
tems might he not have explored ! what undreamed-of mar- 
vels might not have revealed themselves before his gaze! 
The stars, fixed and immovable in name, are all of them in 
motion, and Gallia might have followed them in their un- 
tracked way. 

But Gallia had a narrow destiny. She was not to be al- 
lowed to wander away into the range of attraction of an- 
other center; nor to mingle with the star clusters, some of 
which have been entirely, others partially resolved ; nor was 
she to lose herself amongst the 5,000 nebulae which have re- 
sisted hitherto the grasp of the most powerful reflectors. 
No; Gallia was neither to pass beyond the limits of the solar 
system, nor to travel out of sight of the terrestrial sphere. 
Her orbit was circumscribed to little over 1,500 millions of 
miles; and, in comparison with the infinite space beyond, 
this was a mere nothing. 



CHAPTER XI 

A FETE DAY 

THE temperature continued to decrease; the mercurial 
thermometer, which freezes at 42 below zero, was no 
longer of service, and the spirit thermometer of the Dob- 
ryna had been brought into use. This now registered 53 
below freezing-point. 

In the creek, where the two vessels had been moored for 
the winter, the elevation of the ice, in anticipation of which 



216 OFF ON A COMET 

Lieutenant Procope had taken the precautionary measure 
of beveling, was going on slowly but irresistibly, and the 
tartan was upheaved fifty feet above the level of the Gal- 
lian Sea, while the schooner, as being lighter, had been 
raised to a still greater altitude. 

So irresistible was this gradual process of elevation, so 
utterly defying all human power to arrest, that the lieu- 
tenant began to feel very anxious as to the safety of his 
yacht. With the exception of the engine and the masts, 
everything had been cleared out and conveyed to shore, but 
in the event of a thaw it appeared that nothing short of a 
miracle could prevent the hull from being dashed to pieces, 
and then all means of leaving the promontory would be 
gone. The Hansa, of course, would share a similar fate; 
in fact, it had already heeled over to such an extent as to 
render it quite dangerous for its obstinate owner, who, at 
the peril of his life, resolved that he would stay where he 
could watch over his all-precious cargo, though continually 
invoking curses on the ill- fate of which he deemed himself 
the victim. 

There was, however, a stronger will than Isaac Hakka- 
but's. Although no one of all the community cared at all 
for the safety of the Jew, they cared very much for the se- 
curity of his cargo, and when Servadac found that nothing 
would induce the old man to abandon his present quarters 
voluntarily, he very soon adopted measures of coercion that 
were far more effectual than any representations of per- 
sonal danger. 

" Stop where you like, Hakkabut," said the captain to 
him ; " but understand that I consider it my duty to make 
sure that your cargo is taken care of. I am going to have 
it carried across to land, at once." 

Neither groans, nor tears, nor protestations on the part 
of the Jew, were of the slightest avail. Forthwith, on the 
20th of December, the removal of the goods commenced. 

Both Spaniards and Russians were all occupied for sev- 
eral days in the work of unloading the tartan. Well muf- 
fled up as they were in furs, they were able to endure the 
cold with impunity, making it their special care to avoid 
actual contact with any article made of metal, which, in 
the low state of the temperature, would inevitably have 
taken all the skin off their hands, as much as if it had been 



A FETE DAY 217 

red-hot. The task, however, was brought to an end with- 
out accident of any kind; and when the stores of the Hansa 
were safely deposited in the galleries of the Hive, Lieuten- 
ant Procope avowed that he really felt that his mind had 
been unburdened from a great anxiety. 

Captain Servadac gave old Isaac full permission to take 
up his residence amongst the rest of the community, prom- 
ised him the entire control over his own property, and alto- 
gether showed him so much consideration that, but for his 
unbounded respect for his master, Ben Zoof would have 
liked to reprimand him for his courtesy to a man whom he 
so cordially despised. 

Although Hakkabut clamored most vehemently about his 
goods being carried off "against his will," in his heart he 
was more than satisfied to see his property transferred to a 
place of safety, and delighted, moreover, to know that the 
transport had been effected without a farthing of expense 
to himself. As soon, then, as he found the tartan empty, 
he was only too glad to accept the offer that had been made 
him, and very soon made his way over to the quarters in 
the gallery where his merchandise had been stored. Here 
he lived day and night. He supplied himself with what 
little food he required from his own stock of provisions, a 
small spirit-lamp sufficing to perform all the operations of 
his meager cookery. Consequently all intercourse between 
himself and the rest of the inhabitants was entirely con- 
fined to business transactions, when occasion required that 
some purchase should be made from his stock of commodi- 
ties. Meanwhile, all the silver and gold of the colony was 
gradually rinding its way to a double-locked drawer, of 
which the Jew most carefully guarded the key. 

The ist of January was drawing near, the anniversary 
of the shock which had resulted in the severance of thirty- 
six human beings from the society of their fellow-men. 
Hitherto, not one of them was missing. The unvarying 
calmness of the climate, notwithstanding the cold, had 
tended to maintain them in good health, and there seemed 
no reason to doubt that, when Gallia returned to the earth, 
the total of its little population would still be complete. 

The ist of January, it is true, was not properly " New 
Year's Day " in Gallia, but Captain Servadac, nevertheless, 
was very anxious to have it observed as a holiday. 



218 OFF ON A COMET 

" I do not think," he said to Count Timascheff and Lieu- 
tenant Procope, " that we ought to allow our people to lose 
their interest in the world to which we are all hoping to 
return; and how can we cement the bond that ought to 
unite us, better than by celebrating, in common with our 
fellow-creatures upon earth, a day that awakens afresh the 
kindliest sentiments of all? Besides," he added, smiling, 
" I expect that Gallia, although invisible just at present to 
the naked eye, is being closely watched by the telescopes 
of our terrestrial friends, and I have no doubt that the 
newspapers and scientific journals of both hemispheres are 
full of accounts detailing the movements of the new comet." 

" True," asserted the count. " I can quite imagine that 
we are occasioning no small excitement in all the chief ob- 
servatories." 

"Ay, more than that," said the lieutenant; "our Gallia 
is certain to be far more than a mere object of scientific in- 
terest or curiosity. Why should we doubt that the ele- 
ments of a comet which has once come into collision with 
the earth have by this time been accurately calculated? 
What our friend the professor has done here, has been done 
likewise on the earth, where, beyond a question, all manner 
of expedients are being discussed as to the best way of miti- 
gating the violence of a concussion that must occur." 

The lieutenant's conjectures were so reasonable that they 
commanded assent. Gallia could scarcely be otherwise 
than an object of terror to the inhabitants of the earth, who 
could by no means be certain that a second collision would 
be comparatively so harmless as the first. Even to the 
Gallians themselves, much as they looked forward to 
the event, the prospect was not unmixed with alarm, and 
they would rejoice in the invention of any device by 
which it was likely the impetus of the shock might be dead- 
ened. 

Christmas arrived, and was marked by appropriate re- 
ligious observance by everyone in the community, with the 
exception of the Jew, who made a point of secluding him- 
self more obstinately than ever in the gloomy recesses of 
his retreat. 

To Ben Zoof the last week of the year was full of bus- 
tle. The arrangements for the New Year fete were en- 
trusted to him, and he was anxious, in spite of the re- 



A FETE DAY 219 

sources of Gallia being so limited, to make the program for 
the great day as attractive as possible. 

It was a matter of debate that night whether the pro- 
fessor should be invited to join the party; it was scarcely 
likely that he would care to come, but, on the whole, it was 
felt to be advisable to ask him. At first Captain Servadac 
thought of going in person with the invitation; but, re- 
membering Rosette's dislike to visitors, he altered his mind, 
and sent young Pablo up to the observatory with a formal 
note, requesting the pleasure of Professor Rosette's com- 
pany at the New Year's fete. 

Pablo was soon back, bringing no answer except that 
the professor had told him that " to-day was the I25th of 
June, and that to-morrow would be the ist of July." 

Consequently, Servadac and the count took it for granted 
that Palmyrin Rosette declined their invitation. 

An hour after sunrise on New Year's Day, Frenchmen, 
Russians, Spaniards, and little Nina, as the representative 
of Italy, sat down to a feast such as never before had been 
seen in Gallia. Ben Zoof and the Russian cook had quite 
surpassed themselves. The wines, part of the Dobryna's 
stores, were of excellent quality. Those of the vintages of 
France and Spain were drunk in toasting their respective 
countries, and even Russia was honored in a similar way 
by means of a few bottles of kummel. The company was 
more than contented it was as jovial as Ben Zoof could 
desire; and the ringing cheers that followed the great toast 
of the day " A happy return to our Mother Earth," must 
fairly have startled the professor in the silence of his ob- 
servatory. 

The dejeuner over, there still remained three hours of 
daylight. The sun was approaching the zenith, but so 
dim and enfeebled were his rays that they were very un- 
like what had produced the wines of Bordeaux and Bur- 
gundy which they had just been enjoying, and it was neces- 
sary for all, before starting upon an excursion that would 
last over nightfall, to envelop themselves in the thickest of 
clothing. 

Full of spirits, the party left the Hive, and chattering and 
singing as they went, made their way down to the frozen 
shore, where they fastened on their skates. Once upon the 
ice, everyone followed his own fancy, and some singly, 



220 OFF ON A COMET 

some in groups, scattered themselves in all directions. Cap- 
tain Servadac, the count, and the lieutenant were generally 
seen together. Negrete and the Spaniards, now masters 
of their novel exercise, wandered fleetly and gracefully 
hither and thither, occasionally being out of sight com- 
pletely. The Russian sailors, following a northern custom, 
skated in file, maintaining their rank by means of a long 
pole passed under their right arms, and in this way they 
described a trackway of singular regularity. The two 
children, blithe as birds, flitted about, now singly, now arm- 
in-arm, now joining the captain's party, now making a 
short peregrination by themselves, but always full of life 
and spirit. As for Ben Zoof, he was here, there, and 
everywhere, his imperturbable good temper ensuring him 
a smile of welcome whenever he appeared. 

Thus coursing rapidly over the icy plain, the whole party 
had soon exceeded the line that made the horizon from 
the shore. First, the rocks of the coast were lost to view; 
then the white crests of the cliffs were no longer to be seen; 
and at last, the summit of the volcano, with its corona of 
vapor, was entirely out of sight. Occasionally the skaters 
were obliged to stop to recover their breath, but, fearful of 
frost-bite, they almost instantly resumed their exercise, and 
proceeded nearly as far as Gourbi Island before they 
thought about retracing their course. 

But night was coming on, and the sun was already sink- 
ing in the east with the rapidity to which the residents on 
Gallia were by this time well accustomed. The sunset upon 
this contracted horizon was very remarkable. There was 
not a cloud nor a vapor to catch the tints of the declining 
beams; the surface of the ice did not, as a liquid sea would, 
reflect the last green ray of light; but the radiant orb, en- 
larged by the effect of refraction, its circumference sharply 
defined against the sky, sank abruptly, as though a trap had 
been opened in the ice for its reception. 
^ Before the daylight ended, Captain Servadac had cau- 
tioned the party to collect themselves betimes into one 
group. "Unless you are sure of your whereabouts be- 
fore dark," he said, " you will not find it after. We have 
come out like a party of skirmishers; let us go back in full 
force." 

The night would be dark; their moon was in conjunction, 



A FETE DAY 221 

and would not be seen ; the stars would only give something 
of that " pale radiance " which the poet Corneille has de- 
scribed. 

Immediately after sunset the torches were lighted, and 
the long series of flames, fanned by the rapid motion of 
their bearers, had much the appearance of an enormous 
fiery banner. An hour later, and the volcano appeared 
like a dim shadow on the horizon, the light from the crater 
shedding a lurid glare upon the surrounding gloom. In 
time the glow of the burning lava, reflected in the icy mir- 
ror, fell upon the troop of skaters, and cast their length- 
ened shadows grotesquely on the surface of the frozen sea. 

Later still, half an hour or more afterwards, the torches 
were all but dying out. The shore was close at hand. All 
at once, Ben Zoof uttered a startled cry, and pointed with 
bewildered excitement towards the mountain. Involun- 
tarily, one and all, they plowed their heels into the ice and 
came to a halt. Exclamations of surprise and horror burst 
from every lip. The volcano was extinguished! The 
stream of burning lava had suddenly ceased to flow! 

Speechless with amazement, they stood still for some mo- 
ments. There was not one of them that did not realize, 
more or less, how critical was their position. The sole 
source of the heat that had enabled them to brave the rigor 
of the cold had failed them! death, in the cruellest of all 
shapes, seemed staring them in the face death from cold! 

Meanwhile, the last torch had flickered out. 

It was quite dark. 

" Forward ! " cried Servadac, firmly. 

At the word of command they advanced to the shore; 
clambered with no little difficulty up the slippery rocks; 
gained the mouth of the gallery; groped their way into the 
common hall. 

How dreary! how chill it seemed! 

The fiery cataract no longer spread its glowing covering 
over the mouth of the grotto. Lieutenant Procope leaned 
through the aperture. The pool, hitherto kept fluid by its 
proximity to the lava, was already encrusted with a layer 
of ice. 

Such was the end of the New Year's Day so happily be- 
gun. 



CHAPTER XII 

THE BOWELS OF THE COMET 

THE whole night was spent in speculating, with gloomy 
forebodings, upon the chances of the future. The tempera- 
ture of the hall, now entirely exposed to the outer air, was 
rapidly falling, and would quickly become unendurable. 
Far too intense was the cold to allow anyone to remain at 
the opening, and the moisture on the walls soon resolved 
itself into icicles. But the mountain was like the body of 
a dying man, that retains awhile a certain amount of heat 
at the heart after the extremities have become cold and 
dead. In the more interior galleries there was still a cer- 
tain degree of warmth, and hither Servadac and his com- 
panions were glad enough to retreat. 

Here they found the professor, who, startled by the sud- 
den cold, had been fain to make a precipitate retreat from 
his observatory. Now would have been the opportunity 
to demand of the enthusiast whether he would like to pro- 
long his residence indefinitely upon his little comet. It is 
very likely that he would have declared himself ready to 
put up with any amount of discomfort to be able to gratify 
his love of investigation; but all were far too disheartened 
and distressed to care to banter him upon the subject on 
which he was so sensitive. 

Next morning, Servadac thus addressed his people. 
" My friends, except from cold, we have nothing to fear. 
Our provisions are ample more than enough for the re- 
maining period of our sojourn in this lone world of ours; 
our preserved meat is already cooked; we shall be able to 
dispense with all fuel for cooking purposes. All that we 
require is warmth warmth for ourselves; let us secure 
that, and all may be well. Now, I do not entertain a doubt 
but that the warmth we require is resident in the bowels of 
this mountain on which we are living; to the depth of those 
bowels we must penetrate ; there we shall obtain the warmth 
which is indispensable to our very existence." 

His tone, quite as much as his words, restored confi- 
dence to many of his people, who were already yielding to 
a feeling of despair. The count and the lieutenant fer- 
vently, but silently, grasped his hand. 

" Nina/' said the captain, " you will not be afraid to go 
down to the lower depths of the mountain, will you? " 

222 



THE BOWELS OF THE COMET 223 

" Not if Pablo goes," replied the child. 

" Oh yes, of course, Pablo will go. You are not afraid 
to go, are you, Pablo ? " he said, addressing the boy. 

"Anywhere .with you, your Excellency," was the boy's 
prompt reply. 

And certain it was that no time must be lost in pene- 
trating below the heart of the volcano; already the most 
protected of the many ramifications of Nina's Hive were 
being pervaded by a cold that was insufferable. It was an 
acknowledged impossibility to get access to the crater by 
the exterior declivities of the mountain-side ; they were far 
too steep and too slippery to afford a foothold. It must of 
necessity be entered from the interior. 

Lieutenant Procope accordingly undertook the task of 
exploring all the galleries, and was soon able to report that 
he had discovered one which he had every reason to believe 
abutted upon the central funnel. His reason for coming 
to this conclusion was that the caloric emitted by the rising 
vapors of the hot lava seemed to be oozing, as it were, out 
of the tellurium, which had been demonstrated already to 
be a conductor of heat. Only succeed in piercing through 
this rock for seven or eight yards, and the lieutenant did 
not doubt that his way would be opened into the old lava- 
course, by following which he hoped descent would be easy. 

Under the lieutenant's direction the Russian sailors were 
immediately set to work. Their former experience had 
convinced them that spades and pick-axes were of no avail, 
and their sole resource was to proceed by blasting with gun- 
powder. However skillfully the operation might be car- 
ried on, it must necessarily occupy several days, and during 
that time the sufferings from cold must be very severe. 

" If we fail in our object, and cannot get to the depths of 
the mountain, our little colony is doomed," said Count 
Timascheff. 

" That speech is not like yourself," answered Servadac, 
smiling. " What has become of the faith which has 
hitherto carried you so bravely through all our difficul- 
ties?" 

The count shook his head, as if in despair, and said, 
sadly, " The Hand that has hitherto been outstretched to 
help seems now to be withdrawn." 

" But only to test pur powers of endurance," rejoined 



224 OFF ON A COMET 

the captain, earnestly. " Courage, my friend, courage ! 
Something tells me that this cessation of the eruption is 
only partial; the internal fire is not all extinct. All is not 
over yet. It is too soon to give up ; never despair ! " 

Lieutenant Procope quite concurred with the captain. 
Many causes, he knew, besides the interruption of the in- 
fluence of the oxygen upon the mineral substances in Gal- 
lia's interior, might account for the stoppage of the lava- 
flow in this one particular spot, and he considered it more 
than probable that a fresh outlet had been opened in some 
other part of the surface, and that the eruptive matter had 
been diverted into the new channel. But at present his 
business was to prosecute his labors so that a retreat 
might be immediately effected from their now untenable 
position. 

Restless and agitated, Professor Rosette, if he took any 
interest in these discussions, certainly took no share in them. 
He had brought his telescope down from the observatory 
into the common hall, and there at frequent intervals, by 
night and by day, he would endeavor to continue his ob- 
servations; but the intense cold perpetually compelled him 
to desist, or he would literally have been frozen to death. 
No sooner, however, did he find himself obliged to retreat 
from his study of the heavens, than he would begin over- 
whelming everybody about him with bitter complaints, 
pouring out his regrets that he had ever quitted his quar- 
ters at Formentera. 

On the 4th of January, by persevering industry, the 
process of boring was completed, and the lieutenant could 
hear that fragments of the blasted rock, as the sailors 
cleared them away with their spades, were rolling into the 
funnel of the crater. He noticed, too, that they did not 
fall perpendicularly, but seemed to slide along, from which 
he inferred that the sides of the crater were sloping; he had 
therefore reason to hope that a descent would be found 
practicable. 

Larger and larger grew the orifice; at length it would 
admit a man's body, and Ben Zoof, carrying a torch, pushed 
himself through it, followed by the lieutenant and Ser- 
vadac. Procope's conjecture proved correct. On enter- 
ing the crater, they found that the sides slanted at the angle 
of about 4 ; moreover, the eruption had evidently been of 



THE BOWELS OF THE COMET 225 

recent origin, dating probably only from the shock which 
had invested Gallia with a proportion of the atmosphere 
of the earth, and beneath the coating of ashes with which 
they were covered, there were various irregularities in the 
rock, not yet worn away by the action of the lava, and these 
afforded a tolerably safe footing. 

" Rather a bad staircase ! " said Ben Zoof, as they began 
to make their way down. 

In about half an hour, proceeding in a southerly direc- 
tion, they had descended nearly five hundred feet. From 
time to time they came upon large excavations that at first 
sight had all the appearance of galleries, but by waving his 
torch, Ben Zoof could always see their extreme limits, and 
it was evident that the lower strata of the mountain did not 
present the same system of ramification that rendered the 
Hive above so commodious a residence. 

It was not a time to be fastidious ; they must be satisfied 
with such accommodation as they could get, provided it was 
warm. Captain Servadac was only too glad to find that his 
hopes about the temperature were to a certain extent real- 
ized. The lower they went, the greater was the diminution 
in the cold, a diminution that was far more rapid than that 
which is experienced in making the descent of terrestrial 
mines. In this case it was a volcano, not a colliery, that 
was the object of exploration, and thankful enough they 
were to find that it had not become extinct. Although the 
lava, from some unknown cause, had ceased to rise in the 
crater, yet plainly it existed somewhere in an incandescent 
state, and was still transmitting considerable heat to in- 
ferior strata. 

Lieutenant Procope had brought in his hand a mercurial 
thermometer, and Servadac carried an aneroid barometer, 
by means of which he could estimate the depth of their de- 
scent below the level of the Gallian Sea. When they were 
six hundred feet below the .orifice the mercury registered a 
temperature of 6 below zero. 

" Six degrees ! " said Servadac ; " that will not suit us. 
At this low temperature we could not survive the winter. 
We must try deeper down. I only hope the ventilation will 
hold out." ' 

There was, however, nothing to fear on the score of ven- 
tilation. The great current of air that rushed into the 

V. IX Verne 



226 OFF ON A COMET 

aperture penetrated everywhere, and made respiration per- 
fectly easy. 

The descent was continued for about another three hun- 
dred feet, which brought the explorers to a total depth of 
nine hundred feet from their old quarters. Here the ther- 
mometer registered 12 above zero a temperature which, 
if only it were permanent, was all they wanted. There was 
no advantage in proceeding any further along the lava- 
course; they could already hear the dull rumblings that in- 
dicated that they were at no great distance from the central 
focus. 

"Quite near enough for me!" exclaimed Ben Zoof. 
" Those who are chilly are welcome to go as much lower 
as they like. For my part, I shall be quite warm enough 
here." 

After throwing the gleams of torch-light in all direc- 
tions, the explorers seated themselves on a jutting rock, 
and began to debate whether it was practicable for the 
colony to make an abode in these lower depths of the moun- 
tain. The prospect, it must be owned, was not inviting. 
The crater, it is true, widened out into a cavern sufficiently 
large, but here its accommodation ended. Above and be- 
low were a few ledges in the rock that would serve as re- 
ceptacles for provisions; but, with the exception of a small 
recess that must be reserved for Nina, it was clear that 
henceforth they must all renounce the idea of having sepa- 
rate apartments. The single cave must be their dining- 
room, drawing-room, and dormitory, all in one. From liv- 
ing the life of rabbits in a warren, they were reduced to 
the existence of moles, with the difference that they could 
not, like them, forget their troubles in a long winter's sleep. 

The cavern, however, was quite capable of being lighted 
by means of lamps and lanterns. Among the stores were 
several barrels of oil and a considerable quantity of spirits 
of wine, which might be burned when required for cooking 
purposes. Moreover, it would be unnecessary for them to 
confine themselves entirely to the seclusion of their gloomy 
residence; well wrapped up, there would be nothing to pre- 
vent them making occasional excursions both to the Hive 
and to the sea-shore. A supply of fresh water would be 
constantly required; ice for this purpose must be perpetu- 
ally carried in from the coast, and it would be necessary to 



THE BOWELS OF THE COMET 227 

arrange that everyone in turn should perform this office, 
as it would be no sinecure to clamber up the sides of the 
crater for 900 feet, and descend the same distance with a 
heavy burden. 

But the emergency was great, and it was accordingly 
soon decided that the little colony should forthwith take up 
its quarters in the cave. After all, they said, they should 
hardly be much worse off than thousands who annually 
winter in Arctic regions. On board the whaling-vessels, 
and in the establishments of the Hudson's Bay Company, 
such luxuries as separate cabins or sleeping-chambers are 
never thought of; one large apartment, well heated and 
ventilated, with as few corners as possible, is considered 
far more healthy ; and on board ship the entire hold, and in 
forts a single floor, is appropriated to this purpose. The 
recollection of this fact served to reconcile them, in a great 
degree, to the change to which they felt it requisite to sub- 
mit. 

Having remounted the ascent, they made the result of 
their exploration known to the mass of the community, 
who received the tidings with a sense of relief, and cor- 
dially accepted the scheme of the migration. 

The first step was to clear the cavern of its accumulation 
of ashes, and then the labor of removal commenced in ear- 
nest. Never was a task undertaken with greater zest. 
The fear of being to a certainty frozen to death if they re- 
mained where they were, was a stimulus that made every- 
one put forth all his energies. Beds, furniture, cooking 
utensils first the stores of the Dobryna, then the cargo of 
the tartan all were carried down with the greatest alac- 
rity, and the diminished weight combined with the down- 
hill route to make the labor proceed with incredible brisk- 
ness. 

Although Professor Rosette yielded to the pressure of 
circumstances, and allowed himself to be conducted to the 
lower regions, nothing would induce him to allow his tele- 
scope to be carried underground; and as it was undeniable 
that it would certainly be of no service deep down in the 
bowels of the mountain, it was allowed to remain undis- 
turbed upon its tripod in the great hall of Nina's Hive. 

As for Isaac Hakkabut, his outcry was beyond descrip- 
tion lamentable. Never, in the whole universe, had a mer- 



228 OFF ON A COMET 

chant met with such reverses; never had sucK a pitiable 
series of losses befallen an unfortunate man. Regardless 
of the ridicule which his abject wretchedness excited, he 
howled on still, and kept up an unending wail; but mean- 
while he kept a keen eye upon every article of his property, 
and amidst universal laughter insisted on having every item 
registered in an inventory as it was transferred to its ap- 
pointed place of safety. Servadac considerately allowed 
the whole of the cargo to be deposited in a hollow apart by 
itself, over which the Jew was permitted to keep a watch as 
vigilant as he pleased. 

By the loth the removal was accomplished. Rescued, 
at all events, from the exposure to a perilous temperature of 
60 below zero, the community was installed in its new 
home. The large cave was lighted by the Dobryna's lamps, 
while several lanterns, suspended at intervals along the ac- 
clivity that led to their deserted quarters above, gave a 
weird picturesqueness to the scene, that might vie with any 
of the graphic descriptions of the " Arabian Nights' Enter- 
tainments." 

" How do you like this, Nina? " said Ben Zoof. 

" Va bene!" replied the child. "We are only living in 
the cellars instead of upon the ground floor." 

" We will try and make ourselves comfortable," said the 
orderly. 

" Oh yes, we will be happy here," rejoined the child; " it 
is nice and warm." 

Although they were as careful as they could to conceal 
their misgivings from the rest, Servadac and his two 
friends could not regard their present situation without 
distrust. When alone, they would frequently ask each 
other what would become of them all, if the volcanic heat 
should really be subsiding, or if some unexpected perturba- 
tion should retard the course of the comet, and compel 
them to an indefinitely prolonged residence in their grim 
abode. It was scarcely likely that the comet could supply 
the fuel of which ere long they would be in urgent need. 
Who could expect to find coal in the bowels of Gallia, 
coal, which is the residuum of ancient forests mineralized 
by the lapse of ages? Would not the lava-cinders ex- 
humed from the extinct volcano be their last poor resource ? 

" Keep up your spirits, my friends," said Servadac; " we 



THE BOWELS OF THE COMET 229 

have plenty of time before us at present. Let us hope that 
as fresh difficulties arise, fresh ways of escape will open. 
Never despair ! " 

" True/' said the count j " it is an old saying that ' Neces- 
sity is the mother of invention/ Besides, I should think 
it very unlikely that the internal heat will fail us now be- 
fore the summer." 

The lieutenant declared that he entertained the same 
hope. As the reason of his opinion he alleged that the 
combustion of the eruptive matter was most probably of 
quite recent origin, because the comet before its collision 
with the earth had possessed no atmosphere, and that con- 
sequently no oxygen could have penetrated to its interior. 

"Most likely you are right," replied the count; "and so 
far from dreading a failure of the internal heat, I am not 
quite sure that we may not be exposed to a more terrible 
calamity still ? " 

"What? "asked Servadac. 

"The calamity of the eruption breaking out suddenly 
again, and taking us by surprise." 

"Heavens!" cried the captain, "we will not think of 
that." 

" The outbreak may happen again," said the lieutenant, 
calmly; " but it will be our fault, our own lack of vigilance, 
if we are taken by surprise." And so the conversation 
dropped. 

The 1 5th of January dawned; and the comet was 220,- 
000,000 leagues from the sun. 

Gallia had reached its aphelion. 

CHAPTER XIII 

DREARY MONTHS 

HENCEFORTH, then, with a velocity ever increasing, Gal- 
lia would re-approach the sun. 

Except the thirteen Englishmen who had been left at 
Gibraltar, every living creature had taken refuge in the 
dark abyss of the volcano's crater. 

And with those Englishmen, how had it fared? 

" Far better than with ourselves," was the sentiment that 
would have been universally accepted in Nina's Hive. And 
there was every reason to conjecture that so it was. The 



2 3 o OFF ON A COMET 

party at Gibraltar, they all agreed, would not, like them- 
selves, have been compelled to have recourse to a stream of 
lava for their supply of heat; they, no doubt, had had abun- 
dance of fuel as well as food; and in their solid casemate, 
with its substantial walls, they would find ample shelter 
from the rigor of the cold. The time would have been 
passed at least in comfort, and perhaps in contentment ; and 
Colonel Murphy and Major Oliphant would have had 
leisure more than sufficient for solving the most abstruse 
problems of the chess-board. AH of them, too, would be 
happy in the confidence that when the time should come, 
England would have full meed of praise to award to the 
gallant soldiers who had adhered so well and so manfully 
to their post. 

It did, indeed, more than once occur to the minds both 
of Servadac and his friends that, if their condition should 
become one of extreme emergency, they might, as a last 
resource, betake themselves to Gibraltar, and there seek a 
refuge; but their former reception had not been of the kind- 
est, and they were little disposed to renew an acquaintance- 
ship that was marked by so little cordiality. Not in the 
least that they would expect to meet with any inhospitable 
rebuff. Far from that; they knew well enough that Eng- 
lishmen, whatever their faults, would be the last to aban- 
don their fellow-creatures in the hour of distress. Never- 
theless, except the necessity became far more urgent than it 
had hitherto proved, they resolved to endeavor to remain 
in their present quarters. Up till this time no casualties 
had diminished their original number, but to undertake so 
long a journey across that unsheltered expanse of ice could 
scarcely fail to result in the loss of some of their party. 

However great was the desire to find a retreat for every 
living thing in the deep hollow of the crater, it was found 
necessary to slaughter almost all the domestic animals be- 
fore the removal of the community from Nina's Hive. To 
have stabled them all in the cavern below would have been 
quite impossible, whilst to have left them in the upper gal- 
leries would only have been to abandon them to a cruel 
death; and since meat could be preserved for an indefinite 
time in the original store-places, now colder than ever, the 
expedient of killing the animals seemed to recommend itself 
as equally prudent and humane. 



DREARY MONTHS 231 

Naturally ttie captain and Ben Zoof were most anxious 
that their favorite horses should be saved, and accordingly, 
by dint of the greatest care, all difficulties in the way were 
overcome, and Zephyr and Galette were conducted down 
the crater, where they were installed in a large hole and 
provided with forage, which was still abundant. 

Birds, subsisting only on scraps thrown out to them did 
not cease to follow the population in its migration, and so 
numerous did they become that multitudes of them had re- 
peatedly to be destroyed. 

The general re-arrangement of the new residence was 
no easy business, and occupied so much time that the end 
of January arrived before they could be said to be fairly 
settled. And then began a life of dreary monotony. 
Then seemed to creep over everyone a kind of moral tor- 
por as well as physical lassitude, which Servadac , the 
count, and the lieutenant did their best not only to combat 
in themselves, but to counteract in the general community. 
They provided a variety of intellectual pursuits; they in- 
stituted debates in which everybody was encouraged to 
take part; they read aloud, and explained extracts from the 
elementary manuals of science, or from the books of ad- 
venturous travel which their library supplied; and Rus- 
sians and Spaniards, day after day, might be seen gathered 
round the large table, giving their best attention to instruc- 
tion which should send them back to Mother Earth less ig- 
norant than they had left her. 

Selfish and morose, Hakkabut could never be induced to 
be present at these social gatherings. He was far too much 
occupied in his own appropriated corner, either in conning 
his accounts, or in counting his money. Altogether, with 
what he had before, he now possessed the round sum of 
150,000 francs, half of which was in sterling gold; but 
nothing could give him any satisfaction while he knew that 
the days were passing, and that he was denied the opportu- 
nity of putting out his capital in advantageous investments, 
or securing a proper interest. 

Neither did Palmyrin Rosette find leisure to take any 
share in the mutual intercourse. His occupation was far 
too absorbing for him to suffer it to be interrupted, and to 
him, living as he did perpetually in a world of figures, the 
winter days seemed neither long nor wearisome. Having 



232 OFF ON A COMET 

ascertained every possible particular about his comet, he 
was now devoting himself with equal ardor to the analysis 
of all the properties of the satellite Nerina, to which he ap- 
peared to assert the same claim of proprietorship. 

In order to investigate Nerina it was indispensable that he 
should make several actual observations at various points of 
the orbit; and for this purpose he repeatedly made his way 
up to the grotto above, where, in spite of the extreme severity 
of the cold, he would persevere in the use of his telescope 
till he was all but paralyzed. But what he felt more than 
anything was the want of some retired apartment, where 
he could pursue his studies without hindrance or intrusion. 

It was about the beginning of February, when the pro- 
fessor brought his complaint to Captain Servadac, and 
begged him to assign him a chamber, no matter how small, 
in which he should be free to carry on his task in silence 
and without molestation. So readily did Servadac prom- 
ise to do everything in his power to provide him with the 
accommodation for which he asked, that the professor was 
put into such a manifest good temper that the captain ven- 
tured to speak upon the matter that was ever uppermost in 
his mind. 

" I do not mean," he began timidly, " to cast the least 
imputation of inaccuracy upon any of your calculations, 
but would you allow me, my dear professor, to suggest that 
you should revise your estimate of the duration of Gallia's 
period of revolution. It is so important, you know, so all 
important; the difference of one half minute, you know, 
would so certainly mar the expectation of reunion with the 
earth " 

And seeing a cloud gathering on Rosette's face, he 
added : 

" I am sure Lieutenant Procope would be only too happy 
to render you any assistance in the revision." 

" Sir," said the professor, bridling up, " I want no as- 
sistant; my calculations want no revision. I never make 
an error. I have made my reckoning as far as Gallia is 
concerned. I am now making a like estimate of the ele- 
ments of Nerina." 

Conscious how impolitic it would be to press this matter 
further, the captain casually remarked that he should have 
supposed that all the elements of Nerina had been cal- 



DREARY MONTHS 233 

culated long since by astronomers on the earth. It was 
about as unlucky a speech as he could possibly have made. 
The professor glared at him fiercely. 

" Astounding, sir ! " he exclaimed. " Yes ! Nerina was 
a planet then ; everything that appertained to the planet was 
determined; but Nerina is a moon now. And do you not 
think, sir, that we have a right to know as much about our 
moon as those terrestrials" and he curled his lip as he 
spoke with a contemptuous emphasis "know of theirs?" 

" I beg pardon," said the corrected captain. 

"Well then, never mind," replied the professor, quickly 
appeased ; " only will you have the goodness to get me a 
proper place for study?" 

" I will, as I promised, do all I can," answered Servadac. 

" Very good," said the professor. " No immediate 
hurry; an hour hence will do." 

But in spite of this condescension on the part of the man 
of science, some hours had to elapse before any place of 
retreat could be discovered likely to suit his requirements; 
but at length a little nook was found in the side of the 
cavern just large enough to hold an armchair and a table, 
and in this the astronomer was soon ensconced to his en- 
tire satisfaction. 

Buried thus, nearly 900 feet below ground, the Gallians 
ought to have had unbounded mental energy to furnish an 
adequate reaction to the depressing monotony of their 
existence; but many days would often elapse without any 
one of them ascending to the surface of the soil, and had 
it not been for the necessity of obtaining fresh water, it 
seemed almost probable that there would never have been 
an effort made to leave the cavern at all. 

A few excursions, it is true, were made in the downward 
direction. The three leaders, with Ben Zoof, made their 
way to the lower depths of the crater, not with the design 
of making any further examination as to the nature of 
the rock for although it might be true enough that it con- 
tained thirty per cent, of gold, it was as valueless to them 
as granite but with the intention of ascertaining whether 
the subterranean fire still retained its activity. Satisfied 
upon this point, they came to the conclusion that the erup- 
tion which had so suddenly ceased in one spot had certainly 
broken out in another. 



234 OFF ON A COMET 

February, March, April, May, passed wearily by; but 
day succeeded to day with such gloomy sameness that it 
was little wonder that no notice was taken of the lapse of 
time. The people seemed rather to vegetate than to live, 
and their want of vigor became at times almost alarming. 
The readings around the long table ceased to be attractive, 
and the debates, sustained by few, became utterly wanting 
in animation. The Spaniards could hardly be roused to 
quit their beds, and seemed to have scarcely energy enough 
to eat. The Russians, constitutionally of more enduring 
temperament, did not give way to the same extent, but the 
long and drear confinement was beginning to tell upon 
them all. Servadac, the count, and the lieutenant all knew 
well enough that it was the want of air and exercise that 
was the cause of much of this mental depression; but what 
could they do? The most serious remonstrances on their 
part were entirely in vain. In fact, they themselves oc- 
casionally fell a prey to the same lassitude both of body 
and mind. Long fits of drowsiness, combined with an 
utter aversion to food, would come over them. It almost 
seemed as if their entire nature had become degenerate, 
and that, like tortoises, they could sleep and fast till the 
return of summer. 

Strange to say, little Nina bore her hardships more 
bravely than any of them. Flitting about, coaxing one to 
eat, another to drink, rousing Pablo as often as he seemed 
yielding to the common languor, the child became the life 
of the party. Her merry prattle enlivened the gloom of 
the grim cavern like the sweet notes of a bird; her gay 
Italian songs broke the monotony of the depressing silence; 
and almost unconscious as the half-dormant population of 
Gallia were of her influence, they still would have missed 
her bright presence sorely. The months still glided on; 
how, it seemed impossible for the inhabitants of the living 
tomb to say. There was a dead level of dullness. 

At the beginning of June the general torpor appeared 
slightly to relax its hold upon its victims. This partial 
revival was probably due to the somewhat increased in- 
fluence of the sun, still far, far away. During the first 
half of the Gallian year, Lieutenant Procope had taken 
careful note of Rosette's monthly announcements of the 
comet's progress, and he was able now, without reference 



DREARY MONTHS 235 

to the professor, to calculate the rate of advance on its 
way back towards the sun. He found that Gallia had re- 
crossed the orbit of Jupiter, but was still at the enormous 
distance of 197,000,000 leagues from the sun, and he reck- 
oned that in about four months it would have entered the 
zone of the telescopic planets. 

Gradually, but uninterruptedly, life and spirits continued 
to revive, and by the end of the month Servadac and his 
little colony had regained most of their ordinary physical 
and mental energies. Ben Zoof, in particular, roused him- 
self with redoubled vigor, like a giant refreshed from 
his slumbers. The visits, consequently, to the long-neg- 
lected galleries of Nina's Hive became more and more fre- 
quent. 

One day an excursion was made to the shore. It was 
still bitterly cold, but the atmosphere had lost nothing of 
its former stillness, and not a cloud was visible from hori- 
zon to zenith. The old footmarks were all as distinct as 
on the day in which they had been imprinted, and the only 
portion of the shore where any change was apparent was 
in the little creek. Here the elevation of the ice had gone 
on increasing, until the schooner and the tartan had been 
uplifted to a height of 150 feet, not only rendering them 
quite inaccessible, but exposing them to all but certain de- 
struction in the 'event of a thaw. 

Isaac Hakkabut, immovable from the personal over- 
sight of his property in the cavern, had not accompanied 
the party, and consequently was in blissful ignorance of the 
fate that threatened his vessel. "A good thing the old 
fellow wasn't there to see," observed Ben Zoof; " he would 
have screamed like a peacock. What a misfortune it is/' 
he added, speaking to himself, " to have a peacock's voice, 
without its plumage ! " 

During the months of July and August, Gallia advanced 
164,000,000 leagues along her orbit. At night the cold was 
still intense, but in the daytime the sun, here full upon the 
equator, caused an appreciable difference of 20 in the tem- 
perature. Like birds, the population spent whole days ex- 
posed to its grateful warmth, rarely returning till nightfall 
to the shade of their gloomy home. 

This spring-time, if such it may be called, had a most 
enlivening influence upon all. Hope and courage revived 



236 OFF ON A COMET 

as day by day the sun's disc expanded in the heavens, and 
every evening the earth assumed a greater magnitude 
amongst the fixed stars. It was distant yet, but the goal 
was cheeringly in view. 

" I can't believe that yonder little speck of light contains 
my mountain of Montmartre," said Ben Zoof, one night, 
after he had been gazing long and steadily at the far-off 
world. 

" You will, I hope, some day find out that it does," an- 
swered his master. 

" I hope so," said the orderly, without moving his eye 
'from the distant sphere. After meditating a while, he 
spoke again. " I suppose Professor Rosette couldn't make 
his comet go straight back, could he?" 

" Hush ! " cried Servadac. 

Ben Zoof understood the correction. 

"No," continued the captain; "it is not for man to dis- 
turb the order of the universe. That belongs to a Higher 
Power than ours ! " 



CHAPTER XIV 

THE PROFESSOR PERPLEXED 

ANOTHER month passed away, and it was now Septem- 
ber, but it was still impossible to leave the warmth of the 
subterranean retreat for the more airy and commodious 
quarters of the Hive, where " the bees " would certainly 
have been frozen to death in their cells. It was altogether 
quite as much a matter of congratulation as of regret that 
the volcano showed no symptoms of resuming its activity; 
for although a return of the eruption might have rendered 
their former resort again habitable, any sudden outbreak 
(would have been disastrous to them where they were, the 
crater being the sole outlet by which the burning lava could 
escape. 

" A wretched time we have had for the last seven 
months," said the orderly one day to his master; "but 
what a comfort little Nina has been to us all ! " 

" Yes, indeed," replied Servadac ; " she is a charming 
little creature. I hardly know how we should have got on 
jvithout her." 



THE PROFESSOR PERPLEXED 237 

"What is to become of her when we arrive back at the 
earth?" 

" Not much fear, Ben Zoof, but that she will be well 
taken care of. Perhaps you and I had better adopt her." 

" Ay, yes," assented the orderly. " You can be her 
father, and I can be her mother." 

Servadac laughed. " Then you and I shall be man and 
wife." 

" We have been as good as that for a long time," ob- 
served Ben Zoof, gravely. 

By the beginning of October, the temperature had so far 
moderated that it could scarcely be said to be intolerable. 
The comet's distance was scarcely three times as great 
from the sun as the earth from the sun, so that the ther- 
mometer rarely sunk beyond 35 below zero. The whole 
party began to make almost daily visits to the Hive, and 
frequently proceeded to the shore, where they resumed 
their skating exercise, rejoicing in their recovered freedom 
like prisoners liberated from a dungeon. Whilst the rest 
were enjoying their recreation, Servadac and the count 
would hold long conversations with Lieutenant Procope 
about their present position and future prospects, discuss- 
ing all manner of speculations as to the results of the an- 
ticipated collision with the earth, and wondering whether 
any measures could be devised for mitigating the violence 
of a shock which might be terrible in its consequences, even 
if it did not entail a total annihilation of themselves. 

There was no visitor to the Hive more regular than 
Rosette. He had already directed his telescope to be moved 
back to his former observatory, where, as much as the 
cold would permit him, he persisted in making his all-ab- 
sorbing studies of the heavens. 

The result of these studies no one ventured to inquire; 
but it became generally noticed that something was very 
seriously disturbing the professor's equanimity. Not only 
would he be seen toiling more frequently up the arduous 
way that lay between his nook below and his telescope 
above, but he would be heard muttering in an angry tone 
that indicated considerable agitation. 

One day, as he was hurrying down to his study, he met 
Ben Zoof, who, secretly entertaining a feeling of delight at 
the professor's manifest discomfiture, made some casual 



238 OFF ON A COMET 

remark about things not being very straight. The way in 
which his advance was received the good orderly never 
divulged, but henceforward he maintained the firm con- 
viction that there was something very much amiss up in 
the sky. 

To Servadac and his friends this continual disquietude 
and ill-humor on the part of the professor occasioned no 
little anxiety. From what, they asked, could his dissatis- 
faction arise? They could only conjecture that he had dis- 
covered some flaw in his reckonings; and if this w r ere so, 
might there not be reason to apprehend that their anticipa- 
tions of coming into contact with the earth, at the settled 
time, might all be falsified? 

Day followed day, and still there was no cessation of the 
professor's discomposure. He was the most miserable of 
mortals. If really his calculations and his observations 
were at variance, this, in a man of his irritable tempera- 
ment, would account for his perpetual perturbation. But 
he entered into no explanation; he only climbed up to his 
telescope, looking haggard and distressed, and when com- 
pelled by the frost to retire, he would make his way back 
to his study more furious than ever. At times he was 
heard giving vent to his vexation. " Confound it ! what 
does it mean? what is she doing? All behind! Is Newton 
a fool? Is the law of universal gravitation the law of 
universal nonsense?" And the little man would seize his 
head in both his hands, and tear away at the scanty locks 
which he could ill afford to lose. 

Enough was overheard to confirm the suspicion that 
there was some irreconcilable discrepancy between the re- 
sults of his computation and what he had actually observed; 
and yet, if he had been called upon to say, he would have 
sooner insisted that there was derangement in the laws of 
celestial mechanism, than have owned there was the least 
probability of error in any of his own calculations. As- 
suredly, if the poor professor had had any flesh to lose he 
would have withered away to a shadow. 

But this state of things was before long to come to an 
end. On the I2th, Ben Zoof, who was hanging about out- 
side the great hall of the cavern, heard the professor inside 
utter a loud cry. Hurrying in to ascertain the cause, he 
found Rosette in a state of perfect frenzy, in which ecstasy 



THE PROFESSOR PERPLEXED 239 

and rage seemed to be struggling for the predominance. 

" Eureka ! Eureka ! " yelled the excited astronomer. 

"What, in the name of peace, do you mean?" bawled 
Ben Zoof, in open-mouthed amazement. 

" Eureka ! " again shrieked the little man. 

"How? What? Where?" roared the bewildered or- 
derly. 

"Eureka! I say," repeated Rosette; "and if you don't 
understand me, you may go to the devil ! " 

Without availing himself of this polite invitation, Ben 
Zoof betook himself to his master. " Something has hap- 
pened to the professor," he said; "he is rushing about like 
a madman, screeching and yelling ' Eureka ! ' 

"Eureka?" exclaimed Servadac. "That means he has 
made a discovery;" and, full of anxiety, he hurried off to 
meet the professor. 

But, however great was his desire to ascertain what this 
discovery implied, his curiosity was not yet destined to be 
gratified. The professor kept muttering in incoherent 
phrases : " Rascal ! he shall pay for it yet. I will be even 
with him ! Cheat ! Thrown me out ! " But he did not 
vouchsafe any reply to Servadac's inquiries, and withdrew 
to his study. 

From that day Rosette, for some reason at present in- 
comprehensible, quite altered his behavior to Isaac Hakka- 
but, a man for whom he had always hitherto evinced the 
greatest repugnance and contempt. All at once he began 
to show a remarkable interest in the Jew and his affairs, 
paying several visits to the dark little storehouse, making 
inquiries as to the state of business and expressing some 
solicitude about the state of the exchequer. 

The wily Jew was taken somewhat by surprise, but came 
to an immediate conclusion that the professor was con- 
templating borrowing some money; he was consequently 
yery cautious in all his replies. 

It was not Hakkabut's habit ever to advance a loan ex- 
cept at an extravagant rate of interest, or without demand- 
ing far more than an adequate security. Count Timascheff, 
a Russian nobleman, was evidently rich; to him perhaps, 
for a proper consideration, a loan might be made : Captain 
Servadac was a Gascon, and Gascons are proverbially poor; 
it would never do to lend any money to him; but here was 



240 OFF ON A COMET 

a professor, a mere man of science, with circumscribed 
means; did he expect to borrow? Certainly Isaac would 
as soon think of flying, as of lending money to him. Such 
were the thoughts that made him receive all Rosette's ap- 
proaches with a careful reservation. 

It was not long, however, before Hakkabut was to be 
called upon to apply his money to a purpose for which he 
had not reckoned. In his eagerness to effect sales, he had 
parted with all the alimentary articles in his cargo without 
having the precautionary prudence to reserve enough for 
his own consumption. Amongst other things that failed 
him was his stock of coffee, and as coffee was a beverage 
without which he deemed it impossible to exist, he found 
himself in considerable perplexity. 

He pondered the matter over for a long time, and ulti- 
mately persuaded himself that, after all, the stores were 
the common property of all, and that he had as much right 
to a share as anyone else. Accordingly, he made his way 
to Ben Zoof, and, in the most amiable tone he could as- 
sume, begged as a favor that he would let him have a pound 
of coffee. 

The orderly shook his head dubiously. 

"A pound of coffee, old Nathan? I can't say." 

"Why not? You have some?" said Isaac. 

" Oh yes ! plenty a hundred kilogrammes." 

"Then let me have one pound. I shall be grateful." 

" Hang your gratitude ! " 

" Only one pound ! You would not refuse anybody else." 

" That's just the very point, old Samuel; if you were any- 
body else, I should know very well what to do. I must 
refer the matter to his Excellency." 

" Oh, his Excellency will do me justice." 

" Perhaps you will find his justice rather too much for 
you." And with this consoling remark, the orderly went 
to seek his master. 

Rosette meanwhile had been listening to the conversation, 
and secretly rejoicing that an opportunity for which he 
had been watching had arrived. " What's the matter, 
Master Isaac ? Have you parted with all your coffee ? " he 
asked, in a sympathizing voice, when Ben Zoof was gone. 

" Ah ! yes, indeed," groaned Hakkabut, " and now I re- 
quire some for my own use. In my little black hole I 
cannot live .without my coffee." 



THE PROFESSOR PERPLEXED 241 

" Of course you cannot," agreed the professor. 

"And don't you think the governor ought to let me 
have it?" 

" No doubt." 

" Oh, I must have coffee," said the Jew again. 

" Certainly," the professor assented. " Coffee is nutri- 
tious; it warms the blood. How much do you want?" 

" A pound. A pound will last me for a long time." 

"And who will weigh it for you?" asked Rosette, 
scarcely able to conceal the eagerness that prompted the 
question. 

" Why, they will weigh it with my steelyard, of course. 
There is no other balance here." And as the Jew spoke, 
the professor fancied he coud detect the faintest of sighs. 

" Good, Master Isaac ; all the better for you ! You will 
get your seven pounds instead of one! " 

" Yes ; well, seven, or thereabouts thereabouts," stam- 
mered the Jew with considerable hesitation. 

Rosette scanned his countenance narrowly, and was 
about to probe him with further questions, when Ben Zoof 
returned. " And what does his Excellency say? " inquired 
Hakkabut. 

" Why, Nehemiah, he says he shan't give you any." 

" Merciful heavens ! " began the Jew. 

" He says he doesn't mind selling you a little." 

" But, by the holy city, why does he make me pay for 
what anybody else could have for nothing?" 

" As I told you before, you are not anybody else ; so, 
come along. You can afford to buy what you want. We 
should like to see the color of your money." 

" Merciful heavens ! " the old man whined once more. 

" Now, none o'f that! Yes or no? If you are going to 
buy, say so at once; if not, I shall shut up shop." 

Hakkabut knew well enough that the orderly was not a 
man to be trifled with, and said, in a tremulous voice, " Yes, 
I will buy." 

The professor, who had been looking on with much in- 
terest, betrayed manifest symptoms of satisfaction. 

" How much do you want ? What will you charge for 
it?" asked Isaac, mournfully, putting his hand into his 
pocket and chinking his money. 

" Oh, we will deal gently with you. We will not make 

Y. IX Verne 



242 OFF ON A COMET 

any profit. You shall have it for the same price that we 
paid for it. Ten francs a pound, you know." 

The Jew hesitated. 

" Come now, what is the use of your hesitating? Your 
gold will have no value when you go back to the world." 

"What do you mean?" asked Hakkabut, startled. 

" You will find out some day," answered Ben Zoof, sig- 
nificantly. 

Hakkabut drew out a small piece of gold from his pocket, 
took it close under the lamp, rolled it over in his hand, and 
pressed it to his lips. " Shall you weigh me the coffee with 
my steelyard ? " he asked, in a quavering voice that con- 
firmed the professor's suspicions. 

" There is nothing else to weigh it with ; you know that 
well enough, old Shechem," said Ben Zoof. The steel- 
yard was then produced ; a tray was suspended to the hook, 
and upon this coffee was thrown until the needle registered 
the weight of one pound. Of course, it took seven pounds 
of coffee to do this. 

" There you are ! There's your coffee, man ! " Ben Zoof 
said. 

"Are you sure?" inquired Hakkabut, peering down 
close to the dial. "Are you quite sure that the needle 
touches the point?" 

"Yes; look and see." 

" Give it a little push, please." 

"Why?" 

" Because because " 

" Well, because of what? " cried the orderly, impatiently. 

" Because I think, perhaps I am not quite sure per- 
haps the steelyard is not quite correct." 

The words were not uttered before the professor, fierce 
as a tiger, had rushed at the Jew, had seized him by the 
throat, and was shaking him till he was black in the face. 

" Help ! help ! " screamed Hakkabut. " I shall be stran- 
gled." 

"Rascal! consummate rascal! thief! villain!" the pro- 
fessor reiterated, and continued to shake the Jew furiously. 

Ben Zoof looked on and laughed, making no attempt 
to interfere; he had no sympathy with either of the two. 

The sound of the scuffling, however, drew the attention 
of Servadac, who, followed by his companions, hastened 



THE PROFESSOR PERPLEXED 243 

to the scene. The combatants were soon parted. "What 
is the meaning of all this?" demanded the captain. 

As soon as the professor had recovered his breath, ex- 
hausted by his exertions, he said, " The old reprobate, the 
rascal has cheated us! His steelyard is wrong! He is a 
thief!" 

Captain Servadac looked sternly at Hakkabut. 

"How is this, Hakkabut? Is this a fact?" 

" No, no yes no, your Excellency, only " 

" He is a cheat, a thief ! " roared the excited astronomer. 
" His weights deceive ! " 

"Stop, stop!" interposed Servadac; "let us hear. Tell 
me, Hakkabut " 

" The steelyard lies ! It cheats ! it lies ! " roared the ir- 
repressible Rosette. 

"Tell me, Hakkabut, I say," repeated Servadac. 

The Jew only kept on stammering, " Yes no I don't 
know." 

But heedless of any interruption, the professor contin- 
ued, "False weights! That confounded steelyard! It gave 
a false result! The mass was wrong! The observations 
contradicted the calculations; they were wrong! She was 
out of place! Yes, out of place entirely." 

" What ! " cried Servadac and Procope in a breath, " out 
of place?" 

" Yes, completely," said the professor. 

" Gallia out of place?" repeated Servadac, agitated 
with alarm. 

" I did not say Gallia," replied Rosette, stamping his 
foot impetuously ; " I said Nerina." 

" Oh, Nerina," answered Servadac. " But what of 
Gallia?" he inquired, still nervously. 

" Gallia, of course, is on her way to the earth. I told 
you so. But that Jew is a rascal ! " 



CHAPTER XV 

r A JOURNEY AND A DISAPPOINTMENT 

IT was as the professor had said. From the day tHaS 
Isaac Hakkabut had entered upon his mercantile career, 
his dealings had all been carried on by a system of false 



244 OFF ON A COMET 

weight. That deceitful steelyard had been the mainspring 
of his fortune. But when it had become his lot to be the 
purchaser instead of the vendor, his spirit had groaned 
within him at being compelled to reap the fruits of his own 
dishonesty. No one who had studied his character could 
be much surprised at the confession that was extorted from 
him, that for every supposed kilogramme that he had ever 
sold the true weight was only 750 grammes, or just five 
and twenty per cent, less than it ought to have been. 

The professor, however, had ascertained all that he 
wanted to know. By estimating his comet at a third as 
much again as its proper weight, he had found that his cal- 
culations were always at variance with the observed situa- 
tion of the satellite, which was immediately influenced by 
the mass of its primary. 

But now, besides enjoying the satisfaction of having 
punished old Hakkabut, Rosette was able to recommence 
his calculations with reference to the elements of Nerina 
upon a correct basis, a task to which he devoted himself 
with redoubled energy. 

It will be easily imagined that Isaac Hakkabut, thus 
caught in his own trap, was jeered most unmercifully by 
those whom he had attempted to make his dupes. Ben 
Zoof, in particular, was never wearied of telling him how 
on his return to the world he would be prosecuted for using 
false weights, and would certainly become acquainted with 
the inside of a prison. Thus badgered, he secluded him- 
self more than ever in his dismal hole, never venturing, 
except when absolutely obliged, to face the other members 
of the community. 

On the 7th of October the comet re-entered the zone of 
the telescopic planets, one of which had been captured as a 
satellite, and the origin of the whole of which is most prob- 
ably correctly attributed to the disintegration of some large 
planet that formerly revolved between the orbits of Mars 
and Jupiter. By the beginning of the following month 
half of this zone had been traversed, and only two months 
remained before the collision with the earth was to be ex- 
pected. The temperature was now rarely below 12 below 
zero, but that was far too cold to permit the slightest 
symptoms of a thaw. The surface of the sea remained as 
frozen as ever, and the two vessels, high up on their 



A JOURNEY AND A DISAPPOINTMENT 245 

icy pedestals, remained unaltered in their critical position. 

It was about this time that the question began to be 
mooted whether it would not be right to reopen some com- 
munication with the Englishmen at Gibraltar. Not that 
any doubt was entertained as to their having been able suc- 
cessfully to cope with the rigors of the winter; but Captain 
Servadac, in a way that did honor to his generosity, repre- 
sented that, however uncourteous might have been their 
former behavior, it was at least due to them that they 
should be informed of the true condition of things, which 
they had had no opportunity of learning; and, moreover, 
that they should be invited to co-operate with the popula- 
tion of Nina's Hive, in the event of any measures being 
suggested by which the shock of the approaching collision 
could be mitigated. 

The count and the lieutenant both heartily concurred in 
Servadac's sentiments of humanity and prudence, and all 
agreed that if the intercourse were to be opened at all, no 
time could be so suitable as the present, while the surface 
of the sea presented a smooth and solid footing. After 
a thaw should set in, neither the yacht nor the tartan could 
be reckoned on for service, and it would be inexpedient to 
make use of the steam launch, for which only a few tons 
of coal had been reserved, just sufficient to convey them 
to Gourbi Island when the occasion should arise; whilst as 
to the yawl, which, transformed into a sledge, had per- 
formed so successful a trip to Formentera, the absence of 
wind would make that quite unavailable. It was true that 
with the return of summer temperature, there would be 
certain to be a derangement in the atmosphere of Gallia, 
which would result in wind, but for the present the air was 
altogether too still for the yawl to have any prospects of 
making its way to Gibraltar. 

The only question remaining was as to the possibility 
of going on foot. The distance was somewhere about 240 
miles. Captain Servadac declared himself quite equal to 
the undertaking. To skate sixty or seventy miles a day 
would be nothing, he said, to a practical skater like him- 
self. The whole journey there and back might be per- 
formed in eight days. Provided with a compass, a suf- 
ficient supply of cold meat, and a spirit lamp, by which he 
might boil his coffee, he was perfectly sure he should, with- 



246 OFF ON A COMET 

out the least difficulty, accomplish an enterprise that chimed 
in so exactly with his adventurous spirit. 

Equally urgent were both the count and the lieutenant 
to be allowed to accompany him; nay, they even offered 
to go instead; but Servadac, expressing himself as most 
grateful for their consideration, declined their offer, and 
avowed his resolution of taking no other companion than 
his own orderly. 

Highly delighted at his master's decision, Ben Zoof ex- 
pressed his satisfaction at the prospect of " stretching his 
legs a bit/' declaring that nothing could induce him to per- 
mit the captain to go alone. There was no delay. The 
departure was fixed for the following morning, the 2nd of 
November. 

Although it is not to be questioned that a genuine desire 
of doing an act of kindness to his fellow-creatures was a 
leading motive of Servadac's proposed visit to Gibraltar, 
it must be owned that another idea, confided to nobody, 
least of all to Count Timascheff, had been conceived in the 
brain of the worthy Gascon. Ben Zoof had an inkling 
that his master was " up to some other little game," when, 
just before starting, he asked him privately whether there 
was a French tricolor among the stores. " I believe so/' 
said the orderly. 

" Then don't say a word to anyone, but fasten it up tight 
in your knapsack." 

Ben Zoof found the flag, and folded it up as he was di- 
rected. Before proceeding to explain this somewhat enig- 
matical conduct of Servadac, it is necessary to refer to a 
certain physiological fact, coincident but unconnected with 
celestial phenomena, originating entirely in the frailty of 
human nature. The nearer that Gallia approached the 
earth, the more a sort of reserve began to spring up be- 
tween the captain and Count Timascheff. Though they 
could not be said to be conscious of it, the remembrance 
of their former rivalry, so completely buried in oblivion 
for the last year and ten months, was insensibly recovering 
its hold upon their minds, and the question was all but 
coming to the surface as to what would happen if, on their 

return to earth, the handsome Madame de L should 

still be free. From companions in peril, would they not 
again be avowed rivals? Conceal it as they would, a cool- 



A JOURNEY AND A DISAPPOINTMENT 247 

ness was undeniably stealing over an intimacy which, 
though it could never be called affectionate, had been uni- 
formly friendly and courteous. 

Under these circumstances, it was not surprising that 
Hector Servadac should not have confided to the count a 
project which, wild as it was, could scarcely have failed 
to widen the unacknowledged breach that was opening in 
their friendship. 

The project was the annexation of Ceuta to the French 
dominion. The Englishmen, rightly enough, had contin- 
ued to occupy the fragment of Gibraltar, and their claim 
was indisputable. But the island of Ceuta, which before 
the shock had commanded the opposite side of the strait, 
and had been occupied by Spaniards, had since been aban- 
doned, and was therefore free to the first occupant who 
should lay claim to it. To plant the tricolor upon it, in the 
name of France, was now the cherished wish of Serva- 
dac' s heart. 

" Who knows," he said to himself, " whether Ceuta, on 
its return to earth, may not occupy a grand and command- 
ing situation? What a proud thing it would be to have 
secured its possession to France ! " 

Next morning, as soon as they had taken their brief 
farewell of their friends, and were fairly out of sight of 
the shore, Servadac imparted his design to Ben Zoof, who 
entered into the project with the greatest zest, and ex- 
pressed himself delighted, not only at the prospect of adding 
to the dominions of his beloved country, but of stealing a 
march upon England. 

Both travelers were warmly clad, the orderly's knap- 
sack containing all the necessary provisions. The journey 
was accomplished without special incident; halts were made 
at regular intervals, for the purpose of taking food and 
rest. The temperature by night as well as by day was 
quite endurable, and on the fourth afternoon after start- 
ing, thanks to the straight course which their compass 
enabled them to maintain, the adventurers found them- 
selves within a few miles of Ceuta. 

As soon as Ben Zoof caught sight of the rock on the 
western horizon, he was all excitement. Just as if he were 
in a regiment going into action, he talked wildly about 
" columns " and " squares " and " charges." The captain, 



248 OFF ON A! COMET 

although less demonstrative, was hardly less eager to reach 
the rock. They both pushed forward with all possible 
speed till they were within a mile and a half of the shore, 
when Ben Zoof, who had a very keen vision, stopped sud- 
denly, and said that he was sure he could see something 
moving on the top of the island. 

" Never mind, let us hasten on," said Servadac. A few 
minutes carried them over another mile, when Ben Zoof 
stopped again. 

"What is it, Ben Zoof?" asked the captain. 

" It looks to me like a man on a rock, waving his arms in 
the air," said the orderly. 

" Plague on it ! " muttered Servadac ; " I hope we are 
not too late." Again they went on; but soon Ben Zoof 
stopped for the third time. 

"It is a semaphore, sir; I see it quite distinctly." And 
he was not mistaken ; it had been a telegraph in motion that 
had caught his eye. 

" Plague on it ! " repeated the captain. 

"Too late, sir, do you think? " said Ben Zoof. 

"Yes, Ben Zoof; if that's a telegraph and there is no 
doubt of it somebody has been before us and erected it; 
and, moreover, if it is moving, there must be somebody 
working it now." 

He was keenly disappointed. Looking towards the 
north, he could distinguish Gibraltar faintly visible in the 
extreme distance, and upon the summit of the rock both 
Ben Zoof and himself fancied they could make out an- 
other semaphore, giving signals, no doubt, in response to 
the one here. 

" Yes, it is only too clear ; they have already occupied 
it, and established their communications," said Servadac. 

"And what are we to do, then? " asked Ben Zoof. 

" We must pocket our chagrin, and put as good a face 
on the matter as we can," replied the captain. 

" But perhaps there are only four or five Englishmen 
to protect the place," said Ben Zoof, as if meditating an 
assault. 

" No, no, Ben Zoof," answered Servadac; "we must do 
nothing rash. We have had our warning, and, unless our 
representations can induce them to yield their position, we 
must resign our hope." 



A JOURNEY AND A DISAPPOINTMENT 249 

Thu5 discomfited, they had reached the foot of the rock, 
when all at once, like a "Jack-in-the-box," a sentinel 
started up before them with the challenge: 

"Who goes there?" 

"Friends. Vive la France!" cried the captain. 

" Hurrah for England ! " replied the soldier. 

By this time four other men had made their appearance 
from the upper part of the rock. 

"What do you want?" asked one of them, whom Ser- 
vadac remembered to have seen before at Gibraltar. 

" Can I speak to your commanding officer ? " Servadac 
inquired. 

" Which? " said the man. " The officer in command of 
Ceuta?" 

" Yes, if there is one." 

" I will acquaint him with your arrival," answered the 
Englishman, and disappeared. 

In a few minutes the commanding officer, attired in full 
uniform, was seen descending to the shore. It was Major 
Oliphant himself. 

Servadac could no longer entertain a doubt that the Eng- 
lishmen had forestalled him in the occupation of Ceuta. 
Provisions and fuel had evidently been conveyed thither 
in the boat from Gibraltar before the sea had frozen, and 
a solid casemate, hollowed in the rock, had afforded Major 
Oliphant and his contingent ample protection from the rigor 
of the winter. The ascending smoke that rose above the 
rock was sufficient evidence that good fires were still kept 
up; the soldiers appeared to have thriven well on what, no 
doubt, had been a generous diet, and the major himself, 
although he would scarcely have been willing to allow it, 
was slightly stouter than before. 

Being only about twelve miles distant from Gibraltar, 
the little garrison at Ceuta had felt itself by no means iso- 
lated in its position; but by frequent excursions across the 
frozen strait, and by the constant use of the telegraph, had 
kept up their communication with their fellow-countrymen 
on the other island. Colonel Murphy and the major had 
not even been forced to forego the pleasures of the chess- 
board. The game that had been interrupted by Captain 
Servadac's former visit was not yet concluded; but, like 
the two American clubs that played their celebrated game 



250 OFF ON A COMET 

in 1846 between Washington and Baltimore, the two gal- 
lant officers made use of the semaphore to communicate 
their well-digested moves. 

The major stood waiting for his visitor to speak. 

"Major Oliphant, I believe?" said Servadac, with a 
courteous bow. 

"Yes, sir, Major Oliphant, officer in command of the 
garrison at Ceuta," was the Englishman's reply. "And 
to whom," he added, " may I have the honor of speaking? " 

" To Captain Servadac, the governor general of Gallia." 

" Indeed ! " said the major, with a supercilious look. 

"Allow me to express my surprise," resumed the cap- 
tain, " at seeing you installed as commanding officer upon 
what I have always understood to be Spanish soil. May 
I demand your claim to your position ? " 

" My claim is that of first occupant." 

" But do you not think that the party of Spaniards now 
resident with me may at some future time assert a prior 
right to the proprietorship ? " 

" I think not, Captain Servadac." 

" But why not ? " persisted the captain. 

" Because these very Spaniards have, by formal con- 
tract, made over Ceuta, in its integrity, to the British gov- 
ernment." 

Servadac uttered an exclamation of surprise. 

" And as the price of that important cession," continued 
Major Oliphant, " they have received a fair equivalent in 
British gold." 

" Ah ! " cried Ben Zoof, " that accounts for that fellow 
Negrete and his people having such a lot of money." 

Servadac was silent. It had become clear to his mind 
what had been the object of that secret visit to Ceuta which 
he had heard of as being made by the two English officers. 
The arguments that he had intended to use had completely 
fallen through; all that he had now to do was carefully to 
prevent any suspicion of his disappointed project. 

" May I be allowed to ask, Captain Servadac, to what 
I am indebted for the honor of this visit?" asked Major 
Oliphant presently. 

" I have come, Major Oliphant, in the hope of doing you 
and your companions a service," replied Servadac, rous- 
jng himself from his reverie. 



A JOURNEY AND A DISAPPOINTMENT 251 

" Ah, indeed ! " replied the major, as though he felt 
himself quite independent of all services from exterior 
sources. 

" I thought, major, that it was not unlikely you were 
in ignorance of the fact that both Ceuta and Gibraltar 
have been traversing the solar regions on the surface of a 
comet." 

The major smiled incredulously; but Servadac, nothing 
daunted, went on to detail the results of the collision be- 
tween the comet and the earth, adding that, as there was 
the almost immediate prospect of another concussion, it 
had occurred to him that it might be advisable for the whole 
population of Gallia to unite in taking precautionary meas- 
ures for the common welfare. 

" In fact, Major Oliphant," he said in conclusion, " I 
am here to inquire whether you and your friends would 
be disposed to join us in our present quarters." 

" I am obliged to you, Captain Servadac," answered the 
major stiffly; "but we have not the slightest intention of 
abandoning our post. We have received no government 
orders to that effect; indeed, we have received no orders 
at all. Our own dispatch to the First Lord of the Ad- 
miralty still awaits the mail." 

" But allow me to repeat," insisted Servadac, " that we 
are no longer on the earth, although we expect to come in 
contact with it again in about eight weeks." 

" I have no doubt," the major answered, " that England 
will make every effort to reclaim us." 

Servadac felt perplexed. It was quite evident that Major 
Oliphant had not been convinced of the truth of one syllable 
of what he had been saying. 

" Then I am to understand that you are determined to 
retain your two garrisons here and at Gibraltar?" asked 
Servadac, with one last effort at persuasion. 

" Certainly; these two posts command the entrance of the 
Mediterranean." 

" But supposing there is no longer any Mediterranean? " 
retorted the captain, growing impatient. 

" Oh, England will always take care of that," was Major 
Oliphant's cool reply. " But excuse me," he added pres- 
ently ; " I see that Colonel Murphy has just telegraphed 
his next move. Allow me to wish you good-afternoon." 



252 OFF ON A COMET 

And without further parley, followed by his soldiers, he 
retired into the casemate, leaving Captain Servadac gnaw- 
ing his mustache with mingled rage and mortification. 

" A fine piece of business we have made of this ! " said 
Ben Zoof, when he found himself alone with his master. 

" We will make our way back at once," replied Captain 
Servadac. 

" Yes, the sooner the better, with our tails between our 
legs," rejoined the orderly, who this time felt no inclina- 
tion to start off to the march of the Algerian zephyrs. And 
so the French tricolor returned as it had set out in Ben 
Zoof's knapsack. 

On the eighth evening after starting, the travelers again 
set foot on the volcanic promontory just in time to witness 
a great commotion. 

Palmyrin Rosette was in a furious rage. He had com- 
pleted all his calculations about Nerina, but that perfidious 
satellite had totally disappeared. The astronomer was 
frantic at the loss of his moon. Captured probably by 
some larger body, it was revolving in its proper zone of 
the minor planets. 



CHAPTER XVI 

A BOLD PROPOSITION 

ON his return Servadac communicated to the count the 
result of his expedition, and, though perfectly silent on the 
subject of his personal project, did not conceal the fact 
that the Spaniards, without the smallest right, had sold 
Ceuta to the English. 

Having refused to quit their post, the Englishmen had 
virtually excluded themselves from any further considera- 
tion; they had had their warning, and must now take the 
consequences of their own incredulity. 

Although it had proved that not a single creature either 
at Gourbi Island, Gibraltar, Ceuta, Madalena, or Formen- 
tera had received any injury whatever at the time of the 
first concussion, there was nothing in the least to make it 
certain that a like immunity from harm would attend the 
second. The previous escape was doubtless owing to some 
slight, though unaccountable, modification in the rate of 



A BOLD PROPOSITION 253 

motion; but whether the inhabitants of the earth had fared 
so fortunately, was a question that had still to be deter- 
mined. 

The day following Servadac's return, he and the count 
and Lieutenant Procope met by agreement in the cave, for- 
mally to discuss what would be the most advisable method 
of proceeding under their present prospects. Ben Zoof 
was, as a matter of course, allowed to be present, and Pro- 
fessor Rosette had been asked to attend ; but he declined on 
the plea of taking no interest in the matter. Indeed, the 
disappearance of his moon had utterly disconcerted him, 
and the probability that he should soon lose his comet also, 
plunged him into an excess of grief which he preferred to 
bear in solitude. 

Although the barrier of cool reserve was secretly increas- 
ing between the captain and the count, they scrupulously 
concealed any outward token of their inner feelings, and 
without any personal bias applied their best energies to 
the discussion of the question which was of such mutual, 
nay, of such universal interest. 

Servadac was the first to speak. " In fifty-one days, if 
Professor Rosette has made no error in his calculations, 
there is to be a recurrence of collision between this comet 
and the earth. The inquiry that we have now to make is 
whether we are prepared for the coming shock. I ask 
myself, and I ask you, whether it is in our power, by any 
means, to avert the evil consequences that are only too 
likely to follow?" 

Count Timascheff, in a voice that seemed to thrill with 
solemnity, said : " In such events we are at the disposal of 
an over-ruling Providence ; human precautions cannot sway 
the Divine will." 

" But with the most profound reverence for the will of 
Providence," replied the captain, " I beg to submit that it 
is our duty to devise whatever means we can to escape the 
threatening mischief. Heaven helps them that help them- 
selves." 

" And what means have you to suggest, may I ask ? " 
said the count, with a faint accent of satire. 

Servadac was forced to acknowledge that nothing tan- 
gible had hitherto presented itself to his mind. 

" I don't want to intrude," observed Ben Zoof, " but I 



254 OFF ON M COMET 

'don't understand why such learned gentlemen as you cannot 
make the comet go where you want it to go." 

" You are mistaken, Ben Zoof, about our learning," said 
the captain; "even Professor Rosette, with all his learning, 
has not a shadow of power to prevent the comet and the 
earth from knocking against each other." 

" Then I cannot see what is the use of all this learning," 
the orderly replied. 

"One great use of learning," said Count Timascheff. 
with a smile, " is to make us know our own ignorance." 

While this conversation had been going on, Lieutenant 
Procope had been sitting in thoughtful silence. Looking 
up, he now said, " Incident to this expected shock, there 
may be a variety of dangers. If, gentlemen, you will allow 
me, I will enumerate them ; and we shall, perhaps, by taking 
them seriatim, be in a better position to judge whether we 
can successfully grapple with them, or in any way mitigate 
their consequences." 

There was a general attitude of attention. It was sur- 
prising how calmly they proceeded to discuss the circum- 
stances that looked so threatening and ominous. 

" First of all," resumed the lieutenant, " we will specify 
the different ways in which the shock may happen." 

"And the prime fact to be remembered," interposed 
Servadac, " is that the combined velocity of the two bodies 
will be about 21,000 miles an hour." 

" Express speed, and no mistake ! " muttered Ben Zoof. 

" Just so," assented Procope. " Now, the two bodies 
may impinge either directly or obliquely. If the impact is 
sufficiently oblique, Gallia may do precisely what she did 
before: she may graze the earth; she may, or she may not, 
carry off a portion of the earth's atmosphere and sub- 
stance, and so she may float away again into space ; but her 
orbit would undoubtedly be deranged, and if we survive 
the shock, we shall have small chance of ever returning 
to the world of our fellow-creatures." 

"Professor Rosette, I suppose," Ben Zoof remarked, 
" would pretty soon find out all about that." 

" But we will leave this hypothesis," said the lieutenant ; 
"our own experience has sufficiently shown us its advan- 
tages and its disadvantages. We will proceed to consider 
the infinitely more serious alternative of direct impact; of 



A 1 BOLD PROPOSITION 255 

a shock that would hurl the comet straight on to the earth, 
to which it would become attached." 

" A great wart upon her face! " said Ben Zoof, laughing. 

The captain held up his finger to his orderly, making 
him understand that he should hold his tongue. 

" It is, I presume, to be taken for granted," continued 
Lieutenant Procope, " that the mass of the earth is com- 
paratively so large that, in the event of a direct collision, 
her own motion would not be sensibly retarded, and that 
she would carry the comet along with her, as part of her- 
self." 

" Very little question of that, I should think," said Ser- 
vadac. 

" Well, then," the lieutenant went on, " what part of this 
comet of ours will be the part to come into collision with 
the earth? It may be the equator, where we are; it may 
be at the exactly opposite point, at our antipodes; or it 
may be at either pole. In any case, it seems hard to foresee 
whence there is to come the faintest chance of deliverance." 

" Is the case so desperate ? " asked Servadac. 

" I will tell you why it seems so. If the side of the 
comet on which we are resident impinges on the earth, it 
stands to reason that we must be crushed to atoms by the 
violence of the concussion." 

"Regular mincemeat!" said Ben Zoof, whom no ad- 
monitions could quite reduce to silence. 

"And if," said the lieutenant, after a moment's pause, 
and the slightest possible frown at the interruption " and 
if the collision should occur at our antipodes, the sudden 
check to the velocity of the comet would be quite equiva- 
lent to a shock in situ; and, another thing, we should run 
the risk of being suffocated, for all our comet's atmosphere 
would be assimilated with the terrestrial atmosphere, and 
we, supposing we were not dashed to atoms, should be left 
as it were upon the summit of an enormous mountain ( for 
such to all intents and purposes Gallia would be), 450 miles 
above the level of the surface of the globe, without a particle 
of air to breathe." 

" But would not our chances of escape be considerably 
better," asked Count Timasrheff, " in the event of either of 
the comet's poles being the point of contact? " 

" Taking the combined velocity into account," answered 



256 OFF ON A COMET 

the lieutenant, " I confess that I fear the violence of the 
shock will be too great to permit our destruction to be 
averted." 

A general silence ensued, which was broken by the lieu- 
tenant himself. " Even if none of these contingencies oc- 
cur in the way we have contemplated, I am driven to the sus- 
picion that we shall be burnt alive." 

" Burnt alive! " they all exclaimed in a chorus of horror. 

" Yes. If the deductions of modern science be true, the 
speed of the comet, when suddenly checked, will be trans- 
muted into heat, and that heat will be so intense that the 
temperature of the comet will be raised to some millions of 
degrees." 

No one having anything definite to allege in reply to 
Lieutenant Procope's forebodings, they all relapsed into 
silence. Presently Ben Zoof asked whether it was not pos- 
sible for the comet to fall into the middle of the Atlantic. 

Procope shook his head. " Even so, we should only be 
adding the fate of drowning to the list of our other perils." 

" Then, as I understand," said Captain Servadac, " in 
whatever way or in whatever place the concussion occurs, 
we must be either crushed, suffocated, roasted, or drowned. 
Is that your conclusion, lieutenant? " 

" I confess I see no other alternative," answered Procope, 
calmly. 

"But isn't there another thing to be done?" said Ben 
Zoof. 

" What do you mean ? " his master asked. 

" Why, to get off the comet before the shock comes." 

"How could you get off Gallia?" 

" That I can't say," replied the orderly. 

" I am not sure that that could not be accomplished," 
said the lieutenant. 

All eyes in a moment were riveted upon him, as, with 
his head resting on his hands, he was manifestly cogitating 
a new idea. " Yes, I think it could be accomplished," he 
repeated. " The project may appear extravagant, but I do 
not know why it should be impossible. Ben Zoof has hit 
the right nail on the head; we must try and leave Gallia 
before the shock." 

"Leave Gallia! How?" said Count Timascheff. 

The lieutenant did not at once reply. He continued pon- 



A BOLD PROPOSITION 257 

dering for a time, and at last said, slowly and distinctly, 
" By making a balloon ! " 

Servadac' s heart sank. 

" A balloon ! " he exclaimed. " Out of the question ! 
Balloons are exploded things. You hardly find them in 
novels. Balloon, indeed ! " 

" Listen to me," replied Procope. " Perhaps I can con- 
vince you that my idea is not so chimerical as you imagine." 
And, knitting his brow, he proceeded to establish the 
feasibility of his plan. " If we can ascertain the precise 
moment when the shock is to happen, and can succeed in 
launching ourselves a sufficient time beforehand into Gal- 
lia's atmosphere, I believe it will transpire that this atmos- 
phere will amalgamate with that of the earth, and that a 
balloon whirled along by the combined velocity would glide 
into the mingled atmosphere and remain suspended in mid- 
air until the shock of the collision is overpast." 

Count Timascheff reflected for a minute, and said, " I 
think, lieutenant, I understand your project. The scheme 
seems tenable; and I shall be ready to co-operate with you, 
to the best of my power, in putting it into execution." 

" Only, remember," continued Procope, " there are many 
chances to one against our success. One instant's obstruc- 
tion and stoppage in our passage, and our balloon is burnt 
to ashes. Still, reluctant as I am to acknowledge it, I con- 
fess that I feel our sole hope of safety rests in our getting 
free from this comet." 

"If the chances were ten thousand to one against us," 
said Servadac, " I think the attempt ought to be made." 

"But have we hydrogen enough to inflate a balloon?" 
asked the count. 

" Hot air will be all that we shall require," the lieutenant 
answered ; " we are only contemplating about an hour's 
journey." 

" Ah, a fire-balloon ! A! montgolfier ! " cried Servadac. 
"But what are you going to do for a casing? " 

" I have thought of that. We must cut it out of the sails 
of the Dobryna; they are both light and strong," rejoined 
the lieutenant. Count Timascheff complimented the lieu- 
tenant upon his ingenuity, and Ben Zoof could not resist 
bringing the meeting to a conclusion by a ringing cheer. 

Truly daring was the plan of which Lieutenant Procope 

V. IX Verne 



258 OFF ON A COMET 

had thus become the originator; but the very existence of 
them all was at stake, and the design must be executed 
resolutely. For the success of the enterprise it was ab- 
solutely necessary to know, almost to a minute, the precise 
time at which the collision would occur, and Captain Ser- 
vadac undertook the task, by gentle means or by stern, of 
extracting the secret from the professor. 

To Lieutenant Procope himself was entrusted the super- 
intendence of the construction of the montgolfier, and the 
work was begun at once. It was to be large enough to 
carry the whole of the twenty-three residents in the volcano, 
and, in order to provide the means of floating aloft long 
enough to give time for selecting a proper place for descent, 
the lieutenant was anxious to make it carry enough hay or 
straw to maintain combustion for a while, and keep up the 
necessary supply of heated air. 

The sails of the Dobryna, which had all been carefully 
stowed away in the Hive, were of a texture unusually close, 
and quite capable of being made airtight by means of a 
varnish, the ingredients of which were rummaged out of 
the promiscuous stores of the tartan. The lieutenant him- 
self traced out the pattern and cut out the strips, and all 
hands were employed in seaming them together. It was 
hardly the work for little ringers, but Nina persisted in ac- 
complishing her own share of it. The Russians were quite 
at home at occupation of this sort, and having initiated 
the Spaniards into its mysteries, the task of joining to- 
gether the casing was soon complete. Isaac Hakkabut and 
the professor were the only two members of the community 
who took no part in this somewhat tedious proceeding. 

A month passed away, but Servadac found no oppor- 
tunity of getting at the information he had pledged himself 
to gain. On the sole occasion when he had ventured to 
broach the subject with the astronomer, he had received for 
answer that as there was no hurry to get back to the earth, 
there need be no concern about any dangers of transit. 

Indeed, as time passed on, the professor seemed to be- 
come more and more inaccessible. A pleasant temperature 
enabled him to live entirely in his observatory, from which 
intruders were rigidly shut out. But Servadac bided his 
time. He grew more and more impressed with the im- 
portance of finding out the exact moment at which the im- 



A BOLD PROPOSITION 259 

pact would take place, but was content to wait for a promis- 
ing opportunity to put any fresh questions on the subject to 
the too reticent astronomer. 

Meanwhile, the earth's disc was daily increasing in 
magnitude; the comet traveled 50,000,000 leagues during 
the month, at the close of which it was not more than 78,- 
000,000 leagues from the sun. 

A thaw had now fairly set in. The breaking up of the 
frozen ocean was a magnificent spectacle, and " the great 
voice of the sea," as the whalers graphically describe it, 
was heard in all its solemnity. Little streams of water 
began to trickle down the declivities of the mountain and 
along the shelving shore, only to be transformed, as the 
melting of the snow continued, into torrents or cascades. 
Light vapors gathered on the horizon, and clouds were 
formed and carried rapidly along by breezes to which the 
Gallian atmosphere had long been unaccustomed. All 
these were doubtless but the prelude to atmospheric dis- 
turbances of a more startling character; but as indications 
of returning spring, they were greeted with a welcome 
which no apprehensions for the future could prevent being 
glad and hearty. 

A double disaster was the inevitable consequence of the 
thaw. Both the schooner and the tartan were entirely de- 
stroyed. The basement of the icy pedestal on which the 
ships had been upheaved was gradually undermined, like 
the icebergs of the Arctic Ocean, by warm currents of water, 
and on the night of the I2th the huge block collapsed en 
masse, so that on the following morning nothing remained 
of the Dobryna and the Hansa except the fragments scat- 
tered on the shore. 

Although certainly expected, the catastrophe could not 
fail to cause a sense of general depression. Well-nigh one 
of their last ties to Mother Earth had been broken; the 
ships were gone, and they had only a balloon to replace 
them! 

To describe Isaac Hakkabut's rage at the destruction of 
the tartan would be impossible. His oaths were simply 
dreadful; his imprecations on the accursed race were full 
of wrath. He swore that Servadac and his people were 
responsible for his loss; he vowed that they should be sued 
and made to pay him damages ; he asserted that he had been 



260 OFF ON A COMET 

brought from Gourbi Island only to be plundered; in fact, 
he became so intolerably abusive, that Servadac threatened 
to put him into irons unless he conducted himself properly; 
whereupon the Jew, finding that the captain was in earnest, 
and would not hesitate to carry the threat into effect, was 
fain to hold his tongue, and slunk back into his dim hole. 

By the I4th the balloon was finished, and, carefully 
sewn and well varnished as it had been, it was really a 
very substantial structure. It was covered with a network 
that had been made from the light rigging of the yacht, 
and the car, composed of wicker-work that had formed 
partitions in the hold of the Hansa, was quite commodious 
enough to hold the twenty-three passengers it was intended 
to convey. No thought had been bestowed upon comfort 
or convenience, as the ascent was to last for so short a 
time, merely long enough for making the transit from at- 
mosphere to atmosphere. 

The necessity was becoming more and more urgent to 
get at the true hour of the approaching contact, but the 
professor seemed to grow more obstinate than ever in his 
resolution to keep his secret. 

On the 1 5th the comet crossed the orbit of Mars, at the 
safe distance of 56,000,000 leagues; but during that night 
the community thought that their last hour had taken them 
unawares. The volcano rocked and trembled with the con- 
vulsions of internal disturbance, and Servadac and his com- 
panions, convinced that the mountain was doomed to some 
sudden disruption, rushed into the open air. 

The first object that caught their attention as they 
emerged upon the open rocks was the unfortunate pro- 
fessor, who was scrambling down the mountain-side, pite- 
ously displaying a fragment of his shattered telescope. 

It was no time for condolence. 

A new marvel arrested every eye. A fresh satellite, in 
the gloom of night, was shining conspicuously before them. 

That satellite was a part of Gallia itself! 

By the expansive action of the inner heat, Gallia, like 
Gambart's comet, had been severed in twain; an enormous 
fragment had been detached and launched into space! 
^ The fragment included Ceuta and Gibraltar, with the two 
English garrisons! 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE VENTURE MADE 

WHAT would be the consequences of this sudden and 
complete disruption, Servadac and his people hardly dared 
to think. 

The first change that came under their observation was 
the rapidity of the sun's appearances and disappearances, 
forcing them to the conviction that although the comet 
still rotated on its axis from east to west, yet the period of 
its rotation had been diminished by about one-half. Only 
six hours instead of twelve elapsed between sunrise and 
sunrise; three hours after rising in the west the sun was 
sinking again in the east 

" We are coming to something ! " exclaimed Servadac. 
" We have got a year of something like 2,880 days." 

" I shouldn't think it would be an easy matter to find 
saints enough for such a calendar as that! " said Ben Zoof. 

Servadac laughed, and remarked that they should have 
the professor talking about the 238th of June, and the 
325th of December. 

It soon became evident that the detached portion was 
not revolving round the comet, but was gradually retreat- 
ing into space. Whether it had carried with it any por- 
tion of atmosphere, whether it possessed any other condi- 
tion for supporting life, and whether it was likely ever again 
to approach to the earth, were all questions that there were 
no means of determining. For themselves the all-impor- 
tant problem was what effect would the rending asunder 
of the comet have upon its rate of progress? and as they 
were already conscious of a further increase of muscular 
power, and a fresh diminution of specific gravity, Servadac 
and his associates could not but wonder whether the altera- 
tion in the mass of the comet would not result in its missing 
the expected coincidence with the earth altogether. 

Although he professed himself incompetent to pro- 
nounce a decided opinion, Lieutenant Procope manifestly 
inclined to the belief that no alteration would ensue in the 
rate of Gallia's velocity; but Rosette, no doubt, could an- 
swer the question directly, and the time had now arrived 
in which he must be compelled to divulge the precise mo- 
ment of collision. 

But the professor was in the worst of tempers. Gener- 

261 



262 OFF ON A COMET 

ally taciturn and morose, he was more than usually uncivil 
whenever any one ventured to speak to him. The loss of his 
telescope had doubtless a great deal to do with his ill- 
humor ; but the captain drew the most favorable conclusions 
from Rosette's continued irritation. Had the comet been 
in any way projected from its course, so as to be likely to 
fail in coming into contact with the earth, the professor 
would have been quite unable to conceal his satisfaction. 
But they required to know more than the general truth, 
and felt that they had no time to lose in getting at the ex- 
act details. 

The opportunity that was wanted soon came. 

On the 1 8th, Rosette was overheard in furious alterca- 
tion with Ben Zoof. The orderly had been taunting the 
astronomer with the mutilation of his little comet. A fine 
thing, he said, to split in two like a child's toy. It had 
cracked like a dry nut; and mightn't one as well live upon 
an exploding bomb? with much more to the same effect. 
The professor, by way of retaliation, had commenced 
sneering at the " prodigious " mountain of Montmartre, 
and the dispute was beginning to look serious when 
Servadac entered. 

Thinking he could turn the wrangling to some good 
account, so as to arrive at the information he was so anx- 
iously seeking, the captain pretended to espouse the views 
of his orderly; he consequently brought upon himself the 
full force of the professor's wrath. 

Rosette's language became more and more violent, till 
Servadac, feigning to be provoked beyond endurance, 
cried : 

" You forget, sir, that you are addressing the Governor- 
General of Gallia." 

"Governor-General! humbug!" roared Rosette. "Gal- 
lia is my comet ! " 

" I deny it," said Servadac. " Gallia has lost its chance 
of getting back to the earth. Gallia has nothing to do 
with you. Gallia is mine; and you must submit to the 
government which I please to ordain." 

" And who told you that Gallia is not going back to the 
earth?" asked the professor, with a look of withering 
scorn. 

"Why, isn't her mass diminished? Isn't she split in 



A VENTURE MADE 263 

half? Isn't her velocity all altered?" demanded the cap- 
tain. 

"And pray who told you this?" again said the pro- 
fessor, with a sneer. 

" Everybody. Everybody knows it, of course," replied 
Servadac. 

"Everybody is very clever. And you always were a very 
clever scholar too. We remember that of old, don't we? " 

"Sir!" 

" You nearly mastered the first elements of science, didn't 
you?" 

"Sir!" 

" A credit to your class ! " 

" Hold your tongue, sir ! " bellowed the captain again, 
as if his anger was uncontrollable. 

" Not I," said the professor. 

" Hold your tongue ! " repeated Servadac. 

" Just because the mass is altered you think the velocity 
is altered?" 

" Hold your tongue ! " cried the captain, louder than 
ever. 

"What has mass to do with the orbit? Of how many 
comets do you know the mass, and yet you know their 
movements ? Ignorance ! " shouted Rosette. 

" Insolence ! " retorted Servadac. 

Ben Zoof, really thinking that his master was angry, 
made a threatening movement towards the professor. 

"Touch me if you dare!" screamed Rosette, drawing 
himself up to the fullest height his diminutive figure would 
allow. " You shall answer for your conduct before a court 
of justice!" 

" Where? On Gallia? " asked the captain. 

"No; on the earth." 

"The earth! Pshaw! You know we shall never get 
there; our velocity. is changed." 

" On the earth," repeated the professor, with decision. 

" Trash ! " cried Ben Zoof. " The earth will be too far 
off!" 

" Not too far off for us to come across her orbit at 42 
minutes and 35.6 seconds past two o'clock on the morning 
of this coming ist of January." 

" Thanks, my dear professor many thanks. You have 



264 OFF ON A COMET 

given me all the information I required; " and, with a low 
bow and a gracious smile, the captain withdrew. The or- 
derly made an equally polite bow, and followed his master. 
The professor, completely nonplussed, was left alone. 

Thirteen days, then twenty-six of the original Gallian 
days, fifty-two of the present was all the time for prepara- 
tion that now remained. Every preliminary arrangement 
was hurried on with the greatest earnestness. 

There was a general eagerness to be quit of Gallia. In- 
different to the dangers that must necessarily attend a 
balloon ascent under such unparalleled circumstances, and 
heedless of Lieutenant Procope's warning that the slightest 
check in their progress would result in instantaneous com- 
bustion, they all seemed to conclude that it must be the 
simplest thing possible to glide from one atmosphere to 
another, so thai they were quite sanguine as to the suc- 
cessful issue of their enterprise. Captain Servadac made 
a point of showing himself quite enthusiastic in his antici- 
pations, and to Ben Zoof the going up in a balloon was 
the supreme height of his ambition. The count and the 
lieutenant, of colder and less demonstrative temperament, 
alike seemed to realize the possible perils of the undertak- 
ing, but even they were determined to put a bold face upon 
every difficulty. 

The sea had now become navigable, and three voyages 
were made to Gourbi Island in the steam launch, consum- 
ing the last of their little reserve of coal. 

The first voyage had been made by Servadac with sev- 
eral of the sailors. They found the gourbi and the ad- 
jacent building quite uninjured by the severity of the win- 
ter; numbers of little rivulets intersected the pasture-land; 
new plants were springing up under the influence of the 
equatorial sun, and the luxuriant foliage was tenanted by 
the birds which had flown back from the volcano. Sum- 
mer had almost abruptly succeeded to winter, and the days, 
though only three hours long, were intensely hot. 

Another of the voyages to the island had been to collect 
the dry grass and straw which was necessary for inflating 
the balloon. Had the balloon been less cumbersome it 
would have been conveyed to the island, whence the start 
would have been effected; but as it was, it was more con- 
venient to bring the combustible material to the balloon. 



A VENTURE MADE 265 

The last of the coal having been consumed, the frag- 
ments of the shipwrecked vessels had to be used day by 
day for fuel. Hakkabut began making a great hubbub 
when he found that they were burning some of the spars of 
the Hansa; but he was effectually silenced by Ben Zoof, 
who told him that if he made any more fuss, he should be 
compelled to pay 50,000 francs for a balloon-ticket, or else 
he should be left behind. 

By Christmas Day everything was in readiness for im- 
mediate departure. The festival was observed with a 
solemnity still more marked than the anniversary of the 
preceding year. Every one looked forward to spending 
New Year's Day in another sphere altogether, and Ben 
Zoof had already promised Pablo and Nina all sorts of 
New Year's gifts. ^ 

It may seem strange, but the nearer the critical moment 
approached, the less Hector Servadac and Count Timascheff 
had to say to each other on the subject. Their mutual 
reserve became more apparent; the experiences of the 
last two years were fading from their minds like a 
dream; and the fair image that had been the cause of 
their original rivalry was ever rising, as a vision, between 
them. 

The captain's thoughts began to turn to his unfinished 
rondo; in his leisure moments, rhymes suitable and un- 
suitable, possible and impossible, were perpetually jing- 
ling in his imagination. He labored under the conviction 
that he had a work of genius to complete. A poet he had 
left the earth, and a poet he must return. 

Count TimaschefFs desire to return to the world was 
quite equaled by Lieutenant Procope's. The Russian 
sailors* only thought was to follow their master, wherever 
he went. The Spaniards, though they would have been 
unconcerned to know that they were to remain upon Gallia, 
were nevertheless looking forward with some degree of 
pleasure to revisiting the plains of Andalusia ; and Nina and 
Pablo were only too delighted at the prospect of accom- 
panying their kind protectors on any fresh excursion what- 
ever. 

The only malcontent was Palmyrin Rosette. Day and 
night he persevered in his astronomical pursuits, declared 
his intention of never abandoning his comet, and swore 



266 OFF ON A COMET 

positively that nothing should induce him to set foot in 
the car of the balloon. 

The misfortune that had befallen his telescope was a 
never-ending theme of complaint; and just now, when 
Gallia was entering the narrow zone of shooting-stars, and 
new discoveries might have been within his reach, his loss 
made him more inconsolable than ever. In sheer despera- 
tion, he endeavored to increase the intensity of his vision 
by applying to his eyes some belladonna which he found 
in the Dobryna's medicine chest; with heroic fortitude he 
endured the tortures of the experiment, and gazed up into 
the sky until he was nearly blind. But all in vain; not a 
single fresh discovery rewarded his sufferings. 

No one was quite exempt from the feverish excitement 
which prevailed during the last days of December. Lieu- 
tenant Procope superintended his final arrangements. The 
two low masts of the schooner had been erected firmly on 
the shore, and formed supports for the montgolfier, which 
had been duly covered with the netting, and was ready 
at any moment to be inflated. The car was close at hand. 
Some inflated skins had been attached to its sides, so that 
the balloon might float for a time, in the event of its de- 
scending in the sea at a short distance from the shore. If 
unfortunately, it should come down in mid-ocean, nothing 
but the happy chance of some passing vessel could save 
them all from the certain fate of being drowned. 

The 3 ist came. Twenty- four hours hence and the bal- 
loon, with its large living freight, would be high in the 
air. The atmosphere was less buoyant than that of the 
earth, but no difficulty in ascending was to be apprehended. 

Gallia was now within 96,000,000 miles of the sun, con- 
sequently not much more than 4,000,000 miles from the 
earth; and this interval was being diminished at the rate 
of nearly 208,000 miles an hour, the speed of the earth 
being about 70,000 miles, that of the comet being little less 
than 138,000 miles an hour. 

It was determined to make the start at two o'clock, three- 
quarters of an hour, or, to speak correctly 42 minutes 35.6 
seconds, before the time predicted by the professor as 
the instant of collision. The modified rotation of the 
comet caused it to be daylight at the time. 

An hour previously the balloon was inflated with perfect 



A VENTURE MADE 267 

success, and the car was securely attached to the network. 
It only awaited the stowage of the passengers. 

Isaac Hakkabut was the first to take his place in the car. 
But scarcely had he done so, when Servadac noticed that 
his waist was encompassed by an enormous girdle that 
bulged out to a very extraordinary extent. "What's all 
this, Hakkabut?" he asked. 

" It's only my little bit of money, your Excellency ; my 
modest little fortune a mere bagatelle," said the Jew. 

"And what may your little fortune weigh?" inquired 
the captain. 

" Only about sixty-six pounds ! " said Isaac. 

" Sixty-six pounds ! " cried Servadac. " We haven't 
reckoned for this." 

" Merciful heavens! " began the Jew. 

" Sixty-six pounds ! " repeated Servadac. " We can 
hardly carry ourselves ; we can't have any dead weight here. 
Pitch it out, man, pitch it out!" 

" God of Israel ! " whined Hakkabut. 

" Out with it, I say ! " cried Servadac. 

" What, all my money, which I have saved so long, and 
toiled for so hard?" 

" It can't be helped," said the captain, unmoved. 

" Oh, your Excellency ! " cried the Jew. 

" Now, old Nicodemus, listen to me," interposed Ben 
Zoof ; " you just get rid of that pouch of yours, or we will 
get rid of you. Take your choice. Quick, or out you 
go!" 

The avaricious old man was found to value his life above 
his money; he made a lamentable outcry about it, but he 
unfastened his girdle at last, and put it out of the car. 

Very different was the case with Palmyrin Rosette. He 
avowed over and over again his intention of never quitting 
the nucleus of his comet. Why should he trust himself 
to a balloon, that would blaze up like a piece of paper? 
Why should he leave the comet? Why should he not go 
once again upon its surface into the far-off realms of space? 

His volubility was brought to a sudden check by Ser- 
vadac's bidding two of the sailors, without more ado, to 
take him in their arms and put him quietly down at the 
bottom of the car. 

To the great regret of their owners, the two horses and 



268 OFF ON A COMET 

Nina's pet goat were obliged to be left behind. The only 
creature for which there was found a place was the carrier- 
pigeon that had brought the professor's message to the 
Hive. Servadac thought it might probably be of service in 
carrying some communication to the earth. 

When every one, except the captain and his orderly, had 
taken their places, Servadac said, " Get in, Ben Zoof." 

" After you, sir," said Ben Zoof, respectfully. 

" No, no! " insisted Servadac; " the captain must be the 
last to leave the ship ! " 

A moment's hesitation and the orderly clambered over 
the side of the car. Servadac followed. The cords were 
cut. The balloon rose with stately calmness into the air. 



CHAPTER XVIII 

SUSPENSE 

WHEN the balloon had reached an elevation of about 
2,500 yards, Lieutenant Procope determined to maintain it 
at that level. A wire-work stove, suspended below the cas- 
ing, and filled with lighted hay, served to keep the air in the 
interior at a proper temperature. 

Beneath their feet was extended the basin of the Gallian 
Sea. An inconsiderable speck to the north marked the 
site of Gourbi Island. Ceuta and Gibraltar, which might 
have been expected in the west, had utterly disappeared. 
On the south rose the volcano, the extremity of the pro- 
montory that jutted out from the continent that formed the 
framework of the sea; whilst in every direction the strange 
soil, with its commixture of tellurium and gold, gleamed 
under the sun's rays with a perpetual iridescence. 

Apparently rising with them in their ascent, the horizon 
was well-defined. The sky above them was perfectly clear; 
but away in the northwest, in opposition to the sun, floated 
a new sphere, so small that it could not be an asteroid, but 
like a dim meteor. It was the fragment that the internal 
convulsion had rent from the surface of the comet, and 
which was now many thousands of leagues away, pursuing 
the new orbit into which it had been projected. During 
the hours of daylight it was far from distinct, but after 
nightfall it would assume a definite luster. 



SUSPENSE 269 

The object, however, of supreme interest was the great 
expanse of the terrestrial disc, which was rapidly drawing 
down obliquely towards them. It totally eclipsed an 
enormous portion of the firmament above, and approach- 
ing with an ever-increasing velocity, was now within half 
its average distance from the moon. So close was it, that 
the two poles could not be embraced in one focus. Irregu- 
lar patches of greater or less brilliancy alternated on its 
surface, the brighter betokening the continents, the more 
somber indicating the oceans that absorbed the solar rays. 
Above, there were broad white bands, darkened on the side 
averted from the sun, exhibiting a slow but unintermittent 
movement ; these were the vapors that pervaded the terres- 
trial atmosphere. 

But as the aeronauts were being hurried on at a speed of 
70 miles a second, this vague aspect of the earth soon de- 
veloped itself into definite outlines. Mountains and plains 
were no longer confused, the distinction between sea and 
shore was more plainly identified, and instead of being, as 
it were, depicted on a map, the surface of the earth ap- 
peared as though modelled in relief. 

Twenty-seven minutes past two, and Gallia is only 72,000 
miles from the terrestrial sphere; quicker and quicker is 
the velocity; ten minutes later, and they are only 36,000 
miles apart! 

The whole configuration of the earth is clear. 

" Europe ! Russia ! France ! " shout Procope, the count, 
and Servadac, almost in a breath. 

And they are not mistaken. The eastern hemisphere 
lies before them in the full blaze of light, and there is no 
possibility of error in distinguishing continent from con- 
tinent. 

The surprise only kindled their emotion to yet keener 
intensity, and it would be hard to describe the excitement 
with which they gazed at the panorama that was before 
them. The crisis of peril was close at hand, but imagina- 
tion overleaped all consideration of danger; and everything 
was absorbed in the one idea that they were again within 
reach of that circle of humanity from which they had sup- 
posed themselves severed forever. 

And, truly, if they could have paused to study it, that 
panorama of the states of Europe which was outstretched 



270 OFF ON A COMET 

before their eyes, was conspicuous for the fantastic resem- 
blances with which Nature on the one hand, and interna- 
tional relations on the other, have associated them. There 
was England, marching like some stately dame towards the 
east, trailing her ample skirts and coroneted with the cluster 
of her little islets; Sweden and Norway, with their bristling 
spine of mountains, seemed like a splendid lion eager to 
spring down from the bosom of the ice-bound north ; Rus- 
sia, a gigantic polar bear, stood with its head towards Asia, 
its left paw resting upon Turkey, its right upon Mount 
Caucasus; Austria resembled a huge cat curled up and 
sleeping a watchful sleep; Spain, with Portugal as a pen- 
nant, like an unfurled banner, floated from the extremity 
of the continent; Turkey, like an insolent cock, appeared 
to clutch the shores of Asia with the one claw, and the 
land of Greece with the other; Italy, as it were a foot and 
leg encased in a tight-fitting boot, was juggling deftly with 
the islands of Sicily, Sardinia, and Corsica ; Prussia, a for- 
midable hatchet imbedded in the heart of Germany, its edge 
just grazing the frontiers of France; whilst France itself 
suggested a vigorous torso with Paris at its breast. 

All at once Ben Zoof breaks the silence : " Montmartre ! 
I see Montmartre ! " And, smile at the absurdity as others 
might, nothing could induce the worthy orderly to sur- 
render his belief that he could actually make out the fea- 
tures of his beloved home. 

The only individual whose soul seemed unstirred by the 
approaching earth was Palmyrin Rosette. Leaning over 
the side of the car, he kept his eyes fixed upon the aban- 
doned comet, now floating about a mile and a half below 
him, bright in the general irradiation which was flooding 
the surrounding space. 

Chronometer in hand, Lieutenant Procope stood mark- 
ing the minutes and seconds as they fled; and the stillness 
which had once again fallen upon them all was only broken 
by his order to replenish the stove, that the montgolfier 
might retain its necessary level. Servadac and the count 
continued to gaze upon the earth with an eagerness that 
almost amounted to awe. The balloon was slightly in the 
rear of Gallia, a circumstance that augured somewhat fa- 
vorably, because it might be presumed that if the comet 
preceded the balloon in its contact with the earth, there 



SUSPENSE 271 

would be a break in the suddenness of transfer from one 
atmosphere to the other. 

The next question of anxiety was, where would the bal- 
loon alight? If upon terra firma, would it be in a place 
where adequate resources for safety would be at hand? If 
upon the ocean, would any passing vessel be within hail 
to rescue them from their critical position? Truly, as the 
count observed to his comrades, none but a Divine Pilot 
could steer them now. 

" Forty-two minutes past ! " said the lieutenant, and his 
voice seemed to thrill through the silence of expectation. 

There were not 20,000 miles between the comet and the 
earth! 

The calculated time of impact was 2 hours 47 minutes 
35.6 seconds. Five minutes more and collision must 
ensue ! 

But was it so? Just at this moment, Lieutenant Pro- 
cope observed that the comet deviated sensibly in an oblique 
course. Was it possible that after all collision would not 
occur? 

The deviation, however, was not great; it did not justify 
any anticipation that Gallia would merely graze the earth, 
as it had done before; it left it certain that the two bodies 
would inevitably impinge. 

" No doubt," said Ben Zoof, " this time we shall stick 
together." 

Another thought occurred. Was it not only too likely 
that, in the fusion of the two atmospheres, the balloon 
itself, in which they were being conveyed, would be rent 
into ribbons, and every one of its passengers hurled into 
destruction, so that not a Gallian should survive to tell the 
tale of their strange peregrinations? 

Moments were precious; but Hector Servadac resolved 
that he would adopt a device to secure that at least some 
record of their excursion in solar distances should survive 
themselves. 

Tearing a leaf from his note-book, he wrote down the 
name of the comet, the list of the fragments of the earth it 
had carried off, the names of his companions, and the date 
of the comet's aphelion; and having subscribed it with his 
signature, turned to Nina and told her he must have the 
carrier-pigeon which was nestling in her bosom. 



272 OFF ON A COMET 

The child's eyes filled with tears ; she did not say a word, 
but imprinting a kiss upon its soft plumage, she surren- 
dered it at once, and the message was hurriedly fastened to 
its neck. The bird wheeled round and round in a few 
circles that widened in their diameter, and quickly sunk to 
an altitude in the comet's atmosphere much inferior to the 
balloon. 

Some minutes more were thus consumed and the interval 
of distance was reduced to less than 8,000 miles. 

The velocity became inconceivably great, but the in- 
creased rate of motion was in no way perceptible; there 
was nothing to disturb the equilibrium of the car in which 
they were making their aerial adventure. 

" Forty-six minutes ! " announced the lieutenant. 

The glowing expanse of the earth's disc seemed like a 
vast funnel, yawning to receive the comet and its atmo- 
sphere, balloon and all, into its open mouth. 

" Forty-seven ! " cried Procope. 

There was half a minute yet. A thrill ran through 
every vein. A vibration quivered through the atmosphere. 
The montgolfier, elongated to its utmost stretch, was mani- 
festly being sucked into a vortex. Every passenger in 
the quivering car involuntarily clung spasmodically to its 
sides, and as the two atmospheres amalgamated, clouds 
accumulated in heavy masses, involving all around in dense 
obscurity, while flashes of lurid flame threw a weird glim- 
mer on the scene. 

In a mystery every one found himself upon the earth 
again. They could not explain it, but here they were once 
more upon terrestrial soil; in a swoon they had left the 
earth, and in a similar swoon they had come back! 

Of the balloon not a vestige remained, and contrary to 
previous computation, the comet had merely grazed the 
earth, and was traversing the regions of space, again far 
a?way ! 

CHAPTER XIX 

BACK AGAIN 

" IN Algeria, captain? " 

!< Yes, Ben Zoof, in Algeria; and not far from Mosta- 
ganem." Such were the first words which, after their re- 



not say a word, 
;c, she surren- 
<lly fastened to 

s und in a few 



deoed in 
...the con h inferior to the 

minutes mor.. he interval 



c: rate * 

K)thing t( THE APPROACH TO EARTH 

The velocity became inconceivably great, but the increased rate of 
motion was in no way perceptible; there was nothing to disturb the 
equilibrium of the car in which they were making their aerial adventure. 
"Forty-six minutes ! " announced the lieutenant. ; 1O- 

The glowing expanse of the earth's disc seemed like a vast funnel, 
yawning to receive the comet and its atmosphere, balloon and all into 
its open mouth. 

"Forty-seven!" cried Procope. A .t^MI ran through* 

There was half a minute yet. A thrill ran through every vein. A 
vibration quivered through the atmosphere. The mohtgolfier, elongated 
to its utmost stretch, was manifestly being sucked into a vortex. Page 
2 7 2 - gr e r in 

./car iiiv'ol t. X j s 

*! and a* the two -. ouds 
in heavy masse 

- flashes of luri :ld ^ iim "* 

"ewy one f< ' upon the earth 

here they were once 
hey had left the 

e back! 

^.d, and contrary to 
merely graced the 
of space, 



Vol. 9. 

Mosta- 
their re- 



BACK AGAIN 273 

turn to consciousness, were exchanged between Servadac 
and his orderly. 

They had resided so long in the province that they could 
not for a moment be mistaken as to their whereabouts, and 
although they were incapable of clearing up the mysteries 
that shrouded the miracle, yet they were convinced at the 
first glance that they had been returned to the earth at the 
very identical spot where they had quitted it. 

In fact, they were scarcely more than a mile from Mos- 
taganem, and in the course of an hour, when they had all 
recovered from the bewilderment occasioned by the shock, 
they started off in a body and made their way to the town. 
It was a matter of extreme surprise to find no symptom 
of the least excitement anywhere as they went along. The 
population was perfectly calm; every one was pursuing his 
ordinary avocation; the cattle were browsing quietly upon 
the pastures that were moist with the dew of an ordinary 
January morning. It was about eight o'clock ; the sun was 
rising in the east; nothing could be noticed to indicate that 
any abnormal incident had either transpired or been ex- 
pected by the inhabitants. As to a collision with a comet, 
there was not the faintest trace of any such phenomenon 
crossing men's minds, and awakening, as it surely would, 
a panic little short of the certified approach of the 
millennium. 

" Nobody expects us," said Servadac; "that is very cer- 
tain." 

" No, indeed," answered Ben Zoof, with a sigh ; he was 
manifestly disappointed that his return to Mostaganem was 
not welcomed with a triumphal reception. 

They reached the Mascara gate. The first persons that 
Servadac recognized were the two friends that he had in- 
vited to be his seconds in the duel two years ago, the colonel 
of the 2nd Fusiliers and the captain of the 8th Artillery. 
In return to his somewhat hesitating salutation, the colonel 
greeted him heartily, "Ah! Servadac, old fellow! is it 
you?" 

" I, myself," said the captain. 

"Where on earth have you been to all this time? In 
the name of peace, what have you been doing with your- 
self?" 

"You would never believe me, colonel," answered Ser- 
V. IX Verne 



274 OFF ON A COMET 

vadac, " if I were to tell you; so on that point I had better 
hold my tongue." 

" Hang your mysteries ! " said the colonel ; " tell me, 
where have you been ? " 

" No, my friend, excuse me," replied Servadac ; " but 
shake hands with me in earnest, that I may be sure I am 
not dreaming." Hector Servadac had made up his mind, 
and no amount of persuasion could induce him to divulge 
his incredible experiences. 

Anxious to turn the subject, Servadac took the earliest 
opportunity of asking, "And what about Madame de 

" Madame de L ! " exclaimed the colonel, taking the 

words out of his mouth; "the lady is married long ago; 
you did not suppose that she was going to wait for you. 
' Out of sight, out of mind/ you know." 

" True," replied Servadac ; and turning to the count he 
said, " Do you hear that? We shall not have to fight our 
duel after all." 

" Most happy to be excused," rejoined the count. The 
rivals took each other by the hand, and were united hence- 
forth in the bonds of a sincere and confiding friendship. 

" An immense relief," said Servadac to himself, " that 
I have no occasion to finish that confounded rondo!" 

It was agreed between the captain and the count that it 
would be desirable in every way to maintain the most rigid 
silence upon the subject of the inexplicable phenomena 
which had come within their experience. It was to them 
both a subject of the greatest perplexity to find that the 
shores of the Mediterranean had undergone no change, but 
they coincided in the opinion that it was prudent to keep 
their bewilderment entirely to themselves. Nothing in- 
duced them to break their reserve. 

The very next day the small community was broken up. 

The Dobryna's crew, with the count and the lieutenant, 
started for Russia, and the Spaniards, provided, by the 
count's liberality, with a competency that ensured them 
from want, were despatched to their native shores. The 
leave taking was accompanied by genuine tokens of regard 
and goodwill. 

For Isaac Hakkabut alone there was no feeling of re- 
gret. Doubly ruined by the loss of his tartan, and by the 



BACK AGAIN 275 

abandonment of his fortune, he disappeared entirely from 
the scene. It is needless to say that no one troubled him- 
self to institute a search after him, and, as Ben Zoof 
sententiously remarked, "Perhaps old Jehoram is making 
money in America by exhibiting himself as the latest arrival 
from a comet!" 

But however great was the reserve which Captain Ser- 
vadac might make on his part, nothing could induce Pro- 
fessor Rosette to conceal his experiences. In spite of the 
denial which astronomer after astronomer gave to the ap- 
pearance of such a comet as Gallia at all, and of its being 
refused admission to the catalogue, he published a volumi- 
nous treatise, not only detailing his own adventures, but 
setting forth, with the most elaborate precision, all the 
elements which settled its period and its orbit. Discus- 
sions arose in scientific circles; an overwhelming majority 
decided against the representations of the professor; an 
unimportant minority declared themselves in his favor, and 
a pamphlet obtained some degree of notice, ridiculing the 
whole debate under the title of " The History of an 
Hypothesis." In reply to this impertinent criticism of his 
labors, Rosette issued a rejoinder full with the most vehe- 
ment expressions of indignation, and reiterating his as- 
^eve ration that a fragment of Gibraltar was still travers- 
ing the regions of space, carrying thirteen Englishmen up- 
on its surface, and concluding by saying that it was the 
great disappointment of his life that he had not been taken 
with them. 

Pablo and little Nina were adopted, the one by Serva- 
dac, the other by the count, and under the supervision of 
their guardians, were well educated and cared for. Some 
years later, Colonel, no longer Captain, Servadac, his hair 
slightly streaked with grey, had the pleasure of seeing the 
handsome young Spaniard united in marriage to the Italian, 
now grown into a charming girl, upon whom the count be- 
stowed an ample dowry ; the young people's happiness in no 
way marred by the fact that they had not been destined, as 
once seemed likely, to be the Adam and Eve of a new world. 
The career of the comet was ever a mystery which neither 
Servadac nor his orderly could eliminate from the regions 
of doubt. Anyhow, they were firmer and more confiding 
friends than ever. 



276 OFF ON A COMET 

One day, in the environs of Montmartre, where they 
were secure from eavesdroppers, Ben Zoof incidentally 
referred to the experiences in the depths of Nina's Hive; 
but stopped short and said, "However, those things never 
happened, sir, did they?" 

His master could only reply, "Confound it, Ben Zoof! 
.What is a man to believe? " 



THE END 



The Underground City 



OR 



The Black Indies 

(Sometimes Called The Child of the Cavern) 




The Underground City 

CHAPTER I 

CONTRADICTORY LETTERS 

To Mr. F. R. Starr, Engineer, 

30 Canongate, Edinburgh. 

F Mr. James Starr will come to-morrow to the 
Aberfoyle coal-mines, Dochart pit, Yarrow 
shaft, a communication of an interesting na- 
ture will be made to him. 

" Mr. James Starr will be awaited for, the 
whole day, at the Callander station, by Harry 
Ford, son of the old overman Simon Ford." 

" He is requested to keep this invitation secret." 
Such was the letter which James Starr received by the 
first post, on the 3rd December, 18 , the letter bearing 
the Aberfoyle postmark, county of Stirling, Scotland. 

The engineer's curiosity was excited to the highest pitch. 
It never occurred to him to doubt whether this letter might 
not be a hoax. For many years he had known Simon Ford, 
one of the former foremen of the Aberfoyle mines, of 
which he, James Starr, had for twenty years, been the 
manager, or, as he would be termed in English coal-mines, 
the viewer. James Starr was a strongly-constituted man, on 
whom his fifty-five years weighed no more heavily than 
if they had been forty. He belonged to an old Edinburgh 
family, and was one of its most distinguished members. 
His labors did credit to the body of engineers who are 
gradually devouring the carboniferous subsoil of the United 
Kingdom, as much at Cardiff and Newcastle, as in the 
southern counties of Scotland. However, it was more 
particularly in the depths of the mysterious mines of Aber- 
foyle, which border on the Alloa mines and occupy part of 
the county of Stirling, that the name of Starr had acquired 
the greatest renown. There, the greater part of his ex- 
istence had been passed. Besides this, James Starr be- 
longed to the Scottish Antiquarian Society, of which he 
had been made president. He was also included amongst 
the most active members of the Royal Institution; and the 

279 



280 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

Edinburgh Review frequently published clever articles 
signed by him. He was in fact one of those practical men 
to whom is due the prosperity of England. He held a high 
rank in the old capital of Scotland, which not only from a 
physical but also from a moral point of view, well deserves 
the name of the Northern Athens. 

We know that the English have given to their vast ex- 
tent of coal-mines a very significant name. They very 
justly call them the " Black Indies," and these Indies have 
contributed perhaps even more than the Eastern Indies to 
swell the surprising wealth of the United Kingdom. 

At this period, the limit of time assigned by professional 
men for the exhaustion of coal-mines was far distant and 
there was no dread of scarcity. There were still exten- 
sive mines to be worked in the two Americas. The manu- 
factories, appropriated to so many different uses, locomo- 
tives, steamers, gas works, &c., were not likely to fail for 
want of the mineral fuel; but the consumption had so in- 
creased during the last few years, that certain beds had 
been exhausted even to their smallest veins. Now de- 
serted, these mines perforated the ground with their use- 
less shafts and forsaken galleries. This was exactly the 
case with the pits of Aberfoyle. 

Ten years before, the last butty had raised the last ton 
of coal from this colliery. The underground working 
stock, traction engines, trucks which run on rails along the 
galleries, subterranean tramways, frames to support the 
shaft, pipes in short, all that constituted the machinery 
of a mine had been brought up from its depths. The 
exhausted mine was like the body of a huge fantastically- 
shaped mastodon, from which all the organs of life have 
been taken, and only the skeleton remains. 

Nothing was left but long wooden ladders, down the 
Yarrow shaft the only one which now gave access to the 
lower galleries of the Dochart pit. Above ground, the 
sheds, formerly sheltering the outside works, still marked 
the spot where the shaft of that pit had been sunk, it being 
now abandoned, as were the other pits, of which the whole 
constituted the mines of Aberfoyle. 

It was a sad day, when for the last time the workmen 
quitted the mine, in which they had lived for so many years. 
The engineer, James Starr, had collected the hundreds of 



CONTRADICTORY LETTERS 281; 

workmen which composed the active and courageous 
population of the mine. Overmen, brakemen, putters, 
wastemen, barrowmen, masons, smiths, carpenters, outside 
and inside laborers, women, children, and old men, all were 
collected in the great yard of the Dochart pit, formerly 
heaped with coal from the mine. 

Many of these families had existed for generations in 
the mine of old Aberfoyle; they were now driven to seek 
the means of subsistence elsewhere, and they waited sadly 
to bid farewell to the engineer. 

James Starr stood upright, at the door of the vast shed 
in which he had for so many years superintended the pow- 
erful machines of the shaft. Simon Ford, the foreman of 
the Dochart pit, then fifty-five years of age, and other 
managers and overseers, surrounded him. James Starr 
took off his hat. The miners, cap in hand, kept a profound 
silence. This farewell scene was of a touching character, 
not wanting in grandeur. 

" My friends," said the engineer, " the time has come for 
us to separate. The Aberfoyle mines, which for so many 
years have united us in a common work, are now exhausted. 
All our researches have not led to the discovery of a new 
vein, and the last block of coal has just been extracted from 
the Dochart pit." And in confirmation of his words, 
James Starr pointed to a lump of coal which had been kept 
at the bottom of a basket. 

" This piece of coal, my friends," resumed James Starr, 
" is like the last drop of blood which has flowed through 
the veins of the mine ! We shall keep it, as the first frag- 
ment of coal is kept, which was extracted a hundred and 
fifty years ago from the bearings of Aberfoyle. Between 
these two pieces, how many generations of workmen have 
succeeded each other in our pits! Now, it is over! The 
last words which your engineer will address to you are a 
farewell. You have lived in this mine, which your hands 
have emptied. The work has been hard, but not without 
profit for you. Our great family must disperse, and it is 
not probable that. the future will ever again unite the scat- 
tered members. But do not forget that we have lived to- 
gether for a long time, and that it will be the duty of the 
miners of Aberfoyle to help each other. Your old masters 
will not forget you either. When men have worked to- 



282 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

gether, they must never be strangers to each other again. 
We shall keep our eye on you, and wherever you go, our 
recommendations shall follow you. Farewell then, my 
friends, and may Heaven be with you ! " 

So saying, James Starr wrung the horny hand of the 
oldest miner, whose eyes were dim with tears. Then the 
overmen of the different pits came forward to shake hands 
with him, whilst the miners waved their caps, shouting, 
" Farewell, James Starr, our master and our friend ! " 

This farewell would leave a lasting remembrance in all 
these honest hearts. Slowly and sadly the population 
quitted the yard. The black soil of the roads leading to 
the Dochart pit resounded for the last time to the tread of 
miners' feet, and silence succeeded to the bustling life which 
had till then filled the Aberfoyle mines. 

One man alone remained by James Starr. This was the 
overman, Simon Ford. Near him stood a boy, about fif- 
teen years of age, who for some years already had been 
employed down below. 

James Starr and Simon Ford knew and esteemed each 
other well. " Good-by, Simon," said the engineer. 

" Good-by, Mr. Starr," replied the overman, " let me 
add, till we meet again ! " 

" Yes, till we meet again, Ford ! " answered James Starr. 
;< You know that I shall be always glad to see you, and talk 
over old times." 

" I know that, Mr. Starr." 

" My house in Edinburgh is always open to you." 

" It's a long way off, is Edinburgh ! " answered the man 
shaking his head. " Ay, a long way from the Dochart 
pit." 

"A long way, Simon? Where do you mean to live? " 

" Even here, Mr. Starr ! We're not going to leave the 
mine, our good old nurse, just because her milk is dried 
up! My wife, my boy, and myself, we mean to remain 
faithful to her!" 

" Good-by then, Simon," replied the engineer, whose 
voice, in spite of himself, betrayed some emotion. 

" No, I tell you, it's till we meet again, Mr. Starr, and not 
just ' good-by,' " returned the foreman. " Mark my words, 
Aberfoyle will see you again ! " 

The engineer did not try to dispel the man's illusion. He 



CONTRADICTORY LETTERS 283 

patted Harry's head, again wrung the father's hand, and 
left the mine. 

All this had taken place ten years ago; but, notwith- 
standing the wish which the overman had expressed to see 
him again, during that time Starr had heard nothing of 
him. It was after ten years of separation that he got this 
letter from Simon Ford, requesting him to take without 
delay the road to the old Aberfoyle colliery. 

A communication of an interesting nature, what could it 
be? Dochart pit, Yarrow shaft! What recollections of 
the past these names brought back to him ! Yes, that was 
a fine time, that of work, of struggle, the best part of the 
engineer's life. Starr re-read his letter. He pondered 
over it in all its bearings. He much regretted that just a 
line more had not been added by Ford. He wished he 
had not been quite so laconic. 

Was it possible that the old foreman had discovered some 
new vein ? No ! Starr remembered with what minute care 
the mines had been explored before the definite cessation 
of the works. He had himself proceeded to the lowest 
soundings without finding the least trace in the soil, bur- 
rowed in every direction. They had even attempted to 
find coal under strata which are usually below it, such as 
the Devonian red sandstone, but without result. James 
Starr had therefore abandoned the mine with the absolute 
conviction that it did not contain another bit of coal. 

" No," he repeated, " no ! How is it possible that any- 
thing which could have escaped my researches, should be 
revealed to those of Simon Ford. However, the old over- 
man, must well know that such a discovery would be the 
one thing in the world to interest me, and this invitation, 
which I must keep secret, to repair to the Dochart pit ! " 
James Starr always came back to that. 

On the other hand, the engineer knew Ford to be a clever 
miner, peculiarly endowed with the instinct of his trade. 
He had not t seen him since the time when the Aberfoyle 
colliery was abandoned, and did not know either what he 
was doing or where he was living, with his wife and his 
son. All that he now knew was, that a rendezvous had 
been appointed him at the Yarrow shaft, and that Harry, 
Simon Ford's son, was to wait for him during the whole of 
the next day at the Callander station. 



284 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

" I shall go, I shall go ! " said Starr, his excitement in- 
creasing as the time drew near. 

Our worthy engineer belonged to that class of men whose 
brain is always on the boil, like a kettle on a hot fire. In 
some of these brain kettles the ideas bubble over, in others 
they just simmer quietly. Now on this day, James Starr's 
ideas were boiling fast. 

But suddenly an unexpected incident occurred. This was 
the drop of cold water, which in a moment was to condense 
all the vapors of the brain. About six in the evening, by 
the third post, Starr's servant brought him a second letter. 
This letter was enclosed in a coarse envelope, and evidently 
directed by a hand unaccustomed to the use of a pen. James 
Starr tore it open. It contained only a scrap of paper, 
yellowed by time, and apparently torn out of an old copy 
book. 

On this paper was written a single sentence, thus worded : 

" It is useless for the engineer James Starr to trouble 
himself, Simon Ford's letter being now without object." 

No signature. 

CHAPTER II 

ON THE ROAD 

THE course of James Starr's ideas was abruptly stopped, 
when he got this second letter contradicting the first. 

"What does this mean?" said he to himself. He took 
up the torn envelope, and examined it. Like the other, it 
bore the Aberfoyle postmark. It had therefore come from 
the same part of the county of Stirling. The old miner 
had evidently not written it. But, no less evidently, the 
author of this second letter knew the overman's secret, 
since it expressly contradicted the invitation to the engi- 
neer to go to the Yarrow shaft. 

Was it really true that the first communication was now 
without object? Did someone wish to prevent James Starr 
from troubling himself either uselessly or otherwise? Might 
there not be rather a malevolent intention to thwart Ford's 
plans ? 

This was the conclusion at which James Starr arrived, 
after mature reflection. The contradiction which existed 
between the two letters only wrought in him a more keen 



ON THE ROAD 285 

desire to visit the Dochart pit. And besides, if after 'all 
it was a hoax, it was well worth while to prove it. Starr 
also thought it wiser to give more credence to the first letter 
than to the second; that is to say, to the request of such a 
man as Simon Ford, rather than to the warning of his 
anonymous contradictor. 

" Indeed," said he, " the fact of anyone endeavoring to 
influence my resolution, shows that Ford's communication 
must be of great importance. To-morrow, at the appointed 
time, I shall be at the rendezvous." 

In the evening, Starr made his preparations for depar- 
ture. As it might happen that his absence would be pro- 
longed for some days, he wrote to Sir W. Elphiston, 
President of the Royal Institution, that he should be unable 
to be present at the next meeting of the Society. He also 
wrote to excuse himself from two or three engagements 
which he had made for the week. Then, having ordered 
his servant to pack a traveling bag, he went to bed, more 
excited than the affair perhaps warranted. 

The next day, at five o'clock, James Starr jumped out 
of bed, dressed himself warmly, for a cold rain was falling, 
and left his house in the Canongate, to go to Granton Pier 
to catch the steamer, which in three hours would take him 
up the Forth as far as Stirling. 

For the first time in his life, perhaps, in passing along 
the Canongate, he did not turn to look at Holyrood, the 
palace of the former sovereigns of Scotland. He did not 
notice the sentinels who stood before its gateways, dressed 
in the uniform of their Highland regiment, tartan kilt, 
plaid and sporran complete. His whole thought was to 
reach Collander where Harry Ford was supposedly await- 
ing him. 

The better to understand this narrative, it will be as well 
to hear a few words on the origin of coal. During the 
geological epoch, when the terrestrial spheroid was still in 
course of formation, a thick atmosphere surrounded it, 
saturated with watery vapors, and copiously impregnated 
with carbonic acid. The vapors gradually condensed in 
diluvial rains, which fell as if they had leapt from the necks 
of thousands of millions of seltzer water bottles. This 
liquid, loaded with carbonic acid, rushed in torrents over 
a deep soft soil, subject to sudden or slow alterations of 



286 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

form, and maintained in its semi-fluid state as much by 
the heat of the sun as by the fires of the interior mass. The 
internal heat had not as yet been collected in the center of 
the globe. The terrestrial crust, thin and incompletely 
hardened, allowed it to spread through its pores. This 
caused a peculiar form of vegetation, such as is probably 
produced on the surface of the inferior planets, Venus or 
Mercury, which revolve nearer than our earth around the 
radiant sun of our system. 

The soil of the continents was covered with immense for- 
ests. Carbonic acid, so suitable for the development of the 
vegetable kingdom, abounded. The feet of these trees 
were drowned in a sort of immense lagoon, kept continu- 
ally full by currents of fresh and salt waters. They 
eagerly assimilated to themselves the carbon which they, 
little by little, extracted from the atmosphere, as yet unfit 
for the function of life, and it may be said that they were 
destined to store it, in the form of coal, in the very bowels 
of the earth. 

It was the earthquake period, caused by internal convul- 
sions, which suddenly modified the unsettled features of 
the terrestrial surface. Here, an intumescence which was 
to become a mountain, there, an abyss which was to be filled 
with an ocean or a sea. There, whole forests sunk through 
the earth's crust, below the unfixed strata, either until they 
found a resting-place, such as the primitive bed of granitic 
rock, or, settling together in a heap, they formed a solid 
mass. 

As the waters were contained in no bed, and were spread 
over every part of the globe, they rushed where they liked, 
tearing from the scarcely-formed rocks material with 
which to compose schists, sandstones, and limestones. This 
the roving waves bore over the submerged and now peaty 
forests, and deposited above them the elements of rocks 
which were to superpose the coal strata. In course of time, 
periods of which include millions of years, these earths 
hardened in layers, and enclosed under a thick carapace of 
pudding-stone, schist, compact or friable sandstone, gravel 
and stones, the whole of the massive forests. 

And what went on in this gigantic crucible, where all 
this vegetable matter had accumulated, sunk to various 
depths? A regular chemical operation, a sort of distilla- 



ON THE ROAD 287 

tion. All the carbon contained in these vegetables had ag- 
glomerated, and little by little coal was forming under the 
double influence of enormous pressure and the high tem- 
perature maintained by the internal fires, at this time so 
close to it. 

Thus there was one kingdom substituted for another in 
this slow but irresistible reaction. The vegetable was trans- 
formed into a mineral. Plants which had lived the vegeta- 
tive life in all the vigor of first creation became petrified. 
Some of the substances enclosed in this vast herbal left their 
impression on the other more rapidly mineralized products, 
which pressed them as an hydraulic press of incalculable 
power would have done. 

Thus also shells, zoophytes, star-fish, polypi, spiri fores, 
even fish and lizards brought by the water, left on the yet 
soft coal their exact likeness, " admirably taken off." 

Pressure seems to have played a considerable part in the 
formation of carboniferous strata. In fact, it is to its de- 
gree of power that are due the different sorts of coal, of 
which industry makes use. Thus in the lowest layers of 
the coal ground appears the anthracite, which, being almost 
destitute of volatile matter, contains the greatest quantity 
of carbon. In the higher beds are found, on the contrary, 
lignite and fossil wood, substances in which the quantity 
of carbon is infinitely less. Between these two beds, ac- 
cording to the degree of pressure to which they have been 
subjected, are found veins of graphite and rich or poor coal. 
It may be asserted that it is for want of sufficient pressure 
that beds of peaty bog have not been completely changed 
into coal. So then, the origin of coal mines, in whatever 
part of the globe they have been discovered, is this : the ab- 
sorption through the terrestrial crust of the great forests 
of the geological period; then, the mineralization of the 
vegetables obtained in the course of time, under the in- 
fluence of pressure and heat, and under the action of car- 
bonic acid. 

Now, at the time when the events related in this story 
took place, some of the most important mines of the Scot- 
tish coal beds had been exhausted by too rapid working. 
In the region which extends between Edinburgh and Glas- 
gow, for a distance of ten or twelve miles, lay the Aberfoyle 
colliery, of which the engineer, James Starr, had so long 



288 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

directed the works. For ten years these mines had been 
abandoned. No new seams had been discovered, although 
the soundings had been carried to a depth of fifteen hundred 
or even of two thousand feet, and when James Starr had 
retired, it was with the full conviction that even the smallest 
vein had been completely exhausted. 

Under these circumstances, it was plain that the discovery 
of a new seam of coal would be an important event. Could 
Simon Ford's communication relate to a fact of this nature? 
This question James Starr could not cease asking himself. 
Was he called to make conquest of another corner of these 
rich treasure fields ? Fain would he hope it was so. 

The second letter had for an instant checked his specula- 
tions on this subject, but now he thought of that letter no 
longer. Besides, the son of the old overman was there, 
waiting at the appointed rendezvous. The anonymous let- 
ter was therefore worth nothing. 

The moment the engineer set foot on the platform at the 
end of his journey, the young man advanced towards 
him. 

" Are you Harry Ford ? " asked the engineer quickly. 

; < Yes, Mr. Starr." 

" I should not have known you, my lad. Of course in 
ten years you have become a man ! " 

" I knew you directly, sir," replied the young miner, cap 
in hand. " You have not changed. You look just as you 
did when you bade us good-by in the Dochart pit. I 
haven't forgotten that day." 

" Put on your cap, Harry," said the engineer. " It's 
pouring, and politeness needn't make you catch cold." 

"Shall we take shelter anywhere, Mr. Starr?" asked 
young Ford. 

" No, Harry. The weather is settled. It will rain all 
day, and I am in a hurry. Let us go on." 

" I am at your orders," replied Harry. 

" Tell me, Harry, is your father well? " 

"Very well, Mr. Starr." 

"And your mother?" 

" She is well, too." 

" Was it your father who wrote telling me to come to 
the Yarrow shaft?" 

" No, it was I." 



ON THE ROAD 289 

" Then did Simon Ford send me a second letter to con- 
tradict the first? " asked the engineer quickly. 

" No, Mr. Starr," answered the young miner. 

" Very well," said Starr, without speaking of the anony- 
mous letter. Then, continuing, "And can you tell me 
what you father wants with me ? " 

" Mr. Starr, my father wishes to tell you himself." 

" But you know what it is ? " 

" I do, sir." 

" Well, Harry, I will not ask you more. But let us get 
on, for I'm anxious to see Simon Ford. By-the-bye, where 
does he live ? " 

" In the mine." 

" What ! In the Dochart pit ? " 

" Yes, Mr. Starr," replied Harry. 

" Really ! has your family never left the old mine since 
the cessation of the works? " 

" Not a day, Mr. Starr. You know my father. It is 
there he was born, it is there he means to die ! " 

" I can understand that, Harry. I can understand that ! 
His native mine! He did not like to abandon it! And 
are you happy there ? " 

" Yes, Mr. Starr," replied the young miner, " for we love 
one another, and we have but few wants." 

"Well, Harry," said the engineer, "lead the way." 

And walking rapidly through the streets of Callander, 
in a few minutes they had left the town behind them. 



CHAPTER III 

THE DOCHART PIT 

HARRY FORD was a fine, strapping fellow of five and 
twenty. His grave looks, his habitually passive expression, 
had from childhood been noticed among his comrades in the 
mine. His regular features, his deep blue eyes, his curly 
hair, rather chestnut than fair, the natural grace of his 
person, altogether made him a fine specimen of a lowlander. 
Accustomed from his earliest days to the work of the mine, 
he was strong and hardy, as well as brave and good. Guided 
by his father, and impelled by his own inclinations, he had 
early begun his education, and at an age when. most lads 

V. IX Venw 



290 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

are little more than apprentices, he had managed to make 
himself of some importance, a leader, in fact, among his 
fellows, and few are very ignorant in a country which does 
all it can to remove ignorance. Though, during the first 
years of his youth, the pick was never out of Harry's hand, 
nevertheless the young miner was not long in acquiring 
sufficient knowledge to raise him into the upper class of the 
miners, and he would certainly have succeeded his father as 
overman of the Dochart pit, if the colliery had not been 
abandoned. 

James Starr was still a good walker, yet he could not 
easily have kept up with his guide, if the latter had not 
slackened his pace. The young man, carrying the engi- 
neer's bag, followed the left bank of the river for about 
a mile. Leaving its winding course, they took a road under 
tall, dripping trees. Wide fields lay on either side, around 
isolated farms. In one field a herd of hornless cows were 
quietly grazing; in another sheep with silky wool, like those 
in a child's toy sheep fold. 

The Yarrow shaft was situated four miles from Cal- 
lander. Whilst walking, James Starr could not but be 
struck with the change in the country. He had not seen 
it since the day when the last ton of Aberfoyle coal had 
been emptied into railway trucks to be sent to Glasgow. 
Agricultural life had now taken the place of the more stir- 
ring, active, industrial life. The contrast was all the greater 
because, during winter, field work is at a standstill. But 
formerly, at whatever season, the mining population, above 
and below ground, filled the scene with animation. Great 
wagons of coal used to be passing night and day. The 
rails, with their rotten sleepers, now disused, were then 
constantly ground by the weight of wagons. Now stony 
roads took the place of the old mining tramways. James 
Starr felt as if he was traversing a desert. 

The engineer gazed about him with a saddened eye. He 
stopped now and then to take breath. He listened. The 
air was no longer filled with distant whistlings and the 
panting of engines. None of those black vapors which the 
manufacturer loves to see, hung in the horizon, mingling 
with the clouds. No tall cylindrical or prismatic chimney 
vomited out smoke, after being fed from the mine itself; 
no blast-pipe was puffing out its white vapor. The ground, 



THE DOCHART PIT 291 

formerly black with coal dust, had a bright look, to which 
James Starr's eyes were not accustomed. 

When the engineer stood still, Harry Ford stopped also. 
The young miner waited in silence. He felt what was pass- 
ing in his companion's mind, and he shared his feelings; 
he, a child of the mine, whose whole life had been passed 
in its depths. 

" Yes, Harry, it is all changed," said Starr. " But at 
the rate we worked, of course the treasures of coal would 
have been exhausted some day. Do you regret that time? " 

" I do regret it, Mr. Starr," answered Harry. " The 
work was hard, but it was interesting, as are all struggles." 

" No doubt, my lad. A continuous struggle against the 
dangers of landslips, fires, inundations, explosions of fire- 
damp, like claps of thunder. One had to guard against all 
those perils! You say well! It was a struggle, and con- 
sequently an exciting life." 

" The miners of Alva have been more favored than the 
miners of Aberfoyle, Mr. Starr!" 

" Ay, Harry, so they have," replied the engineer. 

" Indeed," cried the young man, " it's a pity that all the 
globe was not made of coal; then there would have been 
enough to last millions of years!" 

" No doubt there would, Harry ; it must be acknowl- 
edged, however, that nature has shown more forethought by 
forming our sphere principally of sandstone, limestone, and 
granite, which fire cannot consume." 

" Do you mean to say, Mr. Starr, that mankind would 
have ended by burning their own globe?" 

" Yes ! The whole of it, my lad," answered the engineer. 
" The earth would have passed to the last bit into the fur- 
naces of engines, machines, steamers, gas factories; cer- 
tainly, that would have been the end of our world one fine 
day!" 

" There is no fear of that now, Mr. Starr. But yet, the 
mines will be exhausted, no doubt, and more rapidly than 
the statistics make out ! " 

" That will happen, Harry ; and in my opinion England 
is very wrong in exchanging her fuel for the gold of other 
nations ! I know well," added the engineer, " that neither 
hydraulics nor electricity has yet shown all they can do, 
and that some day these two forces will be more completely 



292 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

utilized. But no matter! Coal is of a very practical use, 
and lends itself easily to the various wants of industry. 
Unfortunately man cannot produce it at will. ^ Though 
our external forests grow incessantly under the influence 
of heat and water, our subterranean forests will not be re- 
produced, and if they were, the globe would never be in the 
state necessary to make them into coal." 

James Starr and his guide, whilst talking, had continued 
their walk at a rapid pace. An hour after leaving Cal- 
lander they reached the Dochart pit. 

The most indifferent person would have been touched at 
the appearance this deserted spot presented. It was like 
the skeleton of something that had formerly lived. A few 
wretched trees bordered a plain where the ground was 
hidden under the black dust of the mineral fuel, but no cin- 
ders nor even fragments of coal were to be seen. All had 
been carried away and consumed long ago. 

They walked into the shed which covered the opening 
of the Yarrow shaft, whence ladders still gave access to the 
lower galleries of the pit. The engineer bent over the open- 
ing. Formerly from this place could be heard the power- 
ful whistle of the air inhaled by the ventilators. It was 
now a silent abyss. It was like being at the mouth of some 
extinct volcano. 

When the mine was being worked, ingenious machines 
were used in certain shafts of the Aberfoyle colliery, which 
in this respect was very well off; frames furnished with 
automatic lifts, working in wooden slides, oscillating lad- 
ders, called " man-engines," which, by a simple movement, 
permitted the miners to descend without danger. 

But all these appliances had been carried away, after the 
cessation of the works. In the Yarrow shaft there re- 
mained only a long succession of ladders, separated at every 
fifty feet by narrow landings. Thirty of these ladders 
placed thus end to end led the visitor down into the lower 
gallery, a depth of fifteen hundred feet. This was the 
only way of communication which existed between the bot- 
tom of the Dochart pit and the open air. As to air, that 
came in by the Yarrow shaft, from whence galleries com- 
municated with another shaft whose orifice opened at a 
higher level ; the warm air naturally escaped by this species 
of inverted siphon. 



THE DOCHART PIT 293 

"I will follow you, my lad," said the engineer, signing 
to the young man to precede him. 

" As you please, Mr. Starr." 

" Have you your lamp? " 

" Yes, and I only wish it was still the safety lamp, which 
we formerly had to use ! " 

" Sure enough," returned James Starr, " there is no fear 
of fire-damp explosions now ! " 

Harry was provided with a simple oil lamp, the wick of 
which he lighted. In the mine, now empty of coal, escapes 
of light carburetted hydrogen could not occur. As no ex- 
plosion need be feared, there was no necessity for interpos- 
ing between the flame and the surrounding air that metallic 
screen which prevents the gas from catching fire. The 
Davy lamp was of no use here. But if the danger did not 
exist, it was because the cause of it had disappeared, and 
with this cause, the combustible in which formerly consisted 
the riches of the Dochart pit. 

Harry descended the first steps of the upper ladder. 
Starr followed. They soon found themselves in a profound 
obscurity, which was only relieved by the glimmer of the 
lamp. The young man held it above his head, the better 
to light his companion. A dozen ladders were de- 
scended by the engineer and his guide, with the measured 
step habitual to the miner. They were all still in good con- 
dition. 

James Starr examined, as well as the insufficient light 
would permit, the sides of the dark shaft, which were cov- 
ered by a partly rotten lining of wood. 

Arrived at the fifteenth landing, that is to say, half way 
down, they halted for a few minutes. 

" Decidedly, I have not your legs, my lad," said the engi- 
neer, panting. 

" You are very stout, Mr. Starr," replied Harry, " and 
it's something too, you see, to live all one's life in the 
mine." 

" Right, Harry. Formerly, when I was twenty, I could 
have gone down all at a breath. Come, forward ! " 

But just as the two were about to leave the platform, a 
voice, as yet far distant, was heard in the depths of the 
shaft. It came up like a sonorous billow, swelling as it 
advanced, and becoming more and more distinct. 



294 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

"Halloo! who comes here?" asked the engineer, stop- 
ping Harry. 

" I cannot say," answered the young miner. 

" Is it not your father? " 

" My father, Mr. Starr? no." 

" Some neighbor, then? " 

" We have no neighbors in the bottom of the pit," re- 
plied Harry. " We are alone, quite alone." 

" Well, we must let this intruder pass," said James Starr. 
"Those who are descending must yield the path to those 
who are ascending." 

They waited. The voice broke out again with a mag- 
nificent burst, as if it had been carried through a vast speak- 
ing trumpet; and soon a few words of a Scotch song came 
clearly to the ears of the young miner. 

"The Hundred Pipers!" cried Harry. "Well, I shall 
be much surprised if that comes from the lungs of any man 
but Jack Ryan." 

" And who is this Jack Ryan ? " asked James Starr. 

"An old mining comrade," replied Harry. Then lean- 
ing from the platform, " Halloo ! Jack ! " he shouted. 

"Is that you, Harry?" was the reply. "Wait a bit, 
I'm coming." And the song broke forth again. 

In a few minutes, a tall fellow of five and twenty, with 
a merry face, smiling eyes, a laughing mouth, and sandy 
hair, appeared at the bottom of the luminous cone which 
was thrown from his lantern, and set foot on the landing of 
the fifteenth ladder. His first act was to vigorously wring 
the hand which Harry extended to him. 

"Delighted to meet you!" he exclaimed. "If I had 
only known you were to be above ground to-day, I would 
have spared myself going down the Yarrow shaft ! " 

" This is Mr. James Starr/' said Harry, turning his lamp 
towards the engineer, who was in the shadow. 

" Mr. Starr! " cried Jack Ryan. " Ah, sir, I could not 
see. Since I left the mine, my eyes have not been accus- 
tomed to see in the dark, as they used to do." 

" Ah, I remember a laddie who was always singing. 
That was ten years ago. It was you, no doubt? " 

" Ay, Mr. Starr, but in changing my trade, I haven't 
changed my disposition. It's far better to laugh and sing 
than to cry and whine ! " 



THE DOCHART PIT 295 

" You're right there, Jack Ryan. And what do you do 
now, as you have left the mine? " 

" I am working on the Melrose farm, forty miles from 
here. Ah, it's not like our Aberfoyle mines! The pick 
comes better to my hand than the spade or hoe. And then, 
in the old pit, there were vaulted roofs, to merrily echo 

one's songs, while up above ground! But you are 

going to see old Simon, Mr. Starr?" 

" Yes, Jack," answered the engineer. 

" Don't let me keep you then." 

" Tell me, Jack," said Harry, " what was taking you to 
our cottage to-day? " 

" I wanted to see you, man," replied Jack, " and ask you 
to come to the Irvine games. You know I am the piper 
of the place. There will be dancing and singing." 

" Thank you, Jack, but it's impossible." 

"Impossible?" 

" Yes ; Mr. Starr's visit will last some time, and I must 
take him back to Callander." 

" Well, Harry, it won't be for a week yet. By that time 
Mr. Starr's visit will be over, I should think, and there will 
be nothing to keep you at the cottage." 

" Indeed, Harry," said James Starr, " you must profit by 
your friend Jack's invitation." 

" Well, I accept it, Jack," said Harry. " In a week we 
will meet at Irvine." 

" In a week, that's settled," returned Ryan. " Good-by, 
Harry ! Your servant, Mr. Starr. I am very glad to have 
seen you again ! I can give news of you to all my friends. 
No one has forgotten you, sir." 

" And I have forgotten no one," said Starr. 

" Thanks for all, sir," replied Jack. 

" Good-by, Jack," said Harry, shaking his hand. And 
Jack Ryan, singing as he went, soon disappeared in the 
heights of the shaft, dimly lighted by his lamp. 

A quarter of an hour afterwards James Starr and Harry 
descended the last ladder, and set foot on the lowest floor 
of the pit. 

From the bottom of the Yarrow shaft radiated numerous 
empty galleries. They ran through the wall of schist and 
sandstone, some shored up with great, roughly-hewn beams, 
others lined with a thick casing of wood. In every direc- 



296 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

tion embankments supplied the place of the excavated veins. 
Artificial pillars were made of stone from neighboring quar- 
ries, and now they supported the ground, that is to say, 
the double layer of tertiary and quarternary soil, which for- 
merly rested on the seam itself. Darkness now filled the 
galleries, formerly lighted either by the miner's lamp or 
by the electric light, the use of which had been introduced 
in the mines. 

" Will you not rest a while, Mr. Starr? " asked the young 
man. 

" No, my lad," replied the engineer, " for I am anxious 
to be at your father's cottage." 

" Follow me then, Mr. Starr. I will guide you, and yet 
I daresay you could find your way perfectly well through 
this dark labyrinth." 

" Yes, indeed ! I have the whole plan of the old pit still 
in my head." 

Harry, followed by the engineer, and holding his lamp 
high the better to light their way, walked along a high 
gallery, like the nave of a cathedral. Their feet still struck 
against the wooden sleepers which used to support the rails. 

They had not gone more than fifty paces, when a huge 
stone fell at the feet of James Starr. " Take care, Mr. 
Starr ! " cried Harry, seizing the engineer by the arm. 

" A stone, Harry ! Ah ! these old vaultings are no longer 
quite secure, of course, and " 

" Mr. Starr," said Harry Ford, " it seems to me that 
stone was thrown, thrown as by the hand of man ! " 

" Thrown ! " exclaimed James Starr. " What do you 
mean, lad ? " 

" Nothing, nothing, Mr. Starr," replied Harry evasively, 
his anxious gaze endeavoring to pierce the darkness. " Let 
us go on. Take my arm, sir, and don't be afraid of making 
a false step." 

" Here I am, Harry." And they both advanced, whilst 
Harry looked on every side, throwing the light of his lamp 
into all the corners of the gallery. 

" Shall we soon be there? " asked the engineer. 

" In ten minutes at most." 

" Good." 

" But," muttered Harry, " that was a most singular thing. 
It is the first time such an accident has happened to me. 



THE DOCHART PIT 297 

That stone falling just at the moment we were passing." 

" Harry, it was a mere chance." 

" Chance," replied the young man, shaking his head. 
" Yes, chance." He stopped and listened. 

" What is the matter, Harry ? " asked the engineer. 

" I thought I heard someone walking behind us," replied 
the young miner, listening more attentively. Then he 
added, " No, I must have been mistaken. Lean harder on 
my arm, Mr. Starr. Use me like a staff." 

" A good solid staff, Harry," answered James Starr. " I 
could not wish for a better than a fine fellow like you." 

They continued in silence along the dark nave. Harry 
was evidently preoccupied, and frequently turned, trying 
to catch, either some distant noise, or remote glimmer of 
light. 

But behind and before, all was silence and darkness. 



CHAPTER IV 

THE FORD FAMILY 

TEN minutes afterwards, James Starr and Harry issued 
from the principal gallery. They were now standing in a 
glade, if we may use this word to designate a vast and dark 
excavation. The place, however, was not entirely deprived 
of daylight. A few rays straggled in through the opening 
of a deserted shaft. It was by means of this pipe that 
ventilation was established in the Dochart pit. Owing to 
its lesser density, the warm air was drawn towards the 
Yarrow shaft. Both air and light, therefore, penetrated in 
some measure into the glade. 

Here Simon Ford had lived with his family ten vears, 
in a subterranean dwelling, hollowed out in the schistous 
mass, where formerly stood the powerful engines which 
worked the mechanical traction of the Dochart pit. 

Such was the habitation, " his cottage," as he called it, 
in which resided the old overman. As he had some means 
saved during a long life of toil, Ford could have afforded 
to live in the light of day, among trees, or in any town of 
the kingdom he chose, but he and his wife and son preferred 
remaining in the mine, where they were happy together, 
having the same opinions, ideas, and tastes. Yes, they 



298 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

were quite fond of their cottage, buried fifteen hundred feet 
below Scottish soil. Among other advantages, there was 
no fear that tax gatherers, or rent collectors would ever 
come to trouble its inhabitants. 

At this period, Simon Ford, the former overman of the 
Dochart pit, bore the weight of sixty-five years well. Tall, 
robust, well-built, he would have been regarded as one of 
the most conspicuous men in the district which supplies so 
many fine fellows to the Highland regiments. 

Simon Ford was descended from an old mining family, 
and his ancestors had worked the very first carboniferous 
seams opened in Scotland. Without discussing whether 
or not the Greeks and Romans made use of coal, whether 
the Chinese worked coal mines before the Christian era, 
whether the French word for coal (houille) is really de- 
rived from the farrier Houillos, who lived in Belgium in 
the twelfth century, we may affirm that the beds in Great 
Britain were the first ever regularly worked. So early as 
the eleventh century, William the Conqueror divided the 
produce of the Newcastle bed among his companions-in- 
arms. At the end of the thirteenth century, a license for 
the mining of " sea coal " was granted by Henry III. 
Lastly, towards the end of the same century, mention is 
made of the Scotch and Welsh beds. 

It was about this time that Simon Ford's ancestors pene- 
trated into the bowels of Caledonian earth, and lived there 
ever after, from father to son. They were but plain miners. 
They labored like convicts at the work of extracting the 
precious combustible. It is even believed that the coal min- 
ers, like the salt-makers of that period, were actual slaves. 

However that might have been, Simon Ford was proud 
of belonging to this ancient family of Scotch miners. He 
had worked diligently in the same place where his ancestors 
had wielded the pick, the crowbar, and the mattock. At 
thirty he was overman of the Dochart pit, the most im- 
portant in the Aberfoyle colliery. He was devoted to his 
trade. During long years he zealously performed his duty. 
His only grief had been to perceive the bed becoming im- 
poverished, and to see the hour approaching when the seam 
would be exhausted. 

It was then he devoted himself to the search for new 
veins in all the Aberfoyle pits, which communicated under- 



THE FORD FAMILY 299 

ground one with another. He had had the good luck to 
discover several during the last period of the working. His 
miner's instinct assisted him marvelously, and the engineer, 
James Starr, appreciated him highly. It might be said that 
he divined the course of seams in the depths of the coal mine 
as a hydroscope reveals springs in the bowels of the earth. 
He was par excellence the type of a miner whose whole 
existence is indissolubly connected with that of his mine. 
He had lived there from his birth, and now that the works 
were abandoned he wished to live there still. His son 
Harry foraged for the subterranean housekeeping; as for 
himself, during those ten years he had not been ten times 
above ground. 

" Go up there ! What is the good ? " he would say, and 
refused to leave his black domain. The place was remark- 
ably healthy, subject to an equable temperature; the old 
overman endured neither the heat of summer nor the cold 
of winter. His family enjoyed good health; what more 
could he desire? 

But at heart he felt depressed. He missed the former 
animation, movement, and life in the well-worked pit. He 
was, however, supported by one fixed idea. " No, no ! the 
mine is not exhausted ! " he repeated. 

And that man would have given serious offense who 
could have ventured to express before Simon Ford any 
doubt that old Aberfoyle would one day revive! He had 
never given up the hope of discovering some new bed which 
would restore the mine to its past splendor. Yes, he would 
willingly, had it been necessary, have resumed the miner's 
pick, and with his still stout arms vigorously attacked the 
rock. He went through the dark galleries, sometimes 
alone, sometimes with his son, examining, searching for 
signs of coal, only to return each day, wearied, but not in 
despair, to the cottage. 

Madge, Simon's faithful companion, his "gude-wife," 
to use the Scotch term, was a tall, strong, comely woman. 
Madge had no wish to leave the Dochart pit any more than 
had her husband. She shared all his hopes and regrets. 
She encouraged him, she urged him on, and talked to him 
in a way which cheered the heart of the old overman. 
" Aberfoyle is only asleep," she would say. ' You are 
right about that, Simon. This is but a rest, it is not death ! " 



300 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

Madge, as well as the others, was perfectly satisfied to 
live independent of the outer world, and was the center of 
the happiness enjoyed by the little family in their dark 
cottage. 

The engineer was eagerly expected. Simon Ford was 
standing at his door, and as soon as Harry's lamp an- 
nounced the arrival of his former viewer he advanced to 
meet him. 

" Welcome, Mr. Starr! " he exclaimed, his voice echoing 
under the roof of schist. " Welcome to the old overman's 
cottage! Though it is buried fifteen hundred feet under 
the earth, our house is not the less hospitable." 

"And how are you, good Simon?" asked James Starr, 
grasping the hand which his host held out to him. 

" Very well, Mr. Starr. How could I be otherwise here, 
sheltered from the inclemencies of the weather? Your 
ladies who go to Newhaven or Portobello in the summer 
time would do much better to pass a few months in the 
coal mine of Aberfoyle! They would run no risk here of 
catching a heavy cold, as they do in the damp streets of the 
old capital." 

" I'm not the man to contradict you, Simon," answered 
James Starr, glad to find the old man just as he used to be. 
" Indeed, I wonder why I do not change my home in the 
Canongate for a cottage near you." 

"And why not, Mr. Starr? I know one of your old 
miners who would be truly pleased to have only a partition 
wall between you and him." 

" And how is Madge? " asked the engineer. 

The good wife is in better health than I am, if that's 
possible," replied Ford, " and it will be a pleasure to her to 
see you at her table. I think she will surpass herself to 
do you honor." 

"We shall see that, Simon, we shall see that!" said the 
engineer, to whom the announcement of a good breakfast 
could not be indifferent, after his long walk. 

" Are you hungry, Mr. Starr? " 

" Ravenously hungry. My journey has given me an ap- 
petite. I came through horrible weather." 

|| Ah, it is raining up there," responded Simon Ford. 

' Yes, Simon, and the waters of the Forth are as rough 
as the sea." 



THE FORD FAMILY 301 

"Well, Mr. Starr, here it never rains. But I needn't 
describe to you all the advantages, which you know as well 
as myself. Here we are at the cottage. That is the chief 
thing, and I again say you are welcome, sir." 

Simon Ford, followed by Harry, ushered their guest into 
the dwelling. James Starr found himself in a large room 
lighted by numerous lamps, one hanging from the colored 
beams of the roof. 

" The soup is ready, wife," said Ford, " and it mustn't 
be kept waiting any more than Mr. Starr. He is as hungry 
as a miner, and he shall see that our boy doesn't let us 
want for anything in the cottage! By-the-bye, Harry," 
added the old overman, turning to his son, " Jack Ryan 
came here to see you." 

" I know, father. We met him in the Yarrow shaft." 

" He's an honest and a merry fellow," said Ford; "but 
he seems to be quite happy above ground. He hasn't the 
true miner's blood in his veins. Sit down, Mr. Starr, and 
have a good dinner, for we may not sup till late." 

As the engineer and his hosts were taking their places: 

" One moment, Simon," said James Starr. " Do you 
want me to eat with a good appetite ? " 

" It will be doing us all possible honor, Mr. Starr," an- 
swered Ford. 

" Well, in order to eat heartily, I must not be at all 
anxious. Now I have two questions to put to you." 

" Go on, sir." 

"Your letter told me of a communication which was 
to be of an interesting nature." 

" It is very interesting indeed." 

"To you?" 

" To you and to me, Mr. Starr. But I do not want to 
tell it you until after dinner, and on the very spot itself. 
Without that you would not believe me." 

" Simon," resumed the engineer, " look me straight in 
the face. An iritersting communication? Yes. Good! I 
will not ask more," he added, as if he had read the reply in 
the old overman's eyes. 

" And the second question ? " asked the latter. 

" Do you know, Simon, who the person is who can have 
written this ? " answered the engineer, handing him the 
anonymous letter. 



302 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

Ford took the letter and read it attentively. Then giving 
it to his son, "Do you know the writing? " he asked. 

" No, father," replied Harry. 

" And had this letter the Aberfoyle postmark? " inquired 
Simon Ford. 

" Yes, like yours," replied James Starr. 

"What do you think of that, Harry?" said his father, 
his brow darkening. 

" I think, father," returned Harry, " that someone has 
had some interest in trying to prevent Mr. Starr from com- 
ing to the place where you invited him." 

" But who," exclaimed the old miner, " who could have 
possibly guessed enough of my secret? " And Simon fell 
into a reverie, from which he was aroused by his wife. 

" Let us begin, Mr. Starr," she said. " The soup is al- 
ready getting cold. Don't think any more of that letter just 



now." 



On the old woman's invitation, each drew in his chair, 
James Starr opposite to Madge to do him honor the 
father and son opposite to each other. It was a good 
Scotch dinner. First they ate " hotchpotch," soup with 
the meat swimming in capital broth. As old Simon said., 
his wife knew no rival in the art of preparing hotchpotch. 
It was the same with the " cockyleeky," a cock stewed with 
leeks, which merited high praise. The whole was washed 
down with excellent ale, obtained from the best brewery in 
Edinburgh. 

But the principal dish consisted of a " haggis," the na- 
tional pudding, made of meat and barley meal. This re- 
markable dish, which inspired the poet Burns with one of 
his best odes, shared the fate of all the good things in this 
world it passed away like a dream. 

Madge received the sincere compliments of her guest. 
The dinner ended with cheese and oatcake, accompanied by 
a few small glasses of " usquebaugh," capital whisky, five 
and twenty years old just Harry's age. The repast lasted 
a good hour. James Starr and Simon Ford had not only 
eaten much, but talked much too, chiefly of their past life 
in the old Aberfoyle mine. 

Harry had been rather silent. Twice he had left the 
table, and even the house. He evidently felt uneasy since 
the incident of the stone, and wished to examine the environs 



THE FORD FAMILY 303 

of the cottage. The anonymous letter had not contributed 
to reassure him. 

Whilst he was absent, the engineer observed to Ford and 
his wife, " That's a fine lad you have there, my friends." 

" Yes, Mr. Starr, he is a good and affectionate son," re- 
plied the old overman earnestly. 

" Is he happy with you in the cottage ? " 

" He would not wish to leave us." 

"Don't you think of finding him a wife, some day?" 

"A wife for Harry," exclaimed Ford. "And who 
would it be? A girl from up yonder, who would love 
merry-makings and dancing, who would prefer her clan to 
our mine ! Harry wouldn't do it ! " 

" Simon," said Madge, " you would not forbid that 
Harry should take a wife." 

" I would forbid nothing," returned the old miner, " but 
there's no hurry about that. Who knows but we may find 
one for him " 

Harry re-entered at that moment, and Simon Ford was 
silent. 

When Madge rose from the table, all followed her 
example, and seated themselves at the door of the cottage. 
"Well, Simon," said the engineer, "I am ready to hear 
you." 

" Mr. Starr/' responded Ford, " I do not need your ears, 
but your legs. Are you quite rested ? " 

" Quite rested and quite refreshed, Simon. I am ready 
to go with you wherever you like." 

" Harry," said Simon Ford, turning to his son, " light 
our safety lamps." 

" Are you going to take safety lamps ! " exclaimed James 
Starr, in amazement, knowing that there was no fear of 
explosions of fire-damp in a pit quite empty of coal. 

' Yes, Mr. Starr, it will be prudent" 

" My good Simon, won't you propose next to put me in 
a miner's dress? " 

" Not just yet, sir, not just yet ! " returned the old over- 
man, his deep-set eyes gleaming strangely. 

Harry soon reappeared, carrying three safety lamps. He 
handed one of these to the engineer, the other to his father, 
and kept the third hanging from his left hand, whilst his 
right was armed with a long stick. 



3 o 4 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

" Forward! " said Simon Ford, taking up a strong pick, 
which was leaning against the wall of the cottage. 

" Forward ! " echoed the engineer. " Good-by, Madge/' 

" God speed you ! " responded the good woman. 

"A good supper, wife, do you hear?" exclaimed Ford. 
" We shall be hungry when we come back, and will do it 
justice ! " 

CHAPTER V 

SOME STRANGE PHENOMENA 

MANY superstitious beliefs exist 'both in the Highlands 
and Lowlands of Scotland. Of course the mining: popula- 
tion must furnish its contingent of legends and fables to 
this mythological repertory. If the fields are peopled with 
imaginary beings, either good or bad, with much more rea- 
son must the dark mines be haunted to their lowest depths. 
Who shakes the seam during tempestuous nights? who puts 
the miners on the track of an as yet unworked vein? who 
lights the fire-damp, and presides over the terrible explo- 
sions? who but some spirit of the mine? This, at least, 
was the opinion commonly spread among the superstitious 
Scotch. 

In the first rank of the believers in the supernatural in 
the Dochart pit figured Jack Ryan, Harry's friend. He 
was the great partisan of all these superstitions. All these 
wild stories were turned by him into songs, which earned 
him great applause in the winter evenings. 

But Jack Ryan was not alone in his belief. His com- 
rades affirmed, no less strongly, that the Aberfoyle pits 
were haunted, and that certain strange beings were seen 
there frequently, just as in the Highlands. To hear them 
talk, it would have been more extraordinary if nothing 
of the kind appeared. Could ther$ indeed be a better place 
than a dark and deep coal mine for the freaks of fairies, 
elves, goblins, and other actors in the fantastical dramas? 
The scenery was all ready, why should not the supernatural 
personages come there to play their parts? 

So reasoned Jack Ryan and his comrades in the Aber- 
foyle mines. We have said that the different pits com- 
municated with each other by means of long subterranean 
galleries. Thus there existed beneath the county of Stir- 



SOME STRANGE PHENOMENA 305 

ling a vast tract, full of burrows, tunnels, bored with caves, 
and perforated with shafts, a subterranean labyrinth, which 
might be compared to an enormous ant-hill. 

Miners, though belonging to different pits, often met, 
when going to or returning from their work. Conse- 
quently there was a constant opportunity of exchanging 
talk, and circulating the stories which had their origin in 
the mine, from one pit to another. These accounts were 
transmitted with marvelous rapidity, passing from mouth 
to mouth, and gaining in wonder as they went. 

Two men, however, better educated and with more prac- 
tical minds than the rest, had always resisted this tempta- 
tion. They in no degree believed in the intervention of 
spirits, elves, or goblins. These two were Simon Ford and 
his son. And they proved it by continuing to inhabit the 
dismal crypt, after the desertion of the Dochart pit. Per- 
haps good Madge, like every Highland woman, had some 
leaning towards the supernatural. But she had to repeat 
all these stories to herself, and so she did, most conscien- 
tiously, so as not to let the old traditions be lost. 

Even had Simon and Harry Ford been as credulous 
as their companions, they would not have abandoned the 
mine to the imps and fairies. For ten years, without miss- 
ing a single day, obstinate and immovable in their convic- 
tions, the father and son took their picks, their sticks, and 
their lamps. They went about searching, sounding the 
rock with a sharp blow, listening if it would return a favor- 
able sound. So long as the soundings had not been pushed 
to the granite of the primary formation, the Fords were 
agreed that the search, unsuccessful to-day, might succeed 
to-morrow, and that it ought to be resumed. They spent 
their whole life in endeavoring to bring Aberfoyle back to 
its former prosperity. If the father died before the hour 
of success, the son was to go on with the task alone. 

It was during these excursions that Harry was more 
particularly struck by certain phenomena, which he vainly 
sought to explain. Several times, while walking along 
some narrow cross-alley, he seemed to hear sounds similar 
to those which would be produced by violent blows of a 
pickax against the wall. 

Harry hastened to seek the cause of this mysterious work. 
The tunnel was empty. The light from the young miner's 

V. IX Vrne 



3 o6 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

lamp, thrown on the wall, revealed no trace of any recent 
work with pick or crowbar. Harry would then ask him- 
self if it was not the effect of some acoustic illusion, or 
some strange and fantastic echo. At other times, on sud- 
denly throwing a bright light into a suspicious-looking cleft 
in the rock, he thought he saw a shadow. He rushed for- 
ward. Nothing, and there was no opening to permit a 
human being to evade his pursuit ! 

Twice in one month, Harry, whilst visiting the west end 
of the pit, distinctly heard distant reports, as if some miner 
had exploded a charge of dynamite. The second time, 
after many careful researches, he found that a pillar had 
just been blown up. 

By the light of his lamp, Harry carefully examined the 
place attacked by the explosion. It had not been made in 
a simple embankment of stones, but in a mass of schist, 
which had penetrated to this depth in the coal stratum. Had 
the object of the explosion been to discover a new vein? 
Or had someone wished simply to destroy this portion of 
the mine? Thus he questioned, and when he made known 
this occurrence to his father, neither could the old over- 
man nor he himself answer the question in a satisfactory 
way. 

" It is very queer," Harry often repeated. " The pres- 
ence of an unknown being in the mine -seems impossible, 
and yet there can be no doubt about it. Does someone 
besides ourselves wish to find out if a seam yet exists? Or, 
rather, has he attempted to destroy what remains of the 
Aberfoyle mines? But for what reason? I will find that 
out, if it should cost me my life! " 

A fortnight before the day on which Harry Ford guided 
the engineer through the labyrinth of the Dochart pit, he 
had been on the point of attaining the object of his search. 
He was going over the southwest end of the mine, with a 
large lantern in his hand. All at once, it seemed to him 
that a light was suddenly extinguished, some hundred feet 
before him, at the end of a narrow passage cut obliquely 
through the rock. He darted forward. 

His search was in vain. As Harry would not admit a 
supernatural explanation for a physical occurrence, he con- 
cluded that certainly some strange being prowled about in 
the pit. But whatever he could do, searching with the great- 



SOME STRANGE PHENOMENA 307 

est care, scrutinizing every crevice in the gallery, he found 
nothing for his trouble. 

If Jack Ryan and the other superstitious fellows in the 
mine had seen these lights, they would, without fail, have 
called them supernatural, but Harry did not dream of doing 
so, nor did his father. And when they talked over these 
phenomena, evidently due to a physical cause, " My lad," the 
old man would say, " we must wait. It will all be explained 
some day." 

However, it must be observed that, hitherto, neither 
Harry nor his father had ever been exposed to any act of 
violence. If the stone which had fallen at the feet of Tames 
Starr had been thrown by the hand of some ill-disposed per- 
son, it was the first criminal act of that description. 

James Starr was of opinion that the stone had become 
detached from the roof of the gallery; but Harry would 
not admit of such a simple explanation. According to him, 
the stone had not fallen, it had been thrown ; for otherwise, 
without rebounding, it could never have described a trajec- 
tory as it did. 

Harry saw in it a direct attempt against himself and his 
father, or even against the engineer. 



CHAPTER VI 



SIMON FORD'S EXPERIMENT 



THE old clock in the cottage struck one as James Starr 
and his two companions went out. A dim light penetrated 
through the ventilating shaft into the glade. Harry's lamp 
was not necessary here, but it would very soon be of use, 
for the old overman was about to conduct the engineer to the 
very end of the Dochart pit. 

After following the principal gallery for a distance of two 
miles, the three explorers for, as will be seen, this was a 
regular exploration arrived at the entrance of a narrow 
tunnel. It was like a nave, the roof of which rested on 
woodwork, covered with white moss. It followed very 
nearly the line traced by the course of the river Forth, fifteen 
hundred feet above. 

"So we are going to the end of the last vein?" said 
James Starr. 



3 o8 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

" Ay ! You know the mine well still." 

"Well, Simon/' returned the engineer, " it will be, diffi- 
cult to go further than that, if I don't mistake." 

" Yes, indeed, Mr. Starr. That was where our picks tore 
out the last bit of coal in the seam. I remember it as if 
it were yesterday. I myself gave that last blow, and it 
re-echoed in my heart more dismally than on the rock. 
Only sandstone and schist were round us after that, and 
when the truck rolled towards the shaft, I followed, with 
my heart as full as though it were a funeral. It seemed 
to me that the soul of the mine was going with it." 

The gravity with which the old man uttered these words 
impressed the engineer, who was not far from sharing his 
sentiments. They were those of the sailor who leaves his 
disabled vessel of the proprietor who sees the house of 
his ancestors pulled down. He pressed Ford's hand; but 
now the latter seized that of the engineer, and, wringing it : 

" That day we were all of us mistaken," he exclaimed. 
" No ! The old mine was not dead. It was not a corpse 
that the miners abandoned; and I dare to assert, Mr. Starr, 
that its heart beats still." 

" Speak, Ford ! Have you discovered a new vein ? " cried 
the engineer, unable to contain himself. " I know you have ! 
Your letter could mean nothing else." 

" Mr. Starr," said Simon Ford, " I did not wish to tell 
any man but yourself." 

" And you did quite right, Ford. But tell me how, by 
what signs, are you sure ? " 

" Listen, sir ! " resumed Simon. " It is not a seam that I 
have found." 

"What is it, then?" 

" Only positive proof that such a seam exists." 

"And the proof?" 

" Could fire-damp issue from the bowels of the earth if 
coal was not there to produce it ? " 

" No, certainly not ! " replied the engineer. " No coal, 
no fire-damp. No effects without a cause." 

" Just as no smoke without fire." 

"And have you recognized the presence of light car- 
buretted hydrogen?" 

" An old miner could not be deceived," answered Ford. 
" I have met with our old enemy, the fire-damp! " 



SIMON FORD'S EXPERIMENT 309 

" But suppose it was another gas," said Starr. " Fire- 
damp is almost without smell, and colorless. It only really 
betrays its presence by an explosion." 

" Mr. Starr," said Simon Ford, " will you let me tell you 
what I have done? Harry had once or twice observed 
something remarkable in his excursions to the west end of 
the mine. Fire, which suddenly went out, sometimes ap- 
peared along the face of the rock or on the embankment of 
the further galleries. How those flames were lighted, I 
could not and cannot say. But they were evidently owing 
to the presence of fire-damp, and to me fire-damp means a 
vein of coal." 

"Did not these fires cause any explosion?" asked the 
engineer quickly. 

" Yes, little partial explosions," replied Ford, " such as I 
used to cause myself when I wished to ascertain the presence 
of fire-damp. Do you remember how formerly it was the 
custom to try to prevent explosions before our good genius, 
Humphry Davy, invented his safety-lamp?" 

" Yes," replied James Starr. " You mean what the 
'monk/ as the men called him, used to do. But I have 
never seen him in the exercise of his duty." 

" Indeed, Mr. Starr, you are too young, in spite of your 
five-and-fifty years, to have seen that. But I, ten years 
older, often saw the last ' monk ' working in the mine. He 
was called so because he wore a long robe like a monk. 
His proper name was the 'fireman.'* At that time there 
was no other means of destroying the bad gas but by dis- 
persing it in little explosions, before its buoyancy had 
collected it in too great quantities in the heights of the gal- 
leries. The monk, as we called him, with his face masked, 
his head muffled up, all his body tightly wrapped in a thick 
felt cloak, crawled along the ground. He could breathe 
down there, when the air was pure ; and with his right hand 
he waved above his head a blazing torch. When the fire- 
damp had accumulated in the air, so as to form a detonating 
mixture, the explosion occurred without being fatal, and, by 
often renewing this operation, catastrophes were prevented. 
Sometimes the ' monk ' was injured or killed in his work, 
then another took his place. This was done in all mines 
until the Davy lamp was universally adopted. But I knew 
the plan, and by its means I discovered the presence of fire- 



310 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

damp, and consequently that of a new seam of coal in the 
Dochart pit." 

Ml that the old overman had related of the so-called 
" monk " or " fireman " was perfectly true. The air in the 
galleries of mines was formerly always purified in the way 
described. 

Fire-damp, marsh-gas, or carburetted hydrogen, is color- 
less, almost scentless ; it burns with a blue flame, and makes 
respiration impossible. The miner could not live in a place 
filled with this injurious gas, any more than one could live in 
a gasometer full of common gas. Moreover, fire-damp, as 
well as the latter, a mixture of inflammable gases, forms a 
detonating mixture as soon as the air unites with it in a 
proportion of eight, and perhaps even five to the hundred. 
When this mixture is lighted by any cause, there is an ex- 
plosion, almost always followed by a frightful catastrophe. 

As they walked on, Simon Ford told the engineer all 
that he had done to attain his object; how he was sure that 
the escape of fire-damp took place at the very end of the 
farthest gallery in its western part, because he had provoked 
small and partial explosions, or rather little flames, enough 
to show the nature of the gab, which escaped in a small jet, 
but with a continuous flow. 

An hour after leaving the cottage, James Starr and his 
two companions had gone a distance of four miles. The 
engineer, urged by anxiety and hope, walked on without 
noticing the length of the way. He pondered over all that 
the old miner had told him, and mentally weighed all the 
arguments which the latter had given in support of his 
belief. He agreed with him in thinking that the continued 
emission of carburetted hydrogen certainly showed the 
existence of a new coal-seam. If it had been merely a sort 
of pocket, full of gas, as it is sometimes found amongst the 
rock, it would soon have been empty, and the phenomenon 
have ceased. But far from that. According to Simon 
Ford, the fire-damp escaped incessantly, and from that fact 
the existence of an important vein might be considered 
certain. Consequently, the riches of the Dochart pit were 
not entirely exhausted. The chief question now was, 
whether this was merely a vein which would yield compara- 
tively little, or a bed occupying a large extent. 

Harry, who preceded his father and the engineer, stopped. 



SIMON FORD'S EXPERIMENT 311 

"Here we are!" exclaimed the old miner. "At last, 
thank Heaven! you are here, Mr. Starr, and we shall soon 
know." The old overman's voice trembled slightly. 

" Be calm, my man ! " said the engineer. " I am as ex- 
cited as you are, but we must not lose time." 

The gallery at this end of the pit widened into a sort of 
dark cave. No shaft had been pierced in this part, and the 
gallery, bored into the bowels of the earth, had no direct 
communication with the surface of the earth. 

James Starr, with intense interest, examined the place in 
which they were standing. On the walls of the cavern the 
marks of the pick could still be seen, and even holes in which 
the rock had been blasted, near the termination of the work- 
ing. The schist was excessively hard, and it had not been 
necessary to bank up the end of the tunnel where the works 
had come to an end. There the vein had failed, between 
the schist and the tertiary sandstone. From this very place 
had been extracted the last piece of coal from the Dochart 
pit. 

" We must attack the dyke," said Ford, raising his pick ; 
" for at the other side of the break, at more or less depth, 
we shall assuredly find the vein, the existence of which I 
assert." 

" And was it on the surface of these rocks that you found 
out the fire-damp? " asked James Starr. 

" Just there, sir," returned Ford, " and I was able to light 
it only by bringing my lamp near to the cracks in the rock. 
Harry has done it as well as I." 

" At what height? " asked Starr. 

" Ten feet from the ground," replied Harry. 

James Starr had seated himself on a rock. A!fter crit- 
ically inhaling the air of the cavern, he gazed at the two 
miners, almost as if doubting their words, decided as they 
were. In fact, carburetted hydrogen is not completely 
scentless, and the engineer, whose sense of smell was very 
keen, was astonished that it had not revealed the presence 
of the explosive gas. At any rate, if the gas had mingled 
at all with the surrounding air, it could only be in a very 
small stream. There was no danger of an explosion, and 
they might without fear open the safety lamp to try the 
experiment, just as the old miner had done before. 

What troubled James Starr was, not lest too much gas 



312 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

mingled with the air, but lest there should be little or none. 

" Could they have been mistaken ? " he murmured. " No : 
these men know what they are about. And yet " 

He waited, not without some anxiety, until Simon Ford's 
phenomenon should have taken place. But just then it 
seemed that Harry, like himself, had remarked the absence 
of the characteristic odor of fire-damp; for he exclaimed in 
an altered voice, "Father, I should say the gas was no 
longer escaping through the cracks ! " 

" No longer ! " cried the old miner and, pressing his 
lips tight together, he snuffed the air several times. 

Then, all at once, with a sudden movement, " Hand me 
your lamp, Harry," he said. 

Ford took the lamp with a trembling hand. He drew 
off the wire gauze case which surrounded the wick, and the 
flame burned in the open air. 

As they had expected, there was no explosion, but, what 
was more serious, there was not even the slight crackling 
which indicates the presence of a small quantity of fire- 
damp. Simon took the stick which Harry was holding, 
fixed his lamp to the end of it, and raised it high above 
his head, up to where the gas, by reason of its buoyancy, 
would naturally accumulate. The flame of the lamp, burn- 
ing straight and clear, revealed no trace of the carburetted 
hydrogen. 

" Close to the wall," said the engineer. 

!< Yes," responded Ford, carrying the lamp to that part 
of the wall at which he and his son had, the evening before, 
proved the escape of gas. 

The old miner's arm trembled whilst he tried to hoist 
the lamp up. ' Take my place, Harry," said he. 

Harry took the stick, and successively presented the lamp 
to the different fissures in the rock; but he shook his head, 
for of that slight crackling peculiar to escaping fire-damp he 
heard nothing. There was no flame. Evidently not a par- 
ticle of gas was escaping through the rock. 

" Nothing! " cried Ford, clenching his fist with a gesture 
rather of anger than disappointment. 

A cry escaped Harry. 

^ What's the matter? " asked Starr quickly. 

' Someone has stopped up the cracks in the schist ! " 

" Is that true? " exclaimed the old miner. 



SIMON FORD'S EXPERIMENT 313 

" Look, father ! " Harry was not mistaken. The ob- 
struction of the fissures was clearly visible by the light of the 
lamp. It had been recently done with lime, leaving on the 
rock a long whitish mark, badly concealed with coal dust. 

" It's he ! " exclaimed Harry. " It can only be he ! " 

" He ? " repeated James Starr in amazement. 

" Yes ! " returned the young man, " that mysterious being 
who haunts our domain, for whom I have watched a hun- 
dred times without baing able to get at him the author, we 
may now be certain, of that letter which was intended to 
hinder you from coming to see my father, Mr. Starr, and 
who finally threw that stone at us in the gallery of the Yar- 
row shaft ! Ah ! there's no doubt about it; there is a man's 
hand in all that!" 

Harry spoke with such energy that conviction came in- 
stantly and fully to the engineer's mind. As to the old over- 
man, he was already convinced. Besides, there they were 
in the presence of an undeniable fact the stopping-up of 
cracks through which gas had escaped freely the night 
before. 

"Take your pick, Harry," cried Ford; "mount on my 
shoulders, my lad ! I am still strong enough to bear you ! " 
The young man understood in an instant. His father 
propped himself up against the rock. Harry got upon his 
shoulders, so that with his pick he could reach the line of 
the fissure. Then with quick sharp blows he attacked it. 
Almost directly afterwards a slight sound was heard, like 
champagne escaping from a bottle a sound commonly ex- 
pressed by the word " puff." 

Harry again seized his lamp, and held it to the opening. 
There was a slight report; and a little red flame, rather 
blue at its outline, flickered over the rock like a Will-o'- 
the-Wisp. 

Harry leaped to the ground, and the old overman, unable 
to contain his joy, grasped the engineer's hands, exclaiming, 
"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! Mr. Starr. The fire-damp 
burns ! the vein is there ! " 






CHAPTER VII 

NEW ABERFOYLE 

THE old overman's experiment had succeeded. Fire- 
damp, it is well known, is only generated in coal seams; 
therefore the existence of a vein of precious combustible 
could no longer be doubted. As to its size and quality, that 
must be determined later. 

"Yes," thought James Starr, "behind that wall lies a 
carboniferous bed, undiscovered by our soundings. It is 
vexatious that all the apparatus of the mine, deserted for 
ten years, must be set up anew. Never mind. We have 
found the vein which was thought to be exhausted, and this 
time it shall be worked to the end ! " 

" Well, Mr. Starr," asked Ford, " wliat do you think of 
our discovery? Was I wrong to trouble you? Are you 
sorry to have paid this visit to the Dochart pit ? " 

" No, no, my old friend ! " answered Starr. " We have 
not lost our time; but we shall be losing it now, if we do 
not return immediately to the cottage. To-morrow we will 
come back here. We will blast this wall with dynamite. 
We will lay open the new vein, and after a series of sound- 
ings, if the seam appears to be large, I will form a new 
Aberfoyle Company, to the great satisfaction of the 
old shareholders. Before three months have passed, the 
first corves full of coal will have been taken from the new 



vein." 



"Well said, sir!" cried Simon Ford. "The old mine 
will grow young again, like a widow who remarries ! The 
bustle of the old days will soon begin with the blows of the 
pick, and mattock, blasts of powder, rumbling of wagons, 
neighing of horses, creaking of machines ! I shall see it all 
again ! I hope, Mr. Starr, that you will not think me too 
old to resume my duties of overman? " 

" No, Simon, no indeed ! You wear better than I do, my 
old friend!" 

" And, sir, you shall be our viewer again. May the new 
working last for many years, and pray Heaven I shall have 
the consolation of dying without seeing the end of it! " 

The old miner was overflowing with joy. James Starr 
fully entered into it; but he let Ford rave for them both. 
Harry alone remained thoughtful. To his memory re- 
curred the succession of singular, inexplicable circumstances 

314 



NEW ABERFOYLE 315 

attending the discovery of the new bed. It made him un- 
easy about the future. 

An hour afterwards, James Starr and his two companions 
were back in the cottage. The engineer supped with good 
appetite, listening with satisfaction to all the plans unfolded 
by the old overman ; and had it not been for his excitement 
about the next day's work, he would never have slept better 
than in the perfect stillness of the cottage. 

The following day, after a substantial breakfast, James 
Starr, Simon Ford, Harry, and even Madge herself, took 
the road already traversed the day before. All looked like 
regular miners. They carried different tools, and some 
dynamite with which to blast the rock. Harry, besides a 
large lantern, took a safety lamp, which would burn for 
twelve hours. It was more than was necessary for the jour- 
ney there and back, including the time for the working 
supposing a working was possible. 

" To work ! to work ! " shouted Ford, when the party 
reached the further end of the passage; and he grasped a 
heavy crowbar and brandished it. 

" Stop one instant," said Starr. " Let us see if any 
change has taken place, and if the fire-damp still escapes 
through the crevices." 

"You are right, Mr. Starr," said Harry. "Whoever 
stopped it up yesterday may have done it again to-day ! " 

Madge, seated on a rock, carefully observed the excava- 
tion, and the wall which was to be blasted. 

It was found that everything was just as they left it. 
The crevices had undergone no alteration; the carburetted 
hydrogen still filtered through, though in a small stream, 
which was no doubt because it had had a free passage since 
the day before. As the quantity was so small, it could not 
have formed an explosive mixture with the air inside. 
James Starr and his companions could therefore proceed 
in security. Besides, the air grew purer by rising to the 
heights of the Dochart pit; and the fire-damp, spreading 
through the atmosphere, would not be strong enough to 
make any explosion. 

" To work, then ! " repeated Ford; and soon the rock flew 
in splinters under his skillful blows. The break was chiefly 
composed of pudding-stone, interspersed with sandstone 
schist, such as is most often met with between the coal 



316 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

veins. James Starr picked up some of the pieces, and exam- 
ined them carefully, hoping to discover some trace of coal. 

Starr having chosen the place where the holes were to 
be drilled, they were rapidly bored by Harry. Some cart- 
ridges of dynamite were put into them. As soon as the 
long, tarred safety match was laid, it was lighted on a level 
with the ground. James Starr and his companions then 
went off to some distance. 

" Oh ! Mr. Starr," said Simon Ford, a prey to agitation, 
which he did not attempt to conceal, " never, no, never has 
my old heart beaten so quick before ! I am longing to get 
at the vein ! " 

" Patience, Simon ! " responded the engineer. " You 
don't mean to say that you think you are going to find a 
passage all ready open behind that dyke ? " 

"Excuse me, sir," answered the old overman; "but of 
course I think so ! If there was good luck in the way Harry 
and I discovered this place, why shouldn't the good luck 
go on ? " 

As he spoke, came the explosion. A 1 sound as of thunder 
rolled through the labyrinth of subterranean galleries. Starr, 
Madge, Harry, and Simon Ford hastened towards the spot. 

" Mr. Starr ! Mr. Starr ! " shouted the overman. " Look ! 
the door is broken open ! " 

Ford's comparison was justified by the appearance of an 
excavation, the depth of which could not be calculated. 
Harry was about to spring through the opening; but the 
engineer, though excessively surprised to find this cavity, 
held him back. " Allow time for the air in there to get 
pure," said he. 

" Yes ! beware of the foul air ! " said Simon. 

A quarter of an hour was passed in anxious waiting. 
The lantern was then fastened to the end of a stick, and in- 
troduced into the cave, where it continued to burn with un- 
altered brilliancy. "Now then, Harry, go," said Starr, 
" and we will follow you." 

The opening made by the dynamite was sufficiently large 
to allow a man to pass through. Harry, lamp in hand, en- 
tered unhesitatingly, and disappeared in the darkness. His 
father, mother, and James Starr waited in silence. A min- 
ute which seemed to them much longer passed. Harry 
did not reappear, did not call. Gazing into the opening, 



NEW ABERFOYLE 317 

James Starr could not even see the light of his lamp, which 
ought to have illuminated the dark cavern. 

Had the ground suddenly given way under Harry's feet? 
Had the young miner fallen into some crevice? Could his 
voice no longer reach his companions? 

The old overman, dead to their remonstrances, was about 
to enter the opening, when a light appeared, dim at first, 
but gradually growing brighter, and Harry's voice was 
heard shouting, " Come, Mr. Starr ! come, father ! The road 
to New Aberfoyle is open ! " 

If, by some superhuman power, engineers could have 
raised in a block, a thousand feet thick, all that portion of 
the terrestrial crust which supports the lakes, rivers, gulfs, 
and territories of the counties of Stirling, Dumbarton, and 
Renfrew, they would have found, under that enormous lid, 
an immense excavation, to which but one other in the world 
can be compared the celebrated Mammoth caves of Ken- 
tucky. This excavation was composed of several hundred 
divisions of all sizes and shapes. It might be called a hive 
with numberless ranges of cells, capriciously arranged, but 
a hive on a vast scale, and which, instead of bees, might 
have lodged all the ichthyosauri y megatheriums, and ptero- 
dactyles of the geological epoch. 

A labyrinth of galleries, some higher than the most lofty 
cathedrals, others like cloisters, narrow and winding these 
following a horizontal line, those on an incline or running 
obliquely in all directions connected the caverns and al- 
lowed free communication between them. 

The pillars sustaining the vaulted roofs, whose curves 
allowed of every style, the massive walls between the pas- 
sages, the naves themselves in this layer of secondary 
formation, were composed of sandstone and schistous rocks. 
But tightly packed between these useless strata ran valuable 
veins of coal, as if the black blood of this strange mine had 
circulated through their tangled network. These fields ex- 
tended forty miles north and south, and stretched even 
under the Caledonian Canal. The importance of this bed 
could not be calculated until after soundings, but it would 
certainly surpass those of Cardiff and Newcastle. 

We may add that the working of this mine would be 
singularly facilitated by the fantastic dispositions of the sec- 
ondary earths; for by an unaccountable retreat of the min- 



3 i8 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

eral matter at the geological epoch, when the mass was 
solidifying, nature had already multiplied the galleries and 
tunnels of New Aberfoyle. 

Yes, nature alone! It might at first hare been supposed 
that some works abandoned for centuries had been discov- 
ered afresh. Nothing of the sort. No one would have 
deserted such riches. Human termites had never gnawed 
away this part of the Scottish subsoil; nature herself had 
done it all. But, we repeat, it could be compared to nothing 
but the celebrated Mammoth .caves, which, in an extent of 
more than twenty miles, contain two hundred and twenty- 
six avenues, eleven lakes, seven rivers, eight cataracts, thirty- 
two unfathomable wells, and fifty-seven domes, some of 
which are more than four hundred and fifty feet in height. 
Like these caves, New Aberfoyle was not the work of men, 
but the work of the Creator. 

Such was this new domain, of matchless wealth, the dis- 
covery of which belonged entirely to the old overman. Ten 
years' sojourn in the deserted mine, an uncommon perti- 
nacity in research, perfect faith, sustained by a marvelous 
mining instinct all these qualities together led him to suc- 
ceed where so many others had failed. Why had the sound- 
ings made under the direction of James Starr during the 
last years of the working stopped just at that limit, on the 
very frontier of the new mine ? That was all chance, which 
takes great part in researches of this kind. 

However that might be, there was, under the Scottish 
subsoil, what might be called a subterranean county, which, 
to be habitable, needed only the rays of the sun, or, for 
want of that, the light of a special planet. 

Water had collected in various hollows, forming vast 
ponds, or rather lakes larger than Loch Katrine, lying just 
above them. Of course the waters of these lakes had no 
movement of currents or tides; no old castle was reflected 
there; no birch or oak trees waved on their banks. And 
yet these deep lakes, whose mirror-like surface was never 
ruffled by a breeze, would not be without charm by the light 
of some electric star, and, connected by a string of canals, 
would well complete the geography of this strange domain. 

Although unfit for any vegetable production, the place 
could be inhabited by a whole population. And who knows 
but that in this steady temperature, in the depths of the 



NEW ABERFOYLE 319 

mines of Aberfoyle, as well as in those of Newcastle, Alloa, 
or Cardiff when their contents shall have been exhausted 
who knows but that the poorer classes of Great Britain 
will some day find a refuge ? 



CHAPTER VIII 

EXPLORING 

AT Harry's call, James Starr, Madge, and Simon Ford 
entered through the narrow orifice which put the Dochart 
pit in communication with the new mine. They found 
themselves at the beginning of a tolerably wide gallery. 
One might well believe that it had been pierced by the hand 
of man, that the pick and mattock had emptied it in the 
working of a new vein. The explorers question whether, 
by a strange chance, they had not been transported into 
some ancient mine, of the existence of which even the oldest 
miners in the county had ever known. 

No! It was merely that the geological layers had left 
this passage when the secondary earths were in course of 
formation. Perhaps some torrent had formerly dashed 
through it; but now it was as dry as if it had been cut some 
thousand feet lower, through granite rocks. At the same 
time, the air circulated freely, which showed that certain 
natural vents placed it in communication with the exterior 
atmosphere. 

This observation, made by the engineer, was correct, and 
it was evident that the ventilation of the new mine would 
be easily managed. As to the fire-damp which had lately 
filtered through the schist, it seemed to have been contained 
in a pocket now empty, and it was certain that the atmos- 
phere of the gallery was quite free from it. However, 
Harry prudently carried only the safety lamp, which would 
insure light for twelve hours. 

James Starr and his companions now felt perfectly happy. 
All their wishes were satisfied. There was nothing: but coal 
around them. A sort of emotion kept them silent; even 
Simon Ford restrained himself. His joy overflowed, not 
in long phrases, but in short ejaculations. 

It was perhaps imprudent to venture so far into the crypt. 
Pooh! they never thought of how they were to get back. 



320 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

The gallery was practicable, not very winding. They met 
with no noxious exhalations, nor did any chasm bar the 
path. There was no reason for stopping for a whole hour; 
James Starr, Madge, Harry, and Simon Ford walked on, 
though there was nothing to show them what was the exact 
direction of this unknown tunnel. 

And they would no doubt have gone farther still, if they 
had not suddenly come to the end of the wide road which 
they had followed since their entrance into the mine. 

The gallery ended in an enormous cavern, neither the 
height nor depth of which could be calculated. At what 
altitude arched the roof of this excavation at what dis- 
tance was its opposite wall the darkness totally concealed; 
but by the light of the lamp the explorers could discover 
that its dome covered a vast extent of still water pond or 
lake whose picturesque rocky banks were lost in ob- 
scurity. 

" Halt ! " exclaimed Ford, stopping suddenly. " Another 
step, and perhaps we shall fall into some fathomless pit." 

" Let us rest awhile, then, my friends," returned the en- 
gineer. " Besides, we ought to be thinking of returning to 
the cottage." 

" Our lamp will give light for another ten hours, sir," 
said Harry. 

" Well, let us make a halt," replied Starr; " I confess my 
legs have need of a rest. And you, Madge, don't you 
feel tired after so long a walk? " 

" Not over much, Mr. Starr," replied the sturdy Scotch- 
woman ; " we have been accustomed to explore the old 
Aberfoyle mine for whole days together." 

"Tired? nonsense!" interrupted Simon Ford; "Madge 
could go ten times as far, if necessary. But once more, 
Mr. Starr, wasn't my communication worth your trouble 
in coming to hear it? Just dare to say no, Mr. Starr, dare 
to say no!" 

" Well, my old friend, I haven't felt so happy for a long 
while!" replied the engineer; "the small part of this mar- 
velous mine that we have explored seems to show that its 
extent is very considerable, at least in length." 

" In width and in depth, too, Mr. Starr! " returned Simon 
Ford. 

" That we shall know later." 



EXPLORING 321 

" And I can answer for it ! Trust to the instinct of an 
old miner ! It has never deceived me ! " 

" I wish to believe you, Simon," replied the engineer, 
smiling. " As far as I can judge from this short explora- 
tion, we possess the elements of a working which will last 
for centuries ! " 

"Centuries!" exclaimed Simon Ford; "I believe you, 
sir! A thousand years and more will pass before the last 
bit of coal is taken out of our new mine! " 

" Heaven grant it! " returned Starr. " As to the quality 
of the coal which crops out of these walls? " 

"Superb! Mr. Starr, superb!" answered Ford; "just 
look at it yourself!" 

And so saying, with his pick he struck off a fragment of 
the black rock. 

" Look ! look ! " he repeated, holding it close to his lamp ; 
"the surface of this piece of coal is shining! We have 
here fat coal, rich in bituminous matter; and see how it 
comes in pieces, almost without dust! Ah, Mr. Starr! 
twenty years ago this seam would have entered into a strong 
competition with Swansea and Cardiff! Well, stokers will 
quarrel for it still, and if it costs little to extract it from 
the mine, it will not sell at a less price outside." 

" Indeed," said Madge, who had taken the fragment of 
coal and was examining it with the air of a connoisseur; 
" that's good quality of coal. Carry it home, Simon, carry 
it back to the cottage! I want this first piece of coal to 
burn under our kettle." 

" Well said, wife! " answered the old overman, " and you 
shall see that I am not mistaken." 

" Mr. Starr," asked Harry, " have you any idea of the 
probable direction of this long passage which we have been 
following since our entrance into the new mine? " 

"No, my lad," replied the engineer; "with a compass 
I could perhaps find out its general bearing; but without 
a compass I am here like a sailor in open sea, in the midst 
of fogs, when there is no sun by which to calculate his po- 
sition." 

"No doubt, Mr. Starr," replied Ford; "but pray don't 
compare our position with that of the sailor, who has every- 
where and always an abyss under his feet! We are on 

firm ground here, and need never be afraid of foundering." 
V. IX Verne 



322 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

" I won't tease you, then, old Simon," answered James 
Starr. " Far be it from me even in jest to depreciate the 
New Aberfoyle mine by an unjust comparison! I only 
meant to say one thing, and that is that we don't know 
where we are." 

"We are in the subsoil of the county of Stirling, Mr. 
Starr," replied Simon Ford; "and that I assert as if " 

"Listen!" said Harry, interrupting the old man. All 
listened, as the young miner was doing. His ears, which 
were very sharp, had caught a dull sound, like a distant 
murmur. His companions were not long in hearing it them- 
selves. It was above their heads, a sort of rolling sound, 
in which though it was so feeble, the successive crescendo 
and diminuendo could be distinctly heard. 

All four stood for some minutes, their ears on the stretch, 
without uttering a word. All at once Simon Ford ex- 
claimed, " Well, I declare! Are trucks already running on 
the rails of New Aberfoyle?" 

" Father," replied Harry, " it sounds to me just like the 
noise made by waves rolling on the sea shore." 

" We can't be under the sea though ! " cried the old over- 
man. 

" No," said the engineer, " but it is not impossible that 
we should be under Loch Katrine." 

" The roof cannot have much thickness just here, if the 
noise of the water is perceptible." 

" Very little indeed," answered James Starr, " and that is 
the reason this cavern is so huge." 

:< You must be right, Mr. Starr," said Harry. 

" Besides, the weather is so bad outside," resumed Starr, 
" that the waters of the loch must be as rough as those of 
the Firth of Forth." 

"Well! what does it matter after all?" returned Simon 
Ford ; " the seam won't be any the worse because it is under 
a loch. It would not be the first time that coal has been 
looked for under the very bed of the ocean! When we 
have to work under the bottom of the Caledonian Canal, 
where will be the harm? " 

" Well said, Simon," cried the engineer, who could not 
restrain a smile at the overman's enthusiasm ; " let us cut 
our trenches under the waters of the sea ! Let us bore the 
bed of the Atlantic like a strainer; let us with our picks join 



EXPLORING 323 

our brethren of the United States through the subsoil of 
the ocean! let us dig into the center of the globe if neces- 
sary, to tear out the last scrap of coal." 

" Are you joking, Mr. Starr? " asked Ford, with a pleased 
but slightly suspicious look. 

" I joking, old man? no! but you are so enthusiastic that 
you carry me away into the regions of impossibility ! Come, 
let us return to the reality, which is sufficiently beautiful; 
leave our picks here, where we may find them another day, 
and let's take the road back to the cottage/' 

Nothing more could be done for the time. Later, the 
engineer, accompanied by a brigade of miners, supplied with 
lamps and all necessary tools, would resume the exploration 
of New Aberfoyle. It was now time to return to the 
Dochart pit. The road was easy, the gallery running nearly 
straight through the rock up to the orifice opened by the 
dynamite, so there was no fear of their losing themselves. 

But as James Starr was proceeding towards the gallery 
Simon Ford stopped him. 

" Mr. Starr," said he, " you see this immense cavern, 
this subterranean lake, whose waters bathe this strand at 
our feet? Well! it is to this place I mean to change my 
dwelling, here I will build a new cottage, and if some brave 
fellows will follow my example, before a year is over there 
will be one town more inside old England." 

James Starr, smiling approval of Ford's plans, pressed 
his hand, and all three, preceding Madge, re-entered the 
gallery, on their way back to the Dochart pit. For the first 
mile no incident occurred. Harry walked first, holding his 
lamp above his head. He carefully followed the principal 
gallery, without ever turning aside into the narrow tunnels 
which radiated to the right and left. It seemed as if the 
returning was to be accomplished as easily as the going, 
when an unexpected accident occurred which rendered the 
situation of the explorers very serious. 

Just at a moment when Harry was raising his lamp there 
came a rush of air, as if caused by the flapping of invisible 
wings. The lamp escaped from his hands, fell on the rocky 
ground, and was broken to pieces. 

James Starr and his companions were suddenly plunged 
in absolute darkness. All the oil of the lamp was spilt, and 
it was of no further use. " Well, Harry," cried his father, 



324 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

" do you want us all to break our necks on the way back 
to the cottage?" 

Harry did not answer. He wondered if he ought to sus- 
pect the hand of a mysterious being in this last accident? 
Could there possibly exist in these depths an enemy whose 
unaccountable antagonism would one day create serious dif- 
ficulties? Had someone an interest in defending the new 
coal field against any attempt at working it? In truth that 
seemed absurd, yet the facts spoke for themselves, and they 
accumulated in such a way as to change simple presumptions 
into certainties. 

In the meantime the explorers' situation was bad enough. 
They had now, in the midst of black darkness, to follow 
the passage leading to the Dochart pit for nearly five miles. 
There they would still have an hour's walk before reaching 
the cottage. 

" Come along," said Simon Ford. " We have no time to 
lose. We must grope our way along, like blind men. 
There's no fear of losing our way. The tunnels which open 
off our road are only just like those in a molehill, and by 
following the chief gallery we shall of course reach the open- 
ing we got in at. After that, it is the old mine. We know 
that, and it won't be the first time that Harry and I have 
found ourselves there in the dark. Besides, there we shall 
find the lamps that we left. Forward then! Harry, go 
first. Mr. Starr, follow him. Madge, you go next, and I 
will bring up the rear. Above everything, don't let us get 
separated." 

All complied with the old overman's instructions. As 
he said, by groping carefully, they could not mistake the 
way. It was only necessary to make the hands take the 
place of the eyes, and to trust to their instinct, which had 
with Simon Ford and his son become a second nature. 

James Starr and his companions walked on in the order 
agreed. They did not speak, but it was not for want of 
thinking. It became evident that they had an adversary. 
But what was he, and how were they to defend themselves 
against these mysteriously-prepared attacks? These dis- 
quieting ideas crowded into their brains. However, this 
was not the moment to get discouraged. 

Harry, his arms extended, advanced with a firm step, 
touching first one and then the other side of the passage. 



EXPLORING 325 

If a cleft or side opening presented itself, he felt with his 
hand that it was not the main way; either the cleft was too 
shallow, or the opening too narrow, and he thus kept in the 
right road. 

In darkness through which the eye could not in the slight- 
est degree pierce, this difficult return lasted two hours. By 
reckoning the time since they started, taking into considera- 
tion that the walking had not been rapid, Starr calculated 
that he and his companions were near the opening. In 
fact, almost immediately, Harry stopped. 

" Have we got to the end of the gallery? " asked Simon 
Ford. 

" Yes," answered the young miner. 

" Well ! have you not found the hole which connects New 
Aberfoyle with the Dochart pit?" 

" No," replied Harry, whose impatient hands met with 
nothing but a solid wall. 

The old overman stepped forward, and himself felt the 
schistous rock. A cry escaped him. 

Either the explorers had strayed from the right path on 
their return, or the narrow orifice, broken in the rock by the 
dynamite, had been recently stopped up. James Starr and 
his companions were prisoners in New Aberfoyle. 



CHAPTER IX 

THE FIRE-MAIDENS 

A: WEEK after the events just related had taken place, 
James Starr's friends had become very anxious. The en- 
gineer had disappeared, and no reason could be brought 
forward to explain his absence. They learnt, by question- 
ing his servant, that he had embarked at Granton Pier. But 
from that time there were no traces of James Starr. Simon 
Ford's letter had requested secrecy, and he had said nothing 
of his departure for the Aberfoyle mines. 

Therefore in Edinburgh nothing was talked of but the 
unaccountable absence of the engineer. Sir W. Elphiston, 
the President of the Royal Institution, communicated to his 
colleagues a letter which James Starr had sent him, excus- 
ing himself from being present at the next meeting of the 
society. Two or three others produced similar letters. But 



326 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

though these documents proved that Starr had left Edin- 
burgh which was known before they threw no light on 
what had become of him. Now, on the part of such a man, 
this prolonged absence, so contrary to his usual habits, nat- 
urally first caused surprise, and then anxiety. 

A notice was inserted in the principal newspapers of the 
United Kingdom relative to the engineer James Starr, giv- 
ing a description of him and the date on which he left Edin- 
burgh ; nothing more could be done but to wait. The time 
passed in great anxiety. The scientific world of England 
was inclined to believe that one of its most distinguished 
members had positively disappeared. At the same time, 
when so many people were thinking about James Starr, 
Harry Ford was the subject of no less anxiety. Only, in- 
stead of occupying public attention, the son of the old over- 
man was the cause of trouble alone to the generally cheerful 
mind of Jack Ryan. 

It may be remembered that, in their encounter in the 
Yarrow shaft, Jack Ryan had invited Harry to come a week 
afterwards to the festivities at Irvine. Harry had accepted 
and promised expressly to be there. Jack Ryan knew, hav- 
ing had it proved by many circumstances, that his friend 
was a man of his word. With him, a thing promised was 
a thing done. Now, at the Irvine merry-making, nothing 
was wanting; neither song, nor dance, nor fun of any sort 
nothing but Harry Ford. 

The notice relative to James Starr, published in the 
papers, had not yet been seen by Ryan. The honest fellow 
was therefore only worried by Harry's absence, telling him- 
self that something serious could alone have prevented him 
from keeping his promise. So, the day after the Irvine 
games, Jack Ryan intended to take the railway from Glas- 
gow and go to the Dochart pit ; and this he would have done 
had he not been detained by an accident which nearly cost 
him his life. Something which occurred on the night of 
the 1 2th of December was of a nature to support the opin- 
ions of all partisans of the supernatural, and there were 
many at Melrose Farm. 

Irvine, a little seaport of Renfrew, containing nearly 
seven thousand inhabitants, lies in a sharp bend made by 
the Scottish coast, near the mouth of the Firth of Clyde. 
The most ancient and the most famed ruins on this part 



THE FIRE-MAIDENS 327 

of the coast were those of this castle of Robert Stuart, 
which bore the name of Dundonald Castle. 

At this period Dundonald Castle, a refuge for all the 
stray goblins of the country, was completely deserted. It 
stood on the top of a high rock, two miles from the town, 
and was seldom visited. Sometimes a few strangers took 
it into their heads to explore these old historical remains, 
but then they always went alone. The inhabitants of Irvine 
would not have taken them there at any price. Indeed, 
several legends were based on the story of certain " fire- 
maidens," who haunted the old castle. 

The most superstitious declared they had seen these fan- 
tastic creatures with their own eyes. Jack Ryan was nat- 
urally one of them. It was a fact that from time to time 
long flames appeared, sometimes on a broken piece of wall, 
sometimes on the summit of the tower which was the high- 
est point of Dundonald Castle. 

Did these flames really assume a human shape, as was 
asserted? Did they merit the name of fire-maidens, given 
them by the people of the coast? It was evidently just an 
optical delusion, aided by a good deal of credulity, and 
science could easily have explained the phenomenon. 

However that might be, these fire-maidens had the repu- 
tation of frequenting the ruins of the old castle and there 
performing wild strathspeys, especially on dark nights. 
Jack Ryan, bold fellow though he was, would never have 
dared to accompany those dances with the music of his 
bagpipes. 

" Old Nick is enough for them ! " said he. " He doesn't 
need me to complete his infernal orchestra." 

We may well believe that these strange apparitions fre- 
quently furnished a text for the evening stories. Jack Ryan 
was ending the evening with one of these. His auditors, 
transported into the phantom world, were worked up into 
a state of mind which would believe anything. 

All at once shouts were heard outside. Jack Ryan 
stopped short in the middle of his story, and all rushed out 
of the barn. The night was pitchy dark. Squalls of wind 
and rain swept along the beach. Two or three fishermen, 
their backs against a rock, the better to resist the wind, were 
shouting at the top of their voices. 

Jack Ryan and his companions ran up to them. The 



328 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

shouts were, however, not for the inhabitants of the farm, 
but to warn men who, without being aware of it, were going 
to destruction. A dark, confused mass appeared some way 
out at sea. It was a vessel whose position could be seen by 
her lights, for she carried a white one on her foremast, a 
green on the starboard side, and a red on the outside. She 
was evidently running straight on the rocks. 

" A ship in distress? " said Ryan. 

" Ay," answered one of the fishermen, " and now they 
want to tack, but it's too late ! " 

" Do they want to run ashore ? " said another. 

" It seems so," responded one of the fishermen, " unless 
he has been misled by some " 

The man was interrupted by a yell from Jack. Could 
the crew have heard it? At any rate, it was too late for 
them to beat back from the line of breakers which gleamed 
white in the darkness. 

But it was not, as might be supposed, a last effort of 
Ryan's to warn the doomed ship. He now had his back 
to the sea. His companions turned also, and gazed at a 
spot situated about half a mile inland. It was Dundonald 
Castle. A long flame twisted and bent under the gale, on 
the summit of the old tower. 

" The Fire-Maiden ! " cried the superstitious men in ter- 
ror. 

Clearly, it needed a good strong imagination to find any 
human likeness in that flame. Waving in the wind like a 
luminous flag, it seemed sometimes to fly round the tower, 
as if it was just going out, and a moment after it was seen 
again dancing on its blue point. 

" The Fire-Maiden ! the Fire-Maiden ! " cried the terrified 
fishermen and peasants. 

All was then explained. The ship, having lost her reck- 
oning in the fog, had taken this flame on the top of Dun- 
donald Castle for the Irvine light. She thought herself 
at the entrance of the Firth, ten miles to the north, when 
she was really running on a shore which offered no refuge. 

What could be done to save her, if there was still time? 
It was too late. A frightful crash was heard above the 
tumult of the elements. The vessel had struck. The white 
line of surf was broken for an instant; she heeled over on 
her side and lay among the rocks. 






THE FIRE-MAIDENS 329 

r Ai the same time, by a strange coincidence, the long 
flame disappeared, as if it had been swept away by a violent 
gust. Earth, sea, and sky were plunged in complete dark- 
ness. 

" The Fire-Maiden ! " shouted Ryan, for the last time, as 
the apparition, which he and his companions believed super- 
natural, disappeared. But then the courage of these super- 
stitious Scotchmen, which had failed before a fancied dan- 
ger, returned in face of a real one, which they were ready 
to brave in order to save their fellow-creatures. The tem- 
pest did not deter them. As heroic as they had before been 
credulous, fastening ropes round their waists, they rushed 
into the waves to the aid of those on the wreck. 

Happily, they succeeded in their endeavors, although 
some and bold Jack Ryan was among the number were 
severely wounded on the rocks. But the captain of the 
vessel and the eight sailors who composed his crew were 
hauled up, safe and sound, on the beach. 

The ship was the Norwegian brig Motala, laden with tim- 
ber, and bound for Glasgow. Of the Motala herself noth- 
ing remained but a few spars, washed up by the waves, 
and dashed among the rocks on the beach. 

Jack Ryan and three of his companions, wounded like 
himself, were carried into a room of Melrose Farm, where 
every care was lavished on them. Ryan was the most hurt, 
for when with the rope round his waist he had rushed into 
the sea, the waves had almost immediately dashed him back 
against the rocks. He was brought, indeed, very nearly 
lifeless on to the beach. 

The brave fellow was therefore confined to bed for sev- 
eral days, to his great disgust. However, as soon as he 
was given permission to sing as much as he liked, he bore 
his trouble patiently, and the farm echoed all day with his 
jovial voice. But from this adventure he imbibed a more 
lively sentiment of fear with regard to brownies and other 
goblins who amuse themselves by plaguing mankind, and 
he made them responsible for the catastrophe of the Mo- 
tala. It would have been vain to try and convince him that 
the Fire-Maidens did not exist, and that the flame, so sud- 
denly appearing among the ruins, was but a natural phe- 
nomenon. No reasoning could make him believe it. His 
companions were, if possible, more obstinate than he in 



330 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

their credulity. According to them, one of the Fire-Maidens 
had maliciously attracted the Motala to the coast. As to 
wishing to punish her, as well try to bring the tempest to 
justice! The magistrates might order what arrests they 
pleased, but a flame cannot be imprisoned, an impalpable 
being can't be handcuffed. It must be acknowledged that 
the researches which were ultimately made gave ground, 
at least in appearance, to this superstitious way of explain- 
ing the facts. 

The inquiry was made with great care. Officials came 
to Dundonald Castle, and they proceeded to conduct a most 
vigorous search. The magistrate wished first to ascertain 
if the ground bore any footprints, which could be attributed 
to other than goblins' feet. It was impossible to find the 
least trace, whether old or new. Moreover, the earth, still 
damp from the rain of the day before, would have preserved 
the least vestige. 

The result of all this was, that the magistrates only got 
for their trouble a new legend added to so many others - 
a legend which would be perpetuated by the remembrance 
of the catastrophe of the Motala, and indisputably confirm 
the truth of the apparition of the Fire-Maidens. 

A hearty fellow like Jack Ryan, with so strong a con- 
stitution, could not be long confined to his bed. A few 
sprains and bruises were not quite enough to keep him on 
his back longer than he liked. He had not time to be 
ill. 

Jack, therefore, soon got well. As soon as he was on 
his legs again, before resuming his work on the farm, he 
wished to go and visit his friend Harry, and learn why 
he had not come to the Irvine merry-making. He could 
not understand his absence, for Harry was not a man who 
would willingly promise and not perform. It was unlikely, 
too, that the son of the old overman had not heard of the 
wreck of the Motala, as it was in all the papers. He must 
know the part Jack had taken in it, and what had happened 
to him, and it was unlike Harry not to hasten to the farm 
and see how his old chum was going on. 

As Harry had not come, there must have been something 
to prevent him. Jack Ryan would as soon deny the exis- 
tence of the Fire-Maidens as believe in Harry's indifference. 

Two days after the catastrophe Jack left the farm mer- 



THE FIRE-MAIDENS 331 

rily, feeling nothing of his wounds. Singing in the fullness 
of his heart, he awoke the echoes of the cliff, as he walked 
to the station of the railway, which via Glasgow would take 
him to Stirling and Callander. 

As he was waiting for his train, his attention was at- 
tracted by a bill posted up on the walls, containing the fol- 
lowing notice : 

" On the 4th of December, the engineer, James Starr, of 
Edinburgh, embarked from Granton Pier, on board the 
Prince of Wales. He disembarked the same day at Stirling. 
From that time nothing further has been heard of him. 

" Any information concerning him is requested to be sent 
to the President of the Royal Institution, Edinburgh." 

Jack Ryan, stopping before one of these advertisements, 
read it twice over, with extreme surprise. 

" Mr. Starr! " he exclaimed. " Why, on the 4th of De- 
cember I met him with Harry on the ladder of the Dochart 
pit! That was ten days ago! And he has not been seen 
from that time ! That explains why my chum didn't come 
to Irvine." 

And without taking time to inform the President of the 
Royal Institution by letter, what he knew relative to James 
Starr, Jack jumped into the train, determining to go first 
of all to the Yarrow shaft. There he would descend to 
the depths of the pit, if necessary, to find Harry, and with 
him was sure to be the engineer James Starr. 

" They haven't turned up again," said he to himself. 
" Why ? Has anything prevented them ? Could any work 
of importance keep them still at the bottom of the mine? 
I must find out ! " and Ryan, hastening his steps, arrived 
in less than an hour at the Yarrow shaft. 

Externally nothing was changed. The same silence 
around. Not a living creature was moving in that desert 
region. Jack entered the ruined shed which covered the 
opening of the shaft. He gazed down into the dark abyss 
nothing was to be seen. He listened nothing was to 
be heard. 

" And my lamp ! " he exclaimed ; " suppose it isn't in its 
place ! " The lamp which Ryan used when he visited the 
pit was usually deposited in a corner, near the landing of 
the topmost ladder. It had disappeared. 

" Here is a nuisance ! " said Jack, beginning to feel rather 



332 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

uneasy. Then, without hesitating, superstitious though he 
" was, " I will go," said he, " though it's as dark down there 
as in the lowest depths of the infernal regions ! " 

And he began to descend the long flight of ladders, which 
led down the gloomy shaft. Jack Ryan had not forgotten 
his old mining habits, and he was well acquainted with the 
Dochart pit, or he would scarcely have dared to venture 
thus. He went very carefully, however. His foot tried 
each round, as some of them were worm-eaten. A false 
step would entail a deadly fall, through this space of fifteen 
hundred feet. He counted each landing as he passed it, 
knowing that he could not reach the bottom of the shaft 
until he had left the thirtieth. Once there, he would have 
no trouble, so he thought, in finding the cottage, built, as 
we have said, at the extremity of the principal passage. 

Jack Ryan went on thus until he got to the twenty-sixth 
landing, and consequently had two hundred feet between 
him and the bottom. 

Here he put down his leg to feel for the first rung of the 
twenty-seventh ladder. But his foot swinging in space 
found nothing to rest on. He knelt down and felt about 
with his hand for the top of the ladder. It was in vain. 

" Old Nick himself must have been down this way! " said 
Jack, not without a slight feeling of terror. 

He stood considering for some time, with folded arms v 
and longing to be able to pierce the impenetrable darkness. 
Then it occurred to him that if he could not get down, 
neither could the inhabitants of the mine get up. There 
was now no communication between the depths of the pit 
and the upper regions. If the removal of the lower ladders 
of the Yarrow shaft had been effected since his last visit 
to the cottage, what had become of Simon Ford, his wife, 
his son, and the engineer? 

The prolonged absence of James Starr proved that he 
had not left the pit since the day Ryan met with him in 
the shaft. How had the cottage been provisioned since 
then? The food of these unfortunate people, imprisoned 
fifteen hundred feet below the surface of the ground, must 
have been exhausted by this time. 

^ All this passed through Jack's mind, as he saw that by 
himself he could do nothing to get to the cottage. He 
had no doubt but that communication had been interrupted 



THE FIRE-MAIDENS 333 

with a malevolent intention. At any rate, the authorities 
must be informed, and that as soon as possible. 

Jack Ryan bent forward from the landing. 

" Harry ! Harry ! " he shouted with his powerful voice. 

Harry's name echoed and re-echoed among the rocks, 
and finally died away in the depths of the shaft. 

Ryan rapidly ascended the upper ladders and returned 
to the light of day. Without losing a moment he reached 
the Callander station, just caught the express to Edinburgh, 
and by three o'clock was before the Lord Provost. 

There his declaration was received. His account was 
given so clearly that it could not be doubted. Sir William 
Elphiston, President of the Royal Institution, and not only 
colleague, but a personal friend of Starr's, was also in- 
formed, and asked to direct the search which was to be 
made without delay in the mine. Several men were placed 
at his disposal, supplied with lamps, picks, long rope 
ladders, not forgetting provisions and cordials. Then 
guided by Jack Ryan, the party set out for the Aberfoyle 
mines. 

The same evening the expedition arrived at the opening 
of the Yarrow shaft, and descended to the twenty-seventh 
landing, at which Jack Ryan had been stopped a few hours 
previously. The lamps, fastened to long ropes, were low- 
ered down the shaft, and it was thus ascertained that the 
four last ladders were wanting. 

As soon as the lamps had been brought up, the men fixed 
to the landing a rope ladder, which unrolled itself down 
the shaft, and all descended one after the other. Jack 
Ryan's descent was the most difficult, for he went first down 
the swinging ladders, and fastened them for the others. 

The space at the bottom of the shaft was completely de- 
serted ; but Sir William was much surprised at hearing Jack 
Ryan exclaim, " Here are bits of the ladders, and some of 
them half burnt!" 

" Burnt ? " repeated Sir William. " Indeed, here sure 
enough are cinders which have evidently been cold a long 
time!" 

" Do you think, sir," asked Ryan, " that Mr. Starr could 
have had any reason for burning the ladders, and thus 
breaking of communication with the world?" 

"Certainly not," answered Sir William Elphiston, who 



334 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

had become very thoughtful. " Come, my lad, lead us to 
the cottage. There we shall ascertain the truth." 

Jack Ryan shook his head, as if not at all convinced. 
Then, taking a lamp from the hands of one of the men, he 
proceeded with a rapid step along the principal passage of 
the Dochart pit. The others all followed him. 

In a quarter of an hour the party arrived at the excava- 
tion in which stood Simon Ford's cottage. There was no 
light in the window. Ryan darted to the door, and threw 
it open. The house was empty. 

They examined all the rooms in the somber habitation. 
No trace of violence was to be found. All was in order, as 
if old Madge had been still there. There was even an 
ample supply of provisions, enough to last the Ford family 
for several days. 

The absence of the tenants of the cottage was quite un- 
accountable. But was it not possible to find out the exact 
time they had quitted it? Yes, for in this region, where 
there was no difference of day or night, Madge was ac- 
customed to mark with a cross each day in her almanac. 

The almanac was pinned up on the wall, and there the 
last cross had been made at the 6th of December; that is to 
say, a day after the arrival of James Starr, to which Ryan 
could positively swear. It was clear that on the 6th of De- 
cember, ten days ago, Simon Ford, his wife, son, and guest, 
had quitted the cottage. Could a fresh exploration of the 
mine, undertaken by the engineer, account for such a long 
absence? Certainly not. 

It was intensely dark all round. The lamps held by the 
men gave light only just where they were standing. Sud- 
denly Jack Ryan uttered a cry. " Look there, there ! " 

His finger was pointing to a tolerably bright light, which 
was moving about in the distance. " After that ligh:, my 
men ! " exclaimed Sir William. 

" It's a goblin light! " said Ryan. " So what's the use? 
We shall never catch it." 

The president and his men, little given to superstition, 
darted off in the direction of the moving light. Jack Ryan, 
bravely following their example, quickly overtook the head- 
most of the party. 

It was a long and fatiguing chase. The lantern seemed 
to be carried by a being of small size, but singular agility. 



THE FIRE-MAIDENS 335 

Every now and then it disappeared behind some pillar, then 
was seen again at the end of a cross gallery. A sharp turn 
would place it out of sight, and it seemed to have com- 
pletely disappeared, when all at once there would be the light 
as bright as ever. However, they gained very little on it, 
and Ryan's -belief that they could never catch it seemed far 
from groundless. 

After an hour of this vain pursuit Sir William Elphiston 
and his companions had gone a long way in the southwest 
direction of the pit, and began to think they really had to 
do with an impalpable being. Just then it seemed as if 
the distance between the goblin and those who were pursuing 
it was becoming less. Could it be fatigued, or did this in- 
visible being wish to entice Sir William and his companions 
to the place where the inhabitants of the cottage had per- 
haps themselves been enticed. It was hard to say. 

The men, seeing that the distance lessened, redoubled 
their efforts. The light which had before burnt at a dis- 
tance of more than two hundred feet before them was now 
seen at less than fifty. The space continued to diminish. 
The bearer of the lamp became partially visible. Some- 
times, when it turned its head, the indistinct profile of a 
human face could be made out, and unless a sprite could 
assume bodily shape, Jack Ryan was obliged to confess that 
here was no supernatural being. Then, springing for- 
ward, 

" Courage, comrades ! " he exclaimed ; " it is getting tired ! 
We shall soon catch it up now, and if it can- talk as well as 
it can run we shall hear a fine story." 

But the pursuit had suddenly become more difficult. 
They were in unknown regions of the mine; narrow pas- 
sages crossed each other like the windings of a labyrinth. 
The bearer of the lamp might escape them as easily as pos- 
sible, by just extinguishing the light and retreating into 
some dark refuge. 

"And indeed," thought Sir William, "if it wishes to 
avoid us, why does it not do so? " 

Hitherto there had evidently been no intention to avoid 
them, but just as the thought crossed Sir William's mind 
the light suddenly disappeared, and the party, continuing 
the pursuit, found themselves before an extremely narrow 
natural opening in the schistous rocks. 



336 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

To trim their lamps, spring forward, and dart through 
the opening, was for Sir William and his party but the work 
of an instant. But before they had gone a hundred paces 
along this new gallery, much wider and loftier than the 
former, they all stopped short. There, near the wall, lay 
four bodies, stretched on the ground four corpses, per- 
haps! 

" James Starr ! " exclaimed Sir William Elphiston. 

" Harry ! Harry ! " cried Ryan, throwing himself down 
beside his friend. 

It was indeed the engineer, Madge, Simon, and Harry 
Ford who were lying there motionless. But one of the 
bodies moved slightly, and Madge's voice was heard faintly 
murmuring, " See to the others ! help them first ! " 

Sir William, Jack, and their companions endeavored to 
reanimate the engineer and his friends by getting them to 
swallow a few drops of brandy. They very soon succeeded. 
The unfortunate people, shut up in that dark cavern for ten 
days, were dying of starvation. They must have perished 
had they not on three occasions found a loaf of bread and a 
jug of water set near them. No doubt the charitable being 
to whom they owed their lives was unable to do more for 
them. 

Sir William wondered whether this might not have been 
the work of the strange sprite who had allured them to the 
very spot where James Starr and his companions lay. 

However that might be, the engineer, Madge, Simon, 
and Harry Ford were saved. They were assisted to the 
cottage, passing through the narrow opening which the 
bearer of the strange light had apparently wished to point 
out to Sir William. This was a natural opening. The 
passage which James Starr and his companions had made 
for themselves with dynamite had been completely blocked 
up with rocks laid one upon another. 

So, then, whilst they had been exploring the vast cavern, 
the way back had been purposely closed against them by a 
hostile hand. 



CHAPTER X 

COAL TOWN 

THREE years after the events which have just been related, 
the guide-books recommended as a " great attraction," to 
the numerous tourists who roam over the county of Stirling, 
a visit of a few hours to the mines of New Aberfoyle. 

No mine in any country, either in the Old >or New 
World, could present a more curious aspect. 

To begin with, the visitor was transported without danger 
or fatigue to a level with the workings, at fifteen hundred 
feet below the surface of the ground. Seven miles to the 
southwest of Callander opened a slanting tunnel, adorned 
with a castellated entrance, turrets and battlements. This 
lofty tunnel gently sloped straight to the stupendous crypt, 
hollowed out so strangely in the bowels of the earth. 

'A double line of railway, the wagons being moved by 
hydraulic power, plied from hour to hour to and from the 
village thus buried in the subsoil of the county, and which 
bore the rather ambitious title of Coal Town. 

Arrived in Coal Town, the visitor found himself in a 
place where electricity played a principal part as an agent 
of heat and light. Although the ventilation shafts were 
numerous, they were not sufficient to admit much daylight 
into New Aberfoyle, yet it had abundance of light. This 
was shed from numbers of electric discs; some suspended 
from the vaulted roofs, others hanging on the natural pillars 
all, whether suns or stars in size, were fed by continuous 
currents produced from electro-magnetic machines. When 
the hour of rest arrived, an artificial night was easily pro- 
duced all over the mine by disconnecting the wires. 

Below the dome lay a lake of an extent to be compared 
to the Dead Sea of the Mammoth caves a deep lake whose 
transparent waters swarmed with eyeless fish, and to which 
the engineer gave the name of Loch Malcolm. 

There, in this immense natural excavation, Simon Ford 
built his new cottage, which he would not have exchanged 
for the finest house in Prince's Street, Edinburgh. This 
dwelling was situated on the shores of the loch, and its five 
windows looked out on the dark waters, which extended 
further than the eye could see. Two months later a second 
habitation was erected in the neighborhood of Simon Ford's 
cottage : this was for James Starr. The engineer had given 
V. IX Verne 337 



338 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

himself body and soul to New Aberfoyle, and nothing but 
the most imperative necessity ever caused him to leave the 
pit. There, then, he lived in the midst of his mining world. 

On the discovery of the new field, all the old colliers had 
hastened to leave the plow and harrow, and resume the 
pick and mattock. Attracted by the certainty that work 
would never fail, allured by the high wages which the pros- 
perity of the mine enabled the company to offer for labor, 
they deserted the open air for an underground life, and 
took up their abode in the mines. 

The miners' houses, built of brick, soon grew up in a pic- 
turesque fashion; some on the banks of Loch Malcolm, 
others under the arches which seemed made to resist the 
weight that pressed upon them, like the piers of a bridge. 
So was founded Coal Town, situated under the eastern point 
of Loch Katrine, to the north of the county of Stirling. 
It was a regular settlement on the banks of Loch Malcolm. 
A chapel, dedicated to St. Giles, overlooked it from the top 
of a huge rock, whose foot was laved by the waters of the 
subterranean sea. 

When this underground town was lighted up by the 
bright rays thrown from the discs, hung from the pillars 
and arches, its aspect was so strange, so fantastic, that it 
justified the praise of the guide-books, and visitors flocked 
to see it. 

It is needless to say that the inhabitants of Coal Town 
were proud of their place. They rarely left their laboring 
village in that imitating Simon Ford, who never wished to 
go out again. The old overman maintained that it always 
rained " up there," and, considering the climate of the 
United Kingdom, it must be acknowledged that he was 
not far wrong. All the families in New Aberfoyle pros- 
pered well, having in three years obtained a certain com- 
petency which they could never have hoped to attain on 
the surface of the county. Dozens of babies, who were 
born at the time when the works were resumed, had never 
yet breathed the outer air. 

^ This made Jack Ryan remark, " It's eighteen months 
since they were weaned, and they have not yet seen day- 
light!" 

It may be mentioned here, that one of the first to run at 
the engineer's call was Jack Ryan. The merry fellow had 



COAL TOWN 339 

thought it his duty to return to his old trade. But though 
Melrose farm had lost singer and piper it must not be 
thought that Jack Ryan sung no more. On the contrary, 
the sonorous echoes of New Aberfoyle exerted their strong 
lungs to answer him. 

Jack Ryan took up his abode in Simon Ford's new cot- 
tage. They offered him a room, which he accepted without 
ceremony, in his frank and hearty way. Old Madge loved 
him for his fine character and good nature. She in some 
degree shared his ideas on the subject of the fantastic beings 
who were supposed to haunt the mine, and the two, when 
alone, told each other stories wild enough to make one shud- 
der stories well worthy of enriching the hyperborean 
mythology. 

Jack thus became the life of the cottage. He was, be- 
sides being a jovial companion, a good workman. Six 
months after the works had begun, he was made head of a 
gang of hewers. 

" That was a good work done, Mr. Ford," said he, a 
few days after his appointment. " You discovered a new 
field, and though you narrowly escaped paying for the dis- 
covery with your life well, it was not too dearly bought/* 

" No, Jack, it was a good bargain we made that time ! " 
answered the old overman. " But neither Mr. Starr nor I 
have forgotten that to you we owe our lives." 

" Not at all," returned Jack. " You owe them to your 
son Harry, when he had the good sense to accept my in- 
vitation to Irvine." 

" And not to go, isn't that it ? " interrupted Harry, grasp- 
ing his comrade's hand. " No, Jack, it is to you, scarcely 
healed of your wounds to you, who did not delay a day, 
no, nor an hour, that we owe our being found still alive in 
the mine ! " 

" Rubbish, no ! " broke in the obstinate fellow. " I won't 
have that said, when it's no such thing. I hurried to find 
out what had become of you, Harry, that's all. But to give 
everyone his due, I will add that without that unapproach- 
able goblin " 

" Ah, there we are ! " cried Ford. " A goblin ! " 

"A goblin, a brownie, a fairy's child," repeated Jack 
Ryan, " a cousin of the Fire-Maidens, an Urisk, whatever 
you like ! It's not the less certain that without it we should 



340 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

never have found our way into the gallery, from which 
you could not get out." 

" No doubt, Jack," answered Harry. " It remains to be 
seen whether this being was as supernatural as you choose 
to believe." 

" Supernatural ! " exclaimed Ryan. " But it was as 
supernatural as a Will-o'-the-Wisp, who may be seen skip- 
ping along with his lantern in his hand; you may try to 
catch him, but he escapes like a fairy, and vanishes like a 
shadow! Don't be uneasy, Harry, we shall see it again 
some day or other ! " 

"Well, Jack," said Simon Ford, "Will-o'-the-Wisp or 
not, we shall try to find it, and you must help us." 

"You'll get into a scrap if you don't take care, Mr. 
Ford ! " responded Jack Ryan. 

"We'll see about that, Jack!" 

We may easily imagine how soon this domain of New 
Aberfoyle became familiar to all the members of the Ford 
family, but more particularly to Harry. He learnt to 
know all its most secret ins and outs. He could even say 
what point of the surface corresponded with what point 
of the mine. He knew that above this seam lay the Firth 
of Clyde, that there extended Loch Lomond and Loch 
Katrine. Those columns supported a spur of the Gram- 
pian mountains. This vault served as a basement to Dum- 
barton. Above this large pond passed the Balloch railway. 
Here ended the Scottish coast. There began the sea, the 
tumult of which could be distinctly heard during the 
equinoctial gales. Harry would have been a first-rate guide 
to these natural catacombs, and all that Alpine guides do on 
their snowy peaks in daylight he could have done in the 
dark mine by the wonderful power of instinct. 

He loved New Aberfoyle. Many times, with his lamp 
stuck in his hat, did he penetrate its furthest depths. He 
explored its ponds in a skillfully-managed canoe. He even 
went shooting, for numerous birds had been introduced 
into the crypt pintails, snipes, ducks, who fed on the fish 
which swarmed in the deep waters. Harry's eyes seemed 
made for the dark, just as a sailor's are made for distances. 

But all this while Harry felt irresistibly animated by the 
hope of finding the mysterious being whose intervention, 
strictly speaking, had saved himself and his friends. Would 



COAL TOWN 341 

he succeed? He certainly would, if presentiments were to 
be trusted; but certainly not, if he judged by the success 
which had as yet attended his researches. 

The attacks directed against the family of the old over- 
man, before the discovery of New Aberfoyle, had not been 
renewed. 

CHAPTER XI 

HANGING BY A THREAD 

ALTHOUGH in this way the Ford family led a happy and 
contented life, yet it was easy to see that Harry, naturally 
of a grave disposition, became more and more quiet and 
reserved. Even Jack Ryan, with all his good humor and 
usually infectious merriment, failed to rouse him to gayety 
of manner. 

One Sunday it was in the month of June the two 
friends were walking together on the shores of Loch Mal- 
colm. Coal Town rested from labor. In the world above, 
stormy weather prevailed. Violent rains fell, and dull 
sultry vapors brooded over the earth; the atmosphere was 
most oppressive. 

Down in Coal Town there was perfect calm ; no wind, no 
rain. A soft and pleasant temperature existed instead of 
the strife of the elements which raged without. What 
wonder then, that excursionists from Stirling came in con- 
siderable numbers to enjoy the calm fresh air in the recesses 
of the mine? 

The electric discs shed a brilliancy of light which the 
British sun, oftener obscured by fogs than it ought to be, 
might well envy. Jack Ryan kept talking of these visitors, 
who passed them in noisy crowds, but Harry paid very little 
attention to what he said. 

" I say, do look, Harry ! " cried Jack. " See what num- 
bers of people come to visit us ! Cheer up, old fellow ! Do 
the honors of the place a little better. If you look so glum, 
you'll make all these outside folks think you envy their life 
above-ground." 

" Never mind me, Jack," answered Harry. " You are 
jolly enough for two, I'm sure ; that's enough." 

" I'll be hanged if I don't feel your melancholy creeping 
over me though ! " exclaimed Jack. " I declare my eyes 



342 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

are getting quite dull, my lips are drawn together, my laugh 
sticks in my throat; I'm forgetting all my songs. Come, 
man, what's the matter with you? " 

" You know well enough, Jack," 

"What? the old story?" 

" Yes, the same thoughts haunt me." 

" Ah, poor fellow ! " said Jack, shrugging his shoulders. 
"If you would only do like me, and set all the queer things 
down to the account of the goblins of the mine, you would 
be easier in your mind!" 

" But, Jack, you know very well that these goblins exist 
only in your imagination, and that, since the works here 
have been reopened, not a single one has been seen." 

"That's true, Harry; but if no spirits have been seen, 
neither has anyone else to whom you could attribute the 
extraordinary doings we want to account for." 

" I shall discover them." 

" Ah, Harry ! Harry ! it's not so easy to catch the spirits 
of NewAberfoyle!" 

" I shall find out the spirits as you call them," said Harry, 
in a tone of firm conviction. 

" Do you expect to be able to punish them? " 

" Both punish and reward. Remember, if one hand shut 
us up in that passage, another hand delivered us! I shall 
not soon forget that." 

" But, Harry, how can we be sure that these two hands 
do not belong to the same body? " 

" What can put such a notion in your head, Jack? " asked 
Harry. 

" Well, I don't know. Creatures that live in these holes, 
Harry, don't you see? they can't be made like us, eh? " 

" But they are just like us, Jack." 

" Oh, no ! don't say that, Harry ! Perhaps some madman 
managed to get in for a time." 

" A madman ! No madman would have formed such 
connected plans, or done such continued mischief as befell 
us after the breaking of the ladders." 

" Well, but anyhow he has done no harm for the last 
three years, either to you, Harry, or any of your people." 

"No matter, Jack," replied Harry; "I am persuaded 
that this malignant being, whoever he is, has by no means 
given up his evil intentions. I can hardly say on what I 



HANGING BY A THREAD 343 

found my convictions. But at any rate, for the sake of the 
new works, I must and will know who he is and whence he 
comes." 

"For the sake of the new works did you say? " asked 
Jack, considerably surprised. 

" I said so, Jack," returned Harry. " I may be mistaken, 
but, to me, all that has happened proves the existence of an 
interest in this mine in strong opposition to ours. Many 
a time have I considered the matter; I feel almost sure of 
it. Just consider the whole series of inexplicable circum- 
stances, so singularly linked together. To begin with, the 
anonymous letter, contradictory to that of my father, at 
once proves that some man had become aware of our pro- 
jects, and wished to prevent their accomplishment. Mr. 
Starr comes to see us at the Dochart pit. No sooner does 
he enter it with me than an immense stone is cast upon us, 
and communication is interrupted by the breaking of the 
ladders in the Yarrow shaft. We commence exploring. 
An experiment, by which the existence of a new vein would 
be proved, is rendered impossible by stoppage of fissures. 
Notwithstanding this, the examination is carried out, the 
vein discovered. We return as we came, a prodigious gust 
of air meets us, our lamp is broken, utter darkness sur- 
rounds us. Nevertheless, we make our way along the 
gloomy passage until, on reaching the entrance, we find it 
blocked up. There we were imprisoned. Now, Jack, 
don't you see in all these things a malicious intention? 
Ah, yes, believe me, some being hitherto invisible, but not 
supernatural, as you will persist in thinking, was concealed 
in the mine. For some reason, known only to himself, he 
strove to keep us out of it. Was there, did I say? I feel 
an inward conviction that he is there still, and probably 
prepares some terrible disaster for us. Even at the risk of 
my life, Jack, I am resolved to discover him." 

Harry spoke with an earnestness which strongly im- 
pressed his companion. " Well, Harry," said he, " if I am 
forced to agree with you in certain points, won't you admit 
that some kind fairy or brownie, by bringing bread and 
water to you, was the means of " 

" Jack, my friend," interrupted Harry, " it is my belief 
that the friendly person, whom you will persist in calling a 
spirit, exists in the mine as certainly as the criminal we 



344 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

speak of, and I mean to seek them both in the most dis- 
tant recesses of the mine." 

" But," inquired Jack, " have you any possible clew to 
guide your search ? " 

"Perhaps I have. Listen to me! Five miles west of 
New Aberfoyle, under the solid rock which supports Ben 
Lomond, there exists a natural shaft which descends per- 
pendicularly into the vein beneath. A week ago I went 
to ascertain the depth of this shaft. While sounding it, 
and bending over the opening as my plumb-line went down, 
it seemed to me that the air within was agitated, as though 
beaten by huge wings." 

" Some bird must have got lost among the lower gal- 
leries," replied Jack. 

" But that is not all, Jack. This very morning I went 
back to the place, and, listening attentively, I thought I 
could detect a sound like a sort of groaning." 

" Groaning ! " cried Jack, " that must be nonsense ; it was 
a current of air unless indeed some ghost " 

" I shall know to-morrow what it was," said Harry. 

" To-morrow ? " answered Jack, looking at his friend. 

" Yes; to-morrow I am going down into that abyss." 

" Harry ! that will be a tempting of Providence." 

" No, Jack, Providence will aid me in the attempt. To- 
morrow, you and some of our comrades will go with me to 
that shaft. I will fasten myself to a long rope, by which 
you can let me down, and draw me up at a given signal. I 
may depend upon you, Jack? " 

" Well, Harry," said Jack, shaking his head, " I will do as 
you wish me; but I tell you all the same, you are very 
wrong." 

" Nothing venture nothing win," said Harry, in a tone 
of decision. " To-morrow morning, then, at six o'clock. 
Be silent, and farewell ! " 

It must be admitted that Jack Ryan's fears were far 
from groundless. Harry would expose himself to very 
great danger, supposing the enemy he sought for lay con- 
cealed at the bottom of the pit into which he was going to 
descend. It did not seem likely that such was the case, 
however. 

" Why in the world," repeated Jack Ryan, " should he 
take all this trouble to account for a set of facts so very 



HANGING BY A THREAD 345 

easily and simply explained by the supernatural interven- 
tion of the spirits of the mine?" 

But, notwithstanding his objections to the scheme, Jack 
Ryan and three miners of his gang arrived next morning 
with Harry at the mouth of the opening of the suspicious 
shaft Harry had not mentioned his intentions either to 
James Starr or to the old overman. Jack had been discreet 
enough to say nothing. 

Harry had provided himself with a rope about 200 feet 
long. It was not particularly thick, but very strong suffi- 
ciently so to sustain his weight. His friends were to let 
him down into the gulf, and his pulling the cord was to be 
the signal to withdraw him. 

The opening into this shaft or well was twelve feet wide. 
A beam was thrown across like a bridge, so that the cord 
passing over it should hang down the center of the opening, 
and save Harry from striking against the sides in his 
descent. 

He was ready. 

" Are you still determined to explore this abyss ? " whis- 
pered Jack Ryan. 

" Yes, I am, Jack." 

The cord was fastened round Harry's thighs and under 
his arms, to keep him from rocking. Thus supported, he 
was free to use both his hands. A safety-lamp hung at his 
belt, also a large, strong knife in a leather sheath. 

Harry advanced to the middle of the beam, around 
which the cord was passed. Then his friends began to let 
him down, and he slowly sank into the pit. As the rope 
caused him to swing gently round and round, the light of 
his lamp fell in turns on all points of the side walls, so 
that he was able to examine them carefully. These walls 
consisted of pit coal, and so smooth that it would be impos- 
sible to ascend them. 

Harry calculated that he was going down at the rate of 
about a foot per second, so that he had time to look about 
him, and be ready for any event. 

During two minutes that is to say, to the depth of about 
1 20 feet, the descent continued without any incident. 

No lateral gallery opened from the side walls of the pit, 
which was gradually narrowing into the shape of a funnel. 
But Harry began to feel a fresher air rising from beneath, 



34 6 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

whence he concluded that the bottom of the pit commu- 
nicated with a gallery of some description in the lowest part 
of the mine. 

The cord continued to unwind. Darkness and silence 
were complete. If any living being whatever had sought 
refuge in the deep and mysterious abyss, he had either left 
it, or, if there, by no movement did he in the slightest way 
betray his presence. 

Harry, becoming more suspicious the lower he got, now 
drew his knife and held it in his right hand. At a depth 
of 1 80 feet, his feet touched the lower point and the cord 
slackened and unwound no further. 

Harry breathed more freely for a moment. One of the 
fears he entertained had been that, during his descent, the 
cord might be cut above him, but he had seen no projec- 
tion from the walls behind which anyone could have been 
concealed. 

The bottom of the abyss was quite dry. Harry, taking 
the lamp from his belt, walked round the place, and per- 
ceived he had been right in his conjectures. 

An extremely narrow passage led aside out of the pit. 
He had to stoop to look into it, and only by creeping could 
it be followed; but as he wanted to see in which direction 
it led, and whether another abyss opened from it, he lay 
down on the ground and began to enter it on hands and 
knees. 

An obstacle speedily arrested his progress. He fancied 
he could perceive by touching it, that a human body lay 
across the passage. A sudden thrill of horror and surprise 
made him hastily draw back, but he again advanced and 
felt more carefully. 

His senses had not deceived him; a body did indeed lie 
there; and he soon ascertained that, although icy cold at 
the extremities, there was some vital heat remaining. In 
less time than it takes to tell it, Harry had drawn the body 
from the recess to the bottom of the shaft, and, seizing his 
lamp, he cast its lights on what he had found, exclaiming 
immediately, " Why, it is a child ! " 

The child still breathed, but so very feebly that Harry 
expected it to cease every instant. Not a moment was to be 
lost; he must carry this poor little creature out of the pit, 
and take it home to his mother as quickly as he could. He 



HANGING BY A THREAD 347 

eagerly fastened the cord round his waist, stuck on his lamp, 
clasped the child to his breast with his left arm, and, keep- 
ing his right hand free to hold the knife, he gave the signal 
agreed on, to have the rope pulled up. 

It tightened at once ; he began the ascent. Harry looked 
around him with redoubled care, for more than his own life 
was now in danger. 

For a few minutes all went well, no accident seemed to 
threaten him, when suddenly he heard the sound of a great 
rush of air from beneath; and, looking down, he could dimly 
perceive through the gloom a broad mass arising until it 
passed him, striking him as it went by. 

It was an enormous bird of what sort he could not see ; 
it flew upwards on mighty wings, then paused, hovered, and 
dashed fiercely down upon Harry, who could only wield his 
knife in one hand. He defended himself and the child as 
well as he could, but the ferocious bird seemed to aim all its 
blows at him alone. Afraid of cutting the cord, he could 
not strike it as he wished, and the struggle was prolonged, 
while Harry shouted with all his might in hopes of making 
his comrades hear. 

He soon knew they did, for they pulled the rope up 
faster; a distance of about eighty feet remained to be got 
over. The bird ceased its direct attack, but increased the 
horror and danger of his situation by rushing at the cord, 
clinging to it just out of his reach, and endeavoring, by 
pecking furiously, to cut it. 

Harry felt overcome with terrible dread. One strand 
of the rope gave way, and it made them sink a little. 

A shriek of despair escaped his lips. 

A second strand was divided, and the double burden now 
hung suspended by only half the cord. 

Harry dropped his knife, and by a superhuman effort 
succeeded, at the moment the rope was giving way, in 
catching hold of it with his right hand above the cut made 
by the beak of the bird. But, powerfully as he held it in 
his iron grasp, he could feel it gradually slipping through 
his fingers. 

He might have caught it, and held on with both hands 
by sacrificing the life of the child he supported in his left 
arm. The idea crossed him, but was banished in an instant, 
although he believed himself quite unable to hold out until 



348 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

drawn to the surface. For a second he closed his eyes, 
believing they were about to plunge back into the abyss. 

He looked up once more ; the huge bird had disappeared ; 
his hand was at the very extremity of the broken rope 
when, just as his convulsive grasp was failing, he was seized 
by the men, and with the child was placed on the level 
ground. 

The fearful strain of anxiety removed, a reaction took 
place, and Harry fell fainting into the arms of his friends. 



CHAPTER XII 

NELL ADOPTED 

A COUPLE of hours later, Harry still unconscious, and the 
child in a very feeble state, were brought to the cottage by 
Jack Ryan and his companions. The old overman listened 
to the account of their adventures, while Madge attended 
with the utmost care to the wants of her son, and of the 
poor creature whom he had rescued from the pit. 

Harry imagined her a mere child, but she was a maiden 
of the age of fifteen or sixteen years. 

She gazed at them with vague and wondering eyes; and 
the thin face, drawn by suffering, the pallid complexion, 
which light could never have tinged, and the fragile, slender 
figure, gave her an appearance at once singular and attrac- 
tive. Jack Ryan declared that she seemed to him to be an 
uncommonly interesting kind of ghost. 

It must have been due to the strange and peculiar cir- 
cumstances under which her life hitherto had been led, that 
she scarcely seemed to belong to the human race. Her 
countenance was of a very uncommon cast, and her eyes, 
hardly able to bear the lamp-light in the cottage, glanced 
'around in a confused and puzzled way, as if all were new 
to them. 

As this singular being reclined on Madge's bed and awoke 
to consciousness, as from a long sleep, the old Scotchwoman 
began to question her a little. 

"What do they call you, my dear?" said she. 

" Nell," replied the girl. 

" Do you feel anything the matter with you, Nell? " 

" I am hungry. I have eaten nothing since since " 



NELL ADOPTED 349 

Nell uttered these few words like one unusued to speak 
much. They were in the Gaelic language, which was often 
spoken by Simon and his family. Madge immediately 
brought her some food; she was evidently famished. It 
was impossible to say how long she might have been in that 
pit. 

" How many days had you been down there, dearie ? " 
inquired Madge. 

Nell made no answer; she seemed not to understand the 
question. 

" How many days, do you think ? " 

"Days?" repeated Nell, as though the word had no 
meaning for her, and she shook her head to signify entire 
want of comprehension. 

Madge took her hand, and stroked it caressingly, " How 
old are you, my lassie? " she asked, smiling kindly at her. 

Nell shook her head again. 

" Yes, yes," continued Madge, " how many years old? " 

"Years?" replied Nell. She seemed to understand that 
word no better than days! Simon, Harry, Jack, and the 
rest, looked on with an air of mingled compassion, wonder, 
and sympathy. The state of this poor thing, clothed in a 
miserable garment of coarse woolen stuff, seemed to im- 
press them painfully. 

Harry, more than all the rest, seemed attracted by the 
very peculiarity of this poor stranger. He drew near, took 
Nell's hand from his mother, and looked directly at her, 
while something like a smile curved her lip. " Nell," he 
said, " Nell, away down there in the mine were you all 
alone?" 

"Alone! alone!" cried the girl, raising herself hastily. 
Her features expressed terror ; her eyes, which had appeared 
to soften as Harry looked at her, became quite wild again. 
" Alone ! " repeated she, " alone ! " and she fell back on 
the bed, as though deprived of all strength. 

" The poor bairn is too weak to speak to us," said 
Madge, when she had adjusted the pillows. " After a good 
rest, and a little more food, she will be stronger. Come 
away, Simon and Harry, and all the rest of you, and let her 
go to sleep." So Nell was left alone, and in a very few 
minutes slept profoundly. 

This event caused a great sensation, not only in the coal 



350 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

mines, but in Stirlingshire, and ultimately throughout the 
kingdom. The strangeness of the story was exaggerated; 
the affair could not have made more commotion had they 
found the girl enclosed in the solid rock, like one of those 
antediluvian creatures who have occasionally been released 
by a stroke of the pickax from their stony prison. Nell 
became a fashionable wonder without knowing it. Super- 
stitious folks made her story a new subject for lengendary 
marvels, and were inclined to think, as Jack Ryan told 
Harry, that Nell was the spirit of the mines. 

" Be it so, Jack," said the young man; " but at any rate 
she is the good spirit. It can have been none but she who 
brought us bread and water when we were shut up down 
there; and as to the bad spirit, who must still be in the 
mine, we'll catch him some day." 

Of course James Starr had been at once informed of all 
this, and came, as soon as the young girl had sufficiently 
recovered her strength, to see her, and endeavor to ques- 
tion her carefully. 

She appeared ignorant of nearly everything relating to 
life, and, although evidently intelligent, was wanting in 
many elementary ideas, such as time, for instance. She 
had never been used to its division, and the words signify- 
ing hours, days, months, and years were unknown to her. 

Her eyes, accustomed to the night, were pained by the 
glare of the electric discs; but in the dark her sight was 
wonderfully keen, the pupil dilated in a remarkable manner, 
and she could see where to others there appeared profound 
obscurity. It was certain that her brain had never received 
any impression of the outer world, that her eyes had never 
looked beyond the mine, and that these somber depths had 
been all the world to her. 

The poor girl probably knew not that there were a sun 
and stars, towns and counties, a mighty universe composed 
of myriads of worlds. But until she comprehended the 
significance of words at present conveying no precise mean- 
ing to her, it was impossible to ascertain what she knew. 

As to whether or not Nell had lived alone in the recesses 
of New Aberfoyle, James Starr was obliged to remain un- 
certain; indeed, any allusion to the subject excited evident 
alarm in the mind of this strange girl. Either Nell could 
not or would not reply to questions, but that some secret 



NELL ADOPTED 351 

existed in connection with the place, which she could have 
explained, was manifest. 

" Should you like to stay with us? Should you like to 
go back to where we found you ? " asked James Starr. 

" Oh, yes ! " exclaimed the maiden, in answer to his first 
question; but a cry of terror was all she seemed able to 
say to the second. 

James Starr, as well as Simon and Harry Ford, could 
not help feeling a certain amount of uneasiness with regard 
to this persistent silence. They found it impossible to for- 
get all that had appeared so inexplicable at the time they 
made the discovery of the coal mine; and although that 
was three years ago, and nothing new had happened, they 
always expected some fresh attack on the part of the in- 
visible enemy. 

They resolved to explore the mysterious well, and did so, 
well armed and in considerable numbers. But nothing sus- 
picious was to be seen ; the shaft communicated with lower 
stages of the crypt, hollowed out in the carboniferous bed. 

Many a time did James Starr, Simon, and Harry talk 
over these things. If one or more malevolent beings were 
concealed in the coal-pit, and there concocted mischief, Nell 
surely could have warned them of it, yet she said nothing. 
The slightest allusion to her past life brought on such fits 
of violent emotion, that it was judged best to avoid the 
subject for the present. Her secret would certainly escape 
her by-and-by. 

By the time Nell had been a fortnight in the cottage, she 
had become a most intelligent and zealous assistant to old 
Madge. It was clear that she instinctively felt she should 
remain in the dwelling where she had been so charitably 
received, and perhaps never dreamt of quitting it. This 
family was all in all to her, and to the good folks themselves 
Nell had seemed an adopted child from the moment when 
she first came beneath their roof. Nell was in truth a 
charming creature ; her new mode of existence added to her 
beauty, for these were no doubt the first happy days of her 
life, and her heart was full of gratitude towards those to 
whom she owed them. Madge felt towards her as a mother 
would; the old woman doted upon her; in short, she was 
beloved by everybody. -Jack Ryan only regretted one 
thing, which was that he had not saved her himself. Friend 



352 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

Jack often came to the cottage. He sang, and Nell, who 
had never heard singing before, admired it greatly; but any- 
one might see that she preferred to Jack's songs the graver 
conversation of Harry, from whom by degrees she learnt 
truths concerning the outer world, of which hitherto she had 
known nothing. 

It must be said that, since Nell had appeared in her own 
person, Jack Ryan had been obliged to admit that his 
belief in hobgoblins was in a measure weakened. A couple 
of months later his credulity experienced a further shock. 
About that time Harry unexpectedly made a discovery 
which, in part at least, accounted for the apparition of the 
fire-maidens among the ruins of Dundonald Castle at Irvine. 

During several days he had been engaged in exploring 
the remote galleries of the prodigious excavation towards 
the south. At last he scrambled with difficulty up a narrow 
passage which branched off through the upper rock. To his 
great astonishment, he suddenly found himself in the open 
air. The passage, after ascending obliquely to the surface 
of the ground, led out directly among the ruins of Dun- 
donald Castle. 

There was, therefore, a communication between New 
Aberfoyle and the hills crowned by this ancient castle. The 
upper entrance to this gallery, being completely concealed by 
stones and brushwood, was invisible from without; at the 
time of their search, therefore, the magistrates had been able 
to discover nothing. 

A few days afterwards, James Starr, guided by Harry, 
came himself to inspect this curious natural opening into 
the coal mine. " Well," said he, " here is enough to con- 
vince the most superstitious among us. Farewell to all their 
brownies, goblins, and fire-maidens now ! " 

"I hardly think, Mr. Starr, we ought to congratulate 
ourselves/' replied Harry. "Whatever it is we have in- 
stead of these things, it can't be better, and may be worse 
than they are." 

' That's true, Harry," said the engineer; ".but what's to 
be done? It is plain that, whatever the beings are who 
hide in the mine, they reach the surface of the earth by 
this passage. No doubt it was the light of torches waved 
by them during that dark and stormy night which attracted 
the Motala towards the rocky coast, and like the wreckers 



NELL ADOPTED 353 

of former days, they would have plundered the unfortunate 
vessel, had it not been for Jack Ryan and his friends. 
Anyhow, so far it is evident, and here is the mouth of the 
den. As to its occupants, the question is Are they here 
still?" 

" I say yes ; because Nell trembles when we mention them 
yes, because Nell will not, or dare not, speak about them," 
answered Harry in a tone of decision. 

Harry was surely in the right. Had these mysterious 
denizens of the pit abandoned it, or ceased to visit the spot, 
what reason could the girl have had for keeping silence ? 

James Starr could not rest till he had penetrated this 
mystery. He foresaw that the whole future of the new ex- 
cavations must depend upon it. Renewed and strict precau- 
tions were therefore taken. The authorities were informed 
of the discovery of the entrance. Watchers were placed 
among the ruins of the castle. Harry himself lay hid for 
several nights in the thickets of brushwood which clothed 
the hill-side. 

Nothing was discovered no human being emerged from 
the opening. So most people came to the conclusion that 
the villains had been finally dislodged from the mine, and 
that, as to Nell, they must suppose her to be dead at the 
bottom of the shaft where they had left her. 

While it remained un worked, the mine had been a safe 
enough place of refuge, secure from all search or pursuit. 
But now, circumstances being altered, it became difficult 
to conceal this lurking-place, and it might reasonably be 
hoped they were gone, and that nothing for the future was 
to be dreaded from them. 

James Starr, however, could not feel sure about it ; neither 
could Harry be satisfied on the subject, often repeating, 
" Nell has clearly been mixed up with all this secret busi- 
ness. If she had nothing more to fear, why should she 
keep silence? It cannot be doubted that she is happy with 
us. She likes us all she adores my mother. Her absolute 
silence as to her former life, when by speaking out she 
might benefit us, proves to me that some awful secret, which 
she dares not reveal, weighs on her mind. It may also be 
that she believes it better for us, as well as for herself, that 
she should remain mute in a way otherwise so unaccount- 
able." 

V. IX Verne 



354 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

In consequence of these opinions, it was agreed by com- 
mon consent to avoid all allusion to the maiden's former 
mode of life. One day, however, Harry was led to make 
known to Nell what James Starr, his father, mother, and 
himself believed they owed to her interference. 

It was a fete-day. The miners made holiday on the sur- 
face of the county of Stirling as well as in its subterraneous 
domains. Parties of holiday-makers were moving about in 
all directions. Songs resounded in many places beneath the 
sonorous vaults of New Aberfqyle. Harry and Nell left 
the cottage, and slowly walked along the left bank of Loch 
Malcolm. 

Then the electric brilliance darted less vividly, and the 
rays were interrupted with fantastic effect by the sharp 
angles of the picturesque rocks which supported the dome. 
This imperfect light suited Nell, to whose eyes a glare was 
very unpleasant. 

" Nell," said Harry, " your eyes are not fit for daylight 
yet, and could not bear the brightness of the sun." 

" Indeed they could not," replied the girl; " if the sun is 
such as you describe it to me, Harry." 

" I cannot by any words, Nell, give you an idea either of 
his splendor or of the beauty of that universe which your 
eyes have never beheld. But tell me, is it really possible 
that, since the day when you were born in the depths of 
the coal mine, you never once have been up to the surface 
of the earth?" 

" Never once, Harry," said she ; " I do not believe that, 
even as an infant, my father or mother ever carried me 
thither. I am sure I should have retained some impres- 
sion of the open air if they had." 

" I believe you would," answered Harry. " Long ago, 
Nell, many children used to live altogether in the mine; 
communication was then difficult, and I have met with more 
than one young person, quite as ignorant as you are of 
things above-ground. But now the railway through our 
great tunnel takes us in a few minutes to the upper regions 
of our country. I long, Nell, to hear you say, * Come, 
Harry, my eyes can bear daylight, and I want to see the 
sun ! I want to look upon the works of the Almighty.' ' 

" I shall soon say so, Harry, I hope," replied the girl; " I 
shall soon go with you to the world above; and yet " 



NELL ADOPTED 355 

" What are you going to say, Nell? " hastily cried Harry; 
" can you possibly regret having quitted that gloomy abyss 
in which you spent your early years, and whence we drew 
you half dead?" 

" No, Harry," answered Nell ; " I was only thinking that 
darkness is beautiful as well as light. If you but knew 
what eyes accustomed to its depth can see! Shades flit 
by, which one longs to follow; circles mingle and inter- 
twine, and one could gaze on them forever; black hollows, 
full of indefinite gleams of radiance, lie deep at the bottom 
of the mine. And then the voice-like sounds ! Ah, Harry ! 
one must have lived down there to understand what I feel, 
what I can never express." 

" And were you not afraid, Nell, all alone there? " 

" It was just when I was alone that I was not afraid." 

Nell's voice altered slightly as she said these words ; how- 
ever, Harry thought he might press the subject a little 
further, so he said, " But one might be easily lost in these 
great galleries, Nell. Were you not afraid of losing your 
way?" 

"Oh, no, Harry; for a long time I had known every 
turn of the new mine." 

"Did you never leave it?" 

"Yes, now and then," answered the girl with a little 
hesitation ; " sometimes I have been as far as the old mine 
of Aberfoyle." 

" So you knew our old cottage ? " 

" The cottage ! oh, yes ; but the people who lived there I 
only saw at a great distance." 

" They were my father and mother," said Harry ; " and 
I was there too; we have always lived there we never 
would give up the old dwelling." 

" Perhaps it would have been better for you if you had," 
murmured the maiden. 

"Why so, Nell? Was it not just because we were ob- 
stinately resolved to remain that we ended by discovering 
the new vein of coal? And did not that discovery lead to 
the happy result of providing work for a large population, 
and restoring them to ease and comfort? and did it not 
enable us to find you, Neft, to save your life, and give you 
the love of all our hearts? " 

" Ah, yes, for me indeed it is well, whatever may hap- 



356 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

pen," replied Nell earnestly; " for others who can tell?" 

"What do you mean?" 

" Oh, nothing nothing. But it used to be very danger- 
ous at that time to go into the new cutting yes, very danger- 
ous indeed, Harry ! Once some rash people made their way 
into these chasms. They got a long, long way; they were 
lost!" 

" They were lost ? " said Harry, looking at her. 

" Yes, lost ! " repeated Nell in a trembling voice. " They 
could not find their way out." 

" And there," cried Harry, " they were imprisoned dur- 
ing eight long days! They were at the point of death, 
Nell ; and, but for a kind and charitable being an angel 
perhaps sent by God to help them, who secretly brought 
them a little food; but for a mysterious guide, who after- 
wards led to them their deliverers, they never would have 
escaped from that living tomb ! " 

" And how do you know about that? " demanded the girl. 

" Because those men were James Starr, my father, and 
myself, Nell!" 

Nell looked up hastily, seized the young man's hand, and 
gazed so fixedly into his eyes that his feelings were stirred 
to their depths. " You were there? " at last she uttered. 

" I was indeed," said Harry, after a pause, " and she to 
whom we owe our lives can have been none other than your- 
self, Nell!" 

Nell hid her face in her hands without speaking. Harry 
had never seen her so much affected. 

" Those who saved your life, Nell," added he in a voice 
tremulous with emotion, "already owed theirs to you; do 
you think they will ever forget it ? " 



CHAPTER XIII 

ON THE REVOLVING LADDER 

THE mining operations at New Aberfoyle continued to be 
carried on very successfully. As a matter of course, the 
engineer, James Starr, as well as Simon Ford, the discover- 
ers of this rich carboniferous region, shared largely in the 
profits. 

In time Harry became a partner. But he never thought 



ON THE REVOLVING LADDER 357 

of quitting the cottage. He took his father's place as over- 
man, and diligently superintended the works of this colony 
of miners. Jack Ryan was proud and delighted at the good 
fortune which had befallen his comrade. He himself was 
getting on very well also. 

They frequently met, either at the cottage or at the works 
in the pit. Jack did not fail to remark the sentiments enter- 
tained by Harry towards Nell. Harry would not confess to 
them ; but Jack only laughed at him when he shook his head 
and tried to deny any special interest in her. 

It must be noted that Jack Ryan had the greatest possible 
wish to be of the party when Nell should pay her first visit 
to the upper surface of the county of Stirling. He wished 
to see her wonder and admiration on first beholding the yet 
unknown face of Nature. He very much hoped that Harry 
would take him with them when the excursion was made. 
As yet, however, the latter had made no proposal of the 
kind to him, which caused him to feel a little uneasy as to 
his intentions. 

One morning Jack Ryan was descending through a shaft 
which led from the surface to the lower regions of the pit. 
He did so by means of one of those ladders which, con- 
tinually revolving by machinery, enabled persons to ascend 
and descend without fatigue. This apparatus had lowered 
him about a hundred and fifty feet, when at a narrow land- 
ing-place he perceived Harry, who was coming up to his 
labors for the day. 

" Well met, my friend ! " cried Jack, recognizing his com- 
rade by the light of the electric lamps. 

" Ah, Jack ! " replied Harry, " I am glad to see you. I've 
got something to propose." 

" I can listen to nothing till you tell me how Nell is," 
interrupted Jack Ryan. 

" Nell is all right, Jack so much so, in fact, that I hope 
in a month or six weeks " 

"To marry her, Harry?" 

" Jack, you don't know what you are talking about ! " 

" Ah, that's very likely ; but I know quite well what I 
shall do." 

" What will you do?" 

" Marry her myself, if you don't; so look sharp," laughed 
Jack. "By Saint Mungo! I think an immense deal of 



358 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

bonny Nell! A fine young creature like that, who has 
been brought up in the mine, is just the very wife for a 
miner. She is an orphan so am I; and if you don't care 
much for her, and if she will have me " 

Harry looked gravely at Jack, and let him talk on with- 
out trying to stop him. " Don't you begin to feel jealous, 
Harry? " asked Jack in a more serious tone. 

" Not at all," answered Harry quietly. 

" But if you don't marry Nell yourself, you surely can't 
expect her to remain a spinster ? " 

" I expect nothing," said Harry. 

A movement of the ladder machinery now gave the two 
friends the opportunity one to go up, the other down the 
shaft. However, they remained where they were. 

" Harry," quoth Jack, " do you think I spoke in earnest 
just now about Nell? " 

" No, that I don't, Jack." 

"Well, but now I will!" 

" You? speak in earnest? " 

" My good fellow, I can tell you I am quite capable of 
giving a friend a bit of advice." 

"Let's hear, then, Jack!" 

"Well, look here! You love Nell as heartily as she 
deserves. Old Simon, your father, and old Madge, your 
mother, both love her as if she were their daughter. Why 
don't you make her so in reality? Why don't you marry 
her?" 

" Come, Jack," said Harry, " you are, running on as if you 
knew how Nell felt on the subject." 

" Everybody knows that," replied Jack, " and therefore it 
is impossible to make you jealous of any of us. But here 
goes the ladder again I'm off ! " 

" Stop a minute, Jack ! " cried Harry, detaining his com- 
panion, who was stepping onto the moving staircase. 

" I say ! you seem to mean me to take up my quarters 
here altogether!" 

" Do be serious and listen, Jack ! I want to speak in 
earnest myself now." 

" Well, I'll listen till the ladder moves again, not a minute 
longer." 

"Jack," resumed Harry, " I need not pretend that I do 
not love Nell; I wish above all things to make her my wife." 



ON THE REVOLVING LADDER 359 

"That's all right!" 

" But for the present I have scruples of conscience as 
to asking her to make me a promise which would be irre- 
vocable." 

" What can you mean, Harry? " 

" I mean just this that, it being certain Nell has never 
been outside this coal mine in the very depths of which she 
was born, it stands to reason that she knows nothing, and 
can comprehend nothing of what exists beyond it. Her 
eyes yes, and perhaps also her heart have everything yet 
to learn. Who can tell what her thoughts will be, when 
perfectly new impressions shall be made upon her mind? 
As yet she knows nothing of the world, and to me it would 
seem like deceiving her, if I led her to decide in ignorance, 
upon choosing to remain all her life in the coal mine. Do 
you understand me, Jack? " 

" Hem ! yes pretty well. What I understand best is 
that you are going to make me miss another turn of the 
ladder." 

" Jack," replied Harry gravely, " if this machinery were 
to stop altogether, if this landing-place were to fall beneath 
our feet, you must and shall hear what I have to say." 

" Well done, Harry ! that's how I like to be spoken to ! 
Let's settle, then, that, before you marry Nell, she shall go 
to school in Auld Reekie." 

" No indeed, Jack ; I am perfectly able myself to educate 
the person who is to be my wife." 

" Sure that will be a great deal better, Harry ! " 

" But, first of all," resumed Harry, " I wish that Nell 
should gain a real knowledge of the upper world. To il- 
lustrate my meaning, Jack, suppose you were in love with 
a blind girl, and someone said to you, ' In a month's time 
her sight will be restored,' would you not wait till after she 
was cured, to marry her? " 

" Faith, to be sure I would ! " exclaimed Jack. 

" Well, Jack, Nell is at present blind ; and before she 
marries me, I wish her to see what I am, and what the life 
really is to which she would bind herself. In short, she 
must have daylight let in upon the subject! " 

" Well said, Harry ! Very well said indeed ! " cried Jack. 
" Now I see what you are driving at. And when may we 
expect the operation to come off? " 



360 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

" In a month, Jack," replied Harry. " Nell is getting 
used to the light of our reflectors. That is some prepara- 
tion. In a month she will, I hope, have seen the earth and 
its wonders the sky and its splendors. She will perceive 
that the limits of the universe are boundless." 

But while Harry was thus giving the rein to his imagina- 
tion, Jack Ryan, quitting the platform, had leaped on the 
step of the moving machinery. 

" Hullo, Jack ! Where are you ? " 

" Far beneath you," laughed the merry fellow. " While 
you soar to the heights, I plunge into the depths." 

"Fare ye well, Jack!" returned Harry, himself laying 
hold of the rising ladder; "mind you say nothing about 
what I have been telling you." 

" Not a word," shouted Jack, " but I make one condition." 

"What is that?" 

"That I may be one of the party when Nell's first ex- 
cursion to the face of the earth comes off! " 

" So you shall, Jack, I promise you ! " 

A fresh throb of the machinery placed a yet more con- 
siderable distance between the friends. Their voices 
sounded faintly to each other. Harry, however, could still 
hear Jack shouting: 

" I say ! do you know what Nell will like better than 
either sun, moon, or stars, after she's seen the whole of 
them?" 

'No, Jack!" 

" Why, you yourself, old fellow! still you! always you! " 
And Jack's voice died away in a prolonged " Hurrah ! " 

Harry, after this, applied himself diligently, during all 
his spare time, to the work of Nell's education. He taught 
her to read and to write, and such rapid progress did she 
make, it might have been said that she learnt by instinct. 
Never did keen intelligence more quickly triumph over utter 
ignorance. It was the wonder of all beholders. 

Simon and Madge became every day more and more at- 
tached to their adopted child, whose former history con- 
tinued to puzzle them a good deal. They plainly saw the 
nature of Harry's feelings towards her, and were far from 
displeased thereat. They recollected that Simon had said 
to the engineer on his first visit to the old cottage, " How 
can our son ever think of marrying? Where could a wife 



ON THE REVOLVING LADDER 361 

possibly be found suitable for a lad whose whole life must 
be passed in the depths of a coal mine? " 

Well ! now it seemed as if the most desirable companion 
in the world had been led to him by Providence. Was not 
this like a blessing direct from Heaven? So the old man 
made up his mind that, if the wedding did take place, the 
miners of New Aberfoyle should have a merry-making at 
Coal Town, which they would never during their lives for- 
get. Simon Ford little knew what he was saying! 

It must be remarked that another person wished for this 
union of Harry and Nell as much as Simon did and that 
was James Starr, the engineer. Of course he was really 
interested in the happiness of the two young people. But 
another motive, connected with wider interests, influenced 
him to desire it. 

It has been said that James Starr continued to entertain 
a certain amount of apprehension, although for the present 
nothing appeared to justify it. Yet that which had been 
might again be. This mystery about the new cutting 
Nell was evidently the only person acquainted with it. Now, 
if fresh dangers were in store for the miners of Aberfoyle, 
how were they possibly to be guarded against, without so 
much as knowing the cause of them? 

" Nell has persisted in keeping silence," said James Starr 
very often, "but what she has concealed from others, she 
will not long hide from her husband. Any danger would 
be danger to Harry as well as to the rest of us. Therefore, 
a marriage which brings happiness to the lovers, and safety 
to their friends, will be a good marriage, if ever there is 
such a thing here below." 

Thus, not illogically, reasoned James Starr. He com- 
municated his ideas to old Simon, who decidedly appreci- 
ated them. Nothing, then, appeared to stand in the way 
of the match. What, in fact, was there to prevent it? 
They loved each other; the parents desired nothing better 
for their son. Harry's comrades envied his good fortune, 
but freely acknowledged that he deserved it. The maiden 
depended on no one else, and had but to give the consent 
of her own heart. 

Why, then, if there were none to place obstacles in the 
way of this union why, as night came on, and, the labors 
of the day being over, the electric lights in the mine were 



362 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

extinguished, and all the inhabitants of Coal Town at rest 
within their dwellings why did a mysterious form always 
emerge from the gloomier recesses of New Aberfoyle, and 
silently glide through the darkness? 

What instinct guided this phantom with ease through 
passages so narrow as to appear to be impracticable? 

Why should the strange being, with eyes flashing through 
the deepest darkness, come cautiously creeping along the 
shores of Lake Malcolm? Why so directly make his way 
towards Simon's cottage, yet so carefully as hitherto to 
avoid notice ? Why, bending towards the windows, did he 
strive to catch, by listening, some fragment of the conversa- 
tion within the closed shutters? 

And, on catching a few words, why did he shake his fist 
with a menacing gesture towards the calm abode, while 
from between his set teeth issued these words in muttered 
fury, " She and he ? Never ! never ! " 



CHAPTER XIV 

A SUNRISE 

A MONTH after this, on the evening of the 2Oth of Au- 
gust, Simon Ford and Madge took leave, with all manner of 
good wishes, of four tourists, who were setting forth from 
the cottage. 

James Starr, Harry, and Jack Ryan were about to lead 
Nell's steps over yet untrodden paths, and to show her the 
glories of nature by a light to which she was as yet a 
stranger. The excursion was to last for two days. James 
Starr, as well as Harry, considered that during these eight 
and forty hours spent above ground, the maiden would be 
able to see everything of which she must have remained 
ignorant in the gloomy pit; all the varied aspects of the 
globe, towns, plains, mountains, rivers, lakes, gulfs, and 
seas would pass, panorama-like, before her eyes. 

In that part of Scotland lying between Edinburgh and 
Glasgow, nature would seem to have collected and set forth 
specimens of every one of these terrestrial beauties. As 
to the heavens, they would be spread abroad as over the 
whole earth, with their changeful clouds, serene or veiled 
moon, their radiant sun, and clustering stars. The expedi- 



A SUNRISE 363 

tion had been planned so as to combine a view of all these 
things. 

Simon and Madge would have been glad to go with Nell ; 
but they never left their cottage willingly, and could not 
make up their minds to quit their subterranean home for a 
single day. 

James Starr went as an observer and philosopher, curious 
to note, from a psychological point of view, the novel im- 
pressions made upon Nell; perhaps also with some hope of 
detecting a clue to the mysterious events connected with 
her childhood. Harry, with a little trepidation, asked him- 
self whether it was not possible that this rapid initiation into 
the things of the exterior world would change the maiden 
he had known and loved hitherto into quite a different 
girl. As for Jack Ryan, he was as joyous as a lark rising 
in the first beams of the sun. He only trusted that his 
gayety would prove contagious, and enliven his traveling 
companions, thus rewarding them for letting him join them. 
Nell was pensive and silent. 

James Starr had decided, very sensibly, to set off in the 
evening. It would be very much better for the girl to pass 
gradually from the darkness of night to the full light of 
day ; and that would in this way be managed, since between 
midnight and noon she would experience the successive 
phases of shade and sunshine, to which her sight had to 
get accustomed. 

Just as they left the cottage, Nell took Harry's hand 
saying, " Harry, is it really necessary for me to leave the 
mine at all, even for these few days ? " 

" Yes, it is, Nell," replied the young man. " It is needful 
for both of us." 

" But, Harry," resumed Nell, " ever since you found me, 
I have been as happy as I can possibly be. You have been 
teaching me. Why is that not enough ? What am I going 
up there for ? " 

Harry looked at her in silence. Nell was giving utter- 
ance to nearly his own thoughts. 

" My child," said James Starr, " I can well understand 
the hesitation you feel; but it will be good for you to go 
with us. Those who love you are taking you, and they will 
bring you back again. Afterwards you will be free, if you 
wish it, to continue your life in the coal mine, like old 



364 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

Simon, and Madge, and Harry. But at least you ought to 
be able to compare what you give up with what you choose, 
then decide freely. Come ! " 

"Come, dear Nell!" cried Harry. 

" Harry, I am willing to follow you," replied the maiden. 
At nine o'clock the last train through the tunnel started 
to convey Nell and her companions to the surface of the 
earth. Twenty minutes later they alighted on the platform 
where the branch line to New Aberfoyle joins the railway 
from Dumbarton to Stirling. 

The night was already dark. From the horizon to the 
zenith, light vapory clouds hurried through the upper air, 
driven by a refreshing northwesterly breeze. The day had 
been lovely; the night promised to be so likewise. 

On reaching Stirling, Nell and her friends, quitting the 
train, left the station immediately. Just before them, be- 
tween high trees, they could see a road which led to the 
banks of the river Forth. 

The first physical impression on the girl was the purity 
of the air inhaled eagerly by her lungs. 

"Breathe it freely, Nell," said James Starr; "it is frag- 
rant with all the scents of the open country." 

"What is all that smoke passing over our heads?" in- 
quired Nell. 

" Those are clouds," answered Harry, " blown along by 
the westerly wind." 

"Ah!" said Nell, "how I should like to feel myself 
carried along in that silent whirl! And what are those 
shining sparks which glance here and there between rents 
in the clouds? " 

" Those are the stars I have told you about, Nell. So 
many suns they are, so many centers of worlds like our 
own, most likely." 

The constellations became more clearly visible as the 
wind cleared the clouds from the deep blue of the firma- 
ment. Nell gazed upon the myriad stars which sparkled 
overhead. " But how is it," she said at length, " that if 
these are suns, my eyes can endure their brightness? " 

" My child," replied James Starr, " they are indeed suns, 
but suns at an enormous distance. The nearest of these 
millions of stars, whose fays can reach us, is Vega, that 
star in Lyra which you observe near the zenith, and that is 



A SUNRISE 365 

fifty thousand millions of leagues distant. Its brightness, 
therefore, cannot affect your vision. But our own sun, 
which will rise to-morrow, is only distant thirty-eight mil- 
lions of leagues, and no human eye can gaze fixedly upon 
that, for it is brighter than the blaze of any furnace. But 
come, Nell, come ! " 

They pursued their way, James Starr leading the maiden, 
Harry walking by her side, while Jack Ryan roamed about 
like a young dog, impatient of the slow pace of his mas- 
ters. The road was lonely. Nell kept looking at the great 
trees, whose branches, waving in the wind, made them seem 
to her like giants gesticulating wildly. The sound of the 
breeze in the tree-tops, the deep silence during a lull, the 
distant line of the horizon, which could be discerned when 
the road passed over open levels all these things filled 
her with new sensations, and left lasting impressions on 
her mind. 

After some time she ceased to ask questions, and her 
companions respected her silence, not wishing to influence 
by any words of theirs the girl's highly sensitive imagina- 
tion, but preferring to allow ideas to arise spontaneously in 
her soul. 

At about half past eleven o'clock, they gained the banks 
of the river Forth. There a boat, chartered by James 
Starr, awaited them. In a few hours it would convey 
them all to Granton. Nell looked at the clear water which 
flowed up to her feet, as the waves broke gently on the 
beach, reflecting the starlight. " Is this a lake?" said she. 

" No," replied Harry, " it is a great river flowing towards 
the sea, and soon opening so widely as to resemble a gulf. 
Taste a little of the water in the hollow of your hand, Nell, 
and you will perceive that it is not sweet like the waters of 
Lake Malcolm." 

The maiden bent towards the stream, and, raising a little 
water to her lips, " This is quite salt," said she. 

" Yes, the tide is full ; the sea water flows up the river as 
far as this," answered Harry. 

" Oh, Harry ! Harry ! " exclaimed the maiden, " what 
can that red glow on the horizon be? Is it a forest on 
fire?" 

" No, it is the rising moon, Nell." 

" To be sure, that's the moon," cried Jack Ryan, " a fine 



366 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

big silver plate, which the spirits of air hand round and 
round the sky to collect the stars in, like money." 

"Why, Jack/* said the engineer, laughing, "I had no 
idea you could strike out such bold comparisons ! " 

" Well, but, Mr. Starr, it is a just comparison. Don't 
you see the stars disappear as the moon passes on? so I 
suppose they drop into it." 

" What you mean to say, Jack, is that the superior bril- 
liancy o'f the moon eclipses that of stars of the sixth mag- 
nitude, therefore they vanish as she approaches." 

"How beautiful all this is!" repeated Nell again and 
again, with her whole soul in her eyes. " But I thought 
the moon was round? " 

" So she is, when * full/ " said James Starr; " that means 
when she is just opposite to the sun. But to-night the 
moon is in the last quarter, shorn of her just proportions, 
and friend Jack's grand silver plate looks more like a bar- 
ber's basin." 

" Oh, Mr. Starr, what a base comparison ! " he exclaimed, 
" I was just going to begin a sonnet to the moon, but your 
barber's basin has destroyed all chance of an inspiration." 

Gradually the moon ascended the heavens. Before her 
light the lingering clouds fled away, while stars still spar- 
kled in the west, beyond the influence of her radiance. Nell 
gazed in silence on the glorious spectacle. The soft silvery 
light was pleasant to her eyes, and her little trembling hand 
expressed to Harry, who clasped it, how deeply she was 
affected by the scene. 

" Let us embark now," said James Starr. " We have to 
get to the top of Arthur's Seat before sunrise." 

The boat was moored to a post on the bank. A boat- 
man awaited them. Nell and her friends took their seats; 
the sail was spread; it quickly filled before the northwest- 
erly breeze, and they sped on their way. 

What a new sensation was this for the maiden! She 
had been rowed on the waters of Lake Malcolm; but the 
oar, handled ever so lightly by Harry, always betrayed 
effort on the part of the oarsman. Now, for the first time, 
Nell felt herself borne along with a gliding movement, like 
that of a balloon through the air. The water was smooth 
as a lake, and Nell reclined in the stern of the boat, en- 
joying its gentle rocking. Occasionally the effect of the 



A SUNRISE 367 

moonlight on the waters was as though the boat sailed across 
a glittering silver field. Little wavelets rippled along the 
banks. It was enchanting. 

At length Nell was overcome with drowsiness, her eye- 
lids drooped, her head sank on Harry's shoulder she slept. 
Harry, sorry that she should miss any of the beauties of 
this magnificent night, would have aroused her. 

" Let her sleep ! " said the engineer. " She will better 
enjoy the novelties of the day after a couple of hours' rest." 

At two o'clock in the morning the boat reached Granton 
pier. Nell awoke. " Have I been asleep? " inquired she. 

" No, my child," said James Starr. " You have been 
dreaming that you slept, that's all." 

The night continued clear. The moon, riding in mid- 
heaven, diffused her rays on all sides. In the little port 
of Granton lay two or three fishing boats; they rocked 
gently on the waters of the Firth. The wind fell as the 
dawn approached. The atmosphere, clear of mists, prom- 
ised one of those fine autumn days so delicious on the sea 
coast. 

A soft, transparent film of vapor lay along the horizon; 
the first sunbeam would dissipate it; to the maiden it ex- 
hibited that aspect of the sea which seems to blend it with 
the sky. Her view was now enlarged, without producing 
the impression of the boundless infinity of ocean. 

Harry taking Nell's hand, they followed James Starr 
and Jack Ryan as they traversed the deserted streets. To 
Nell, this suburb of the capital appeared only a collection 
of gloomy dark houses, just like Coal Town, only that the 
roof was higher, and gleamed with small lights. 

She stepped lightly forward, and easily kept pace with 
Harry. "Are you not tired, Nell?" asked he, after half 
an hour's walking. 

" No ! my feet seem scarcely to touch the earth," returned 
she. " This sky above us seems so high up, I feel as if I 
could take wing and fly ! " 

"I say! keep hold of her!" cried Jack Ryan. "Our 
little Nell is too good to lose. I feel just as you describe 
though, myself, when I have not left the pit for a long 
time." 

" It is when we no longer experience the oppressive ef- 
fect of the vaulted rocky roof above Coal Town," said 



3 68 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

James Starr, " that the spacious firmament appears to us 
like a profound abyss into which we have, as it were, a 
desire to plunge. Is that what you feel, Nell? " 

" Yes, Mr. Starr, it is exactly like that," said Nell. " It 
makes me feel giddy." 

"Ah! you will soon get over that, Nell," said Harry. 
" You will get used to the outer world, and most likely 
forget all about our dark coal pit." 

" No, Harry, never ! " said Nell, and she put her hand 
over her eyes, as though she would recall the remembrance 
of everything she had lately quitted. 

Between the silent dwellings of the city, the party passed 
along Leith Walk, and went round the Calton Hill, where 
stood, in the light of the gray dawn, the buildings of the 
Observatory and Nelson's Monument. By Regent's 
Bridge and the North Bridge they at last reached the lower 
extremity of the Canongate. The town still lay wrapt 
in slumber. 

Nell pointed to a large building in the center of an open 
space, asking, "What great confused mass is that?" 

" That confused mass, Nell, is the palace of the ancient 
kings of Scotland; that is Holyrood, where many a sad 
scene has been enacted! The historian can here invoke 
many a royal shade ; from those of the early Scottish kings 
to that of the unhappy Mary Stuart, and the French king, 
Charles X. When day breaks, however, Nell, this palace 
will not look so very gloomy. Holyrood, with its four em- 
battled towers, is not unlike some handsome country house. 
But let us pursue our way. There, just above the ancient 
Abbey of Holyrood, are the superb cliffs called Salisbury 
Crags. Arthur's Seat rises above them, and that is where 
we are going. From the summit of Arthur's Seat, Nell, 
your eyes shall behold the sun appear above the horizon 
seaward." 

They entered the King's Park, then, gradually ascending 
they passed across the Queen's Drive, a splendid carriage- 
way encircling the hill, which we owe to a few lines in one 
of Sir Walter Scott's romances. 

Arthur's Seat is in truth only a hill, seven hundred and 
fifty feet high, which stands alone amid surrounding 
heights. In less than half an hour, by an easy winding 
path, James Starr and his party reached the crest of the 



A SUNRISE 369 

crouching lion, which, seen from the west, Arthur's Seat 
so much resembles. There, all four seated themselves ; and 
James Starr, ever ready with quotations from the great 
Scottish novelist, simply said, " Listen to what is written 
by Sir Walter Scott in the eighth chapter of the Heart of 
Mid-Lothian. * If I were to choose a spot from which the 
rising or setting sun could be seen to the greatest possible 
advantage, it would be from this neighborhood.' Now 
watch, Nell ! the sun will soon appear, and for the first time 
you will contemplate its splendor." 

The maiden turned her eyes eastward. Harry, keeping 
close beside her, observed her with anxious interest. Would 
the first beams of day overpower her feelings? All re- 
mained quiet, even Jack Ryan. A faint streak of pale rose 
tinted the light vapors of the horizon. It was the first ray 
of light attacking the laggards of the night. Beneath the 
hill lay the silent city, massed confusedly in the twilight 
of dawn. Here and there lights twinkled among the houses 
of the old town. Westward rose many hill-tops, soon to 
be illuminated by tips of fire. 

Now the distant horizon of the sea became more plainly 
visible. The scale of colors fell into the order of the solar. 
Every instant they increased in intensity, rose color became 
red, red became fiery, daylight dawned. Nell now glanced 
towards the city, of which the outlines became more dis- 
tinct. Lofty monuments, slender steeples emerged from 
the gloom; a kind of ashy light was spread abroad. At 
length one solitary ray struck on the maiden's sight. It 
was that ray of green which, morning or evening, is re- 
flected upwards from the sea when the horizon is clear. 

An instant afterwards, Nell turned, and pointing towards 
a bright prominent point in the New Town, " Fire! " cried 
she. 

" No, Nell, that is no fire," said Harry. " The sun has 
touched with gold the top of Sir Walter Scott's monument " 
and, indeed, the extreme point of the monument blazed 
like the light of a pharos. 

It was day the sun arose his disc seemed to glitter as 
though he indeed emerged from the waters of the sea. Ap- 
pearing at first very large from the effects of refraction, 
he contracted as he rose and assumed the perfectly circular 
form. Soon no eye could endure the dazzling splendor: 

V. IX Verne 



370 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

it was as though the mouth of a furnace was opened through 
the sky. 

Nell closed her eyes, but her eyelids could not exclude 
the glare, and she pressed her fingers over them. Harry 
advised her to turn in the opposite direction. " Oh, no," 
said she, "my eyes must get used to look at what yours 
can bear to see ! " 

Even through her hands Nell perceived a rosy light, which 
became more white as the sun rose above the horizon. As 
her sight became accustomed to, it, her eyelids were raised, 
and at length her eyes drank in the light of day. 

The good child knelt down, exclaiming, " Oh Lord God ! 
how beautiful is Thy creation ! " Then she rose and looked 
around. At her feet extended the panorama of Edinburgh 
the clear, distinct lines of streets in the New Town, and 
the irregular mass of houses, with their confused network 
of streets and lanes, which constitutes Auld Reekie, prop- 
erly so called. Two heights commanded the entire city: 
Edinburgh Castle, crowning its huge basaltic rock, and the 
Calton Hill, bearing on its rounded summit, among other 
monuments, ruins built to represent those of the Parthenon 
at Athens. 

Fine roadways led in all directions from the capital. To 
the north, the coast of the noble Firth of Forth was indented 
by a deep bay, in which could be seen the seaport town of 
Leith, between which and this Modern Athens of the north 
ran a street, straight as that leading to the Piraeus. 

Beyond the wide Firth could be seen the soft outlines of 
the county of Fife, while beneath the spectator stretched 
the yellow sands of Portobello and Newhaven. 

Nell could not speak. Her lips murmured a word or 
two indistinctly; she trembled, became giddy, her strength 
failed her; overcome by the purity of the air and the sub- 
limity of the scene, she sank fainting into Harry's arms, 
who, watching her closely, was ready to support her. 

The youthful maiden, hitherto entombed in the massive 
depths of the earth, had now obtained an idea of the uni- 
verse of the works both of God and of man. She had 
looked upon town and country, and beyond these, into the 
immensity of the sea, the infinity of the heavens. 



CHAPTER XV 

LOCH LOMOND AND LOCH KATRINE 

HARRY bore Nell carefully down the steeps of Arthur's 
Seat, and, accompanied by James Starr and Jack Ryan, 
they reached Lambert's Hotel. There a good breakfast 
restored their strength, and they began to make further 
plans for an excursion to the Highland lakes. 

Nell was now refreshed, and able to look boldly forth 
into the sunshine, while her lungs with ease inhaled the 
free and healthful air. Her eyes learned gladly to know 
the harmonious varieties of color as they rested on the 
green trees, the azure skies, and all the endless shades of 
lovely flowers and plants. 

The railway train, which they entered at the Waverley 
Station, conveyed Nell and her friends to Glasgow. There, 
from the new bridge across the Clyde, they watched the 
curious sea-like movement of the river. After a night's 
rest at Comrie's Royal Hotel, they betook themselves to 
the terminus of the Edinburgh and Glasgow Railway, 
from whence a train would rapidly carry them, by way of 
Dumbarton and Balloch, to the southern extremity of Loch 
Lomond. 

"Now for the land of Rob Roy and Fergus Maclvor! 
the scenery immortalized by the poetical descriptions of 
Walter Scott," exclaimed James Starr. " You don't know 
this country, Jack ? " 

" Only by its songs, Mr. Starr," replied Jack ; " and judg- 
ing by those, it must be grand." 

" So it is, so it is ! " cried the engineer, " and our dear 
Nell shall see it to the best advantage." 

A steamboat, the Sinclair by name, awaited tourists about 
to make the excursion to the lakes. Nell and her com- 
panions went on board. The day had begun in brilliant 
sunshine, free from the British fogs which so often veil 
the skies. 

The passengers were determined to lose none of the 
beauties of nature to be displayed during the thirty miles' 
voyage. Nell, seated between James Starr and Harry, 
drank in with every faculty the magnificent poetry with 
which lovely Scottish scenery is fraught. Numerous small 
isles and islets soon appeared, as though thickly sown on 
the bosom of the lake. The Sinclair stearned her way among 

371 



372 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

them, while between them glimpses could be had of quiet 
valleys, or wild rocky gorges on the mainland. 

" Nell," said James Starr, " every island here has its 
legend, perhaps its song, as well as the mountains which 
overshadow the lake. One may, without much exaggera- 
tion, say that the history of this country is written in gi- 
gantic characters of mountains and islands." 

Nell listened, but these fighting stories made her sad. 
Why all that bloodshed on plains which to her seemed 
enormous, and where surely there must have been room 
for everybody? 

The shores of the lake form a little harbor at Luss. Nell 
could for a moment catch sight of the old tower of its 
ancient castle. Then, the Sinclair turning northward, the 
tourists gazed upon Ben Lomond, towering nearly 3,000 
feet above the level of the lake. 

" Oh, what a noble mountain ! " cried Nell ; " what a view 
there must be from the top ! " 

" Yes, Nell," answered James Starr ; " see how haughtily 
its peak rises from amidst the thicket of oaks, birches, and 
heather, which clothe the lower portion of the mountain! 
From thence one may see two-thirds of old Caledonia. This 
eastern side of the lake was the special abode of the clan 
McGregor. At no great distance, the struggles of the 
Jacobites and Hanoverians repeatedly dyed with blood these 
lonely glens. Over these scenes shines the pale moon, 
called in old ballads ' Macfarlane's lantern.' Among these 
rocks still echo the immortal names of Rob Roy and Mc- 
Gregor Campbell." 

As the Sinclair advanced along the base of the mountain, 
the country became more and more abrupt in character. 
Trees were only scattered here and there ; among them were 
the willows, slender wands of which were formerly used for 
hanging persons of low degree. 

" To economize hemp," remarked James Starr. 

The lake narrowed very much as it stretched northwards. 

The steamer passed a few more islets, Inveruglas, Eilad- 
whow, where stand some ruins of a stronghold of the clan 
MacFarlane. At length the head of the loch was reached, 
and the Sinclair stopped at Inversnaid. 

Leaving Loch Arklet on the left, a steep ascent led to 
the Inn of Stronachlacar, on the banks of Loch Katrine. 



LOCH LOMOND AND LOCH KATRINE 373 

There, at the end of a light pier, floated a small steamboat, 
named, as a matter of course, the Rob Roy. The travelers 
immediately went on board; it was about to start. Loch 
Katrine is only ten miles in length; its width never exceeds 
two miles. The hills nearest it are full of a character pe- 
culiar to themselves. 

" Here we are on this famous lake/' said James Starr. 
" It has been compared to an eel on account of its length 
and windings : and justly so. They say that it never 
freezes. I know nothing about that, but what we want to 
think of is, that here are the scenes of the adventures in 
the Lady of the Lake. I believe, if friend Jack looked 
about him carefully, he might see, still gliding over the 
surface of the water, the shade of the slender form of sweet 
Ellen Douglas." 

" To be sure, Mr. Starr," replied Jack ; " why should I 
not? I may just as well see that pretty girl on the waters 
of Loch Katrine, as those ugly ghosts on Loch Malcolm 
in the coal pit." 

It was by this time three o'clock in the afternoon. The 
less hilly shores of Loch Katrine westward extended like a 
picture framed between Ben An and Ben Venue. At the 
distance of half a mile was the entrance to the narrow bay, 
where was the landing-place for our tourists, who meant 
to return to Stirling by Callander. 

Nell appeared completely worn out by the continued ex- 
citement of the day. A faint ejaculation was all she was 
able to utter in token of admiration as new objects of won- 
der or beauty met her gaze. She required some hours of 
rest, were it but to impress lastingly the recollection of all 
she had seen. 

Her hand rested in Harry's, and, looking earnestly at 
her, he said, " Nell, dear Nell, we shall soon be home again 
in the gloomy region of the coal mine. Shall you not pine 
for what you have seen during these few hours spent in the 
glorious light of day?" 

"No, Harry," replied the girl; "I shall like to think 
about it, but I am glad to go back with you to our dear old 
home." 

" Nell ! " said Harry, vainly attempting to steady his 
voice, " are you willing to be bound to me by the most sacred 
tie? Could you marry me, Nell?" 



374 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

" Yes, Harry, I could, if you are sure that I am able to 
make you happy," answered the maiden, raising her inno- 
cent eyes to his. 

Scarcely had she pronounced these words when an un- 
accountable phenomenon took place. The Rob Roy, still 
half a mile from land, experienced a violent shock. She 
suddenly grounded. No efforts of the engine could move 
her. 

The cause of this accident was simply that Loch Katrine 
was all at once emptied, as though an enormous fissure had 
opened in its bed. In a few seconds it had the appearance 
of a sea beach at low water. Nearly the whole of its con- 
tents had vanished into the bosom of the earth. 

" My friends ! " exclaimed James Starr, as the cause of 
this marvel became suddenly clear to him, " God help New 
Aberfoyle!" 



CHAPTER XVI 

A FINAL THREAT 

ON that day, in the colliery of New Aberfoyle, work 
was going on in the usual regular way. In the distance 
could be heard the crash of great charges of dynamite, by 
which the carboniferous rocks were blasted. Here masses 
of coal were loosened by pick-ax and crowbar; there the 
perforating machines, with their harsh grating, bored 
through the masses of sandstone and schist. 

Hollow, cavernous noises resounded on all sides. 
Draughts of air rushed along the ventilating galleries, and 
the wooden swing-doors slammed beneath their violent 
gusts. In the lower tunnels, trains of trucks kept passing 
along at the rate of fifteen miles an hour, while at their 
approach electric bells warned the workmen to cower down 
in the refuge places. Lifts went incessantly up and down, 
worked by powerful engines on the surface of the soil. 
Coal Town was throughout brilliantly lighted by the electric 
lamps at full power. 

Mining operations were being carried on with the great- 
est activity ; coal was being piled incessantly into the trucks, 
which went in hundreds to empty themselves into the corves 
at the bottom of the shaft. While parties of miners who 



A FINAL THREAT 375 

had labored during the night were taking needful rest, the 
others worked without wasting an hour. 

Old Simon Ford and Madge, having finished their din- 
ner, were resting at the door of their cottage. Simon 
smoked a good pipe of tobacco, and from time to time the 
old couple spoke of Nell, of their boy, of Mr. Starr, and 
wondered how they liked their trip to the surface of the 
earth. Where would they be now? What would they be 
doing? How could they stay so long away from the mine 
without feeling homesick? 

Just then a terrific roaring noise was heard. It was like 
the sound of a mighty cataract rushing down into the mine. 
The old people rose hastily. They perceived at once that 
the waters of Loch Malcolm were rising. A great wave, 
unfurling like a billow, swept up the bank and broke against 
the walls of the cottage. Simon caught his wife in his 
arms, and carried her to the upper part of their dwelling. 

At the same moment, cries arose from all parts of Coal 
Town, which was threatened by a sudden inundation. The 
inhabitants fled for safety to the top of the schist rocks 
bordering the lake; terror spread in all directions; whole 
families in frantic haste rushed towards the tunnel in order 
to reach the upper regions of the pit. 

It was feared that the sea had burst into the colliery, for 
its galleries and passages penetrated as far as the Caledon- 
ian Canal. In that case the entire excavation, vast as it 
was, would be completely flooded. Not a single inhabitant 
of New Aberfoyle would escape death. 

But when the foremost fugitives reached the entrance 
to the tunnel, they encountered Simon Ford, who had quit- 
ted his cottage. "Stop, my friends, stop!" shouted the 
old man; " if our town is to be overwhelmed, the floods 
will rush faster than you can; no one can possibly escape. 
But see ! the waters are rising no further ! it appears to me 
the danger is over." 

" And our comrades at the far end of the works what 
about them?" cried some of the miners. 

"There is nothing to fear for them," replied Simon; 
"they are working on a higher level than the bed of the 
loch." 

It was soon evident that the old man was in the right. 
The sudden influx of water had rushed to the very lowest 



THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

bed of the vast mine, and its only ultimate effect was to 
raise the level of Loch Malcolm a few feet Coal Town 
was uninjured, and it was reasonable to hope that no 
one had perished in the flood of water which had descended 
to the depths of the mine never yet penetrated by the work- 
men. 

Simon and his men could not decide whether this inun- 
dation was owing to the overflow of a subterranean sheet 
of water penetrating fissures in the solid rock, or to some 
underground torrent breaking through its worn bed, and 
precipitating itself to the lowest level of the mine. But 
that very same evening they knew what to think about 
it, for the local papers published an account of the mar- 
velous phenomenon which Loch Katrine had exhibited. 

The surprising news was soon after confirmed by the 
four travelers, who, returning with all possible speed to 
the cottage, learned with extreme satisfaction that no seri- 
ous damage was done in New Aberfoyle. 

The bed of Loch Katrine had fairly given way. The 
waters had suddenly broken through by an enormous fis- 
sure into the mine beneath. Of Sir Walter Scott's favorite 
loch there was not left enough to wet the pretty foot of the 
Lady of the Lake; all that remained was a pond of a few 
acres at the further extremity. 

This singular event made a profound sensation in the 
country. It was a thing unheard of that a lake should in 
the space of a few minutes empty itself, and disappear into 
the bowels of the earth. There was nothing for it but to 
erase Loch Katrine from the map of Scotland until (by 
public subscription) it could be refilled, care being of course 
taken, in the first place, to stop the rent up tight. This 
catastrophe would have been the death of Sir Walter Scott, 
had he still been in the world. 

The accident was explicable when it was ascertained that, 
between the bed of the lake and the vast cavity beneath, 
the geological strata had become reduced to a thin layer, in- 
capable of longer sustaining the weight of water. 

Now, although to most people this event seemed plainly 
due to natural causes, yet to James Starr and his friends, 
Simon and Harry Ford, the question constantly recurred, 
was it not rather to be attributed to malevolence ? Uneasy 
suspicions continually harassed their minds. Was their evil 



A FINAL THREAT 377 

genius about to renew his persecution of those who ventured 
to work this rich mine? 

At the cottage, some days later, James Starr thus dis- 
cussed the matter with the old man and his son : " Well, 
Simon," said he, " to my thinking we must class this cir- 
cumstance with the others for which we still seek elucida- 
tion, although it is no doubt possible to explain it by natural 



causes." 



" I am quite of your mind, Mr. James," replied Simon, 
" but take my advice, and say nothing about it ; let us make 
all researches ourselves." 

"Oh, I know the result of such research beforehand! " 
cried the engineer. 

" And what will it be, then? " 

" We shall find proofs of malevolence, but not the male- 
factor." 

" But he exists ! he is there ! Where can he lie concealed ? 
Is it possible to conceive that the most depraved human being 
could, single-handed, carry out an idea so infernal as that 
of bursting through the bed of a lake? I believe I shall 
end by thinking, like Jack Ryan, that the evil demon of 
the mine revenges himself on us for having invaded his do- 



main." 



Nell was allowed to hear as little as possible of these dis- 
cussions. Indeed, she showed no desire to enter into them, 
although it was very evident that she shared in the anxie- 
ties of her adopted parents. The melancholy in her counte- 
nance bore witness to much mental agitation. 

It was at length resolved that James Starr, together with 
Simon and Harry, should return to the scene of the disaster, 
and endeavor to satisfy themselves as to the cause of it. 
They mentioned their project to no one. To those un- 
acquainted with the group of facts on which it was based, 
the opinion of Starr and his friends could not fail to ap- 
pear wholly inadmissible. 

A few days later, the three friends proceeded in a small 
boat to examine the natural pillars on which had rested 
the solid earth forming the basin of Loch Katrine. They 
discovered that they had been right in suspecting that the 
massive columns had been undermined by blasting. The 
blackened traces of explosion were to be seen, the waters 
having subsided below the level of these mysterious opera- 



378 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

tions. Thus the fall of a portion of the vast vaulted dome 
was proved to have been premeditated by man, and by man's 
hand had it been effected. 

"It is impossible to doubt it," said James Starr; "and 
who can say what might not have happened had the sea, 
instead of a little loch, been let in upon us? " 

" You may well say that," cried the old overman, with a 
feeling of pride in his beloved mine; " for nothing less than 
a sea would have drowned our Aberfoyle. But, once more, 
what possible interest could any human being have in the 
destruction of our works? " 

" It is quite incomprehensible," replied James Starr. 
" This case is something perfectly unlike that of a band of 
common criminals, who, concealing themselves in dens and 
caves, go forth to rob and pillage the surrounding country. 
The evil deeds of such men would certainly, in the course 
of three years have betrayed their existence and lurking- 
places. Neither can it be, as I sometimes used to think, 
that smugglers or coiners carried on their illegal practices 
in some distant and unknown corner of these prodigious 
caverns, and were consequently anxious to drive us out of 
them. But no one coins false money or obtains contra- 
band goods only to conceal them ! 

" Yet it is clear that an implacable enemy has sworn the 
ruin of New Aberfoyle, and that some interest urges him 
to seek in every possible way to wreak his hatred upon us. 
He appears to be too weak to act openly, and lays his 
schemes in secret ; but displays such intelligence as to render 
him a most formidable foe. 

" My friends, he must understand better than we do the 
secrets of our domain, since he has all this time eluded 
our vigilance. He must be a man experienced in mining, 
skilled beyond the most skillful that's certain, Simon! 
We have proof enough of that. 

" Let me see ! Have you never had a personal enemy, to 
whom your suspicions might point? Think well! There 
is such a thing as hatred which time never softens. Go 
back to recollections of your earliest days. What befalls 
us appears the work of a stern and patient will, and to ex- 
plain it demands every effort of thought and memory." 

Simon did not answer immediately his mind evidently 
engaged in a close and candid survey of his past life. Pres- 



A FINAL THREAT 379 

ently, raising his head, " No," said he ; " no ! Heaven be my 
witness, neither Madge nor I have ever injured anybody. 
We cannot believe that we have a single enemy in the 
world." 

" Ah ! if Nell would only speak ! " cried the engineer. 

" Mr. Starr and you, father," said Harry, " I do beg of 
you to keep silence on this matter, and not to question my 
poor Nell. I know she is very anxious and uneasy; and I 
feel positive that some great secret painfully oppresses her 
heart. Either she knows nothing it would be of any use 
for us to hear, or she considers it her duty to be silent. It 
is impossible to doubt her affection for us for all of us. 
If at a future time she informs me of what she has hitherto 
concealed from us, you shall know about it immediately." 

" So be it, then, Harry," answered the engineer; " and yet 
I must say Nell's silence, if she knows anything, is to me 
perfectly inexplicable." 

Harry would have continued her defense; but the engi- 
neer stopped him, saying, " All right, Harry ; we promise 
to say no more about it to your future wife." 

" With my father's consent she shall be my wife without 
further delay." 

" My boy," said old Simon, " your marriage shall take 
place this very day month. Mr. Starr, will you undertake 
the part of Nell's father?" 

" You may reckon upon me for that, Simon," answered 
the engineer. 

They then returned to the cottage, but said not a word 
of the result of their examinations in the mine, so that to 
the rest of its inhabitants, the bursting in of the vaulted roof 
of the caverns continued to be regarded as a mere accident. 
There was but a loch the less in Scotland. 

Nell gradually resumed her customary duties, and Harry 
made good use of her little visit to the upper air, in the 
instructions he gave her. She enjoyed the recollections of 
life above ground, yet without regretting it. The somber 
region she had loved as a child, and in which her wedded life 
would be spent, was as dear to her as ever. 

The approaching marriage created great excitement in 
New Aberfoyle. Good wishes poured in on all sides, and 
foremost among them were Jack Ryan's. He was detected 
busily practicing his best songs in preparation for the great 



380 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

day, which was to be celebrated by the whole population of 
Coal Town. 

During the month preceding the wedding-day, there were 
more accidents occurring in New Aberfoyle than had ever 
been known in the place. One would have thought the 
approaching union of Harry and Nell actually provoked 
one catastrophe after another. These misfortunes hap- 
pened chiefly at the further and lowest extremity of the 
works, and the cause of them was always in some way 
mysterious. 

Thus, for instance, the wood-work of a distant gallery 
was discovered to be in flames, which were extinguished by 
Harry and his companions at the risk of their lives, by em- 
ploying engines filled with water and carbonic acid, always 
kept ready in case of necessity. The lamp used by the 
incendiary was found; but no clew whatever as to who he 
could be. 

Another time an inundation took place in consequence 
of the stanchions of a water-tank giving way; and Mr. 
Starr ascertained beyond a doubt that these supports had 
first of all been partially sawn through. Harry, who 
had been overseeing the works near the place at the time, 
was buried in the falling rubbish, and narrowly escaped 
death. 

A few days afterwards, on the steam tramway, a train of 
trucks, which Harry was passing along, met with an 
obstacle on the rails, and was overturned. It was then dis- 
covered that a beam had been laid across the line. In short, 
events of this description became so numerous that the 
miners were seized with a kind of panic, and it required all 
the influence of their chiefs to keep them on the works. 

" You would think that there was a whole band of these 
ruffians," Simon kept saying, " and we can't lay hands on a 
single one of them." 

Search was made in all directions. The county police 
were on the alert night and day, yet discovered nothing. 
The evil intentions seeming specially designed to injure 
Harry. Starr forbade him to venture alone beyond the 
ordinary limits of the works. 

They were equally careful of Nell, although, at Harry 's 
entreaty, these malicious attempts to do harm were con- 
cealed from her, because they might remind her painfully 



A FINAL THREAT 381 

of former times. Simon and Madge watched over her by 
day and by night with a sort of stern solicitude. The poor 
child yielded to their wishes, without a remark or a com- 
plaint. Did she perceive that they acted with a view to 
her interest? Probably she did. And on her part, she 
seemed to watch over others, and was never easy unless all 
whom she loved were together in the cottage. 

When Harry came home in the evening, she could not 
restrain expressions of child-like joy, very unlike her usual 
manner, which was rather reserved than demonstrative. 
As soon as day broke, she was astir before anyone else, 
and her constant uneasiness lasted all day until the hour of 
return home from work. 

Harry became very anxious that their marriage should 
take place. He thought that, when the irrevocable step 
was taken, malevolence would be disarmed, and that Nell 
would never feel safe until she was his wife. James Starr, 
Simon, and Madge, were all of the same opinion, and every- 
one counted the intervening days, for everyone suffered 
from the most uncomfortable forebodings. 

It was perfectly evident that nothing relating to Nell 
was indifferent to this hidden foe, whom it was impossible 
to meet or to avoid. Therefore it seemed quite possible 
that the solemn act of her marriage with Harry might be 
the occasion of some new and dreadful outbreak of his 
hatred. 

One morning, a week before the day appointed for the 
ceremony, Nell, rising early, went out of the cottage before 
anyone else. No sooner had she crossed the threshold than 
a cry of indescribable anguish escaped her lips. 

Her voice was heard throughout the dwelling; in a mo- 
ment, Madge, Harry, and Simon were at her side. Nell 
was pale as death, her countenance agitated, her features 
expressing the utmost horror. Unable to speak, her eyes 
were riveted on the door of the -cottage, which she had just 
opened. 

With rigid fingers she pointed to the following words 
traced upon it during the night : " Simon Ford, you have 
robbed me of the last vein in our old pit. Harry, your son, 
has robbed me of Nell. Woe betide you ! Woe betide you 
all ! Woe betide New Aberfoyle ! SILFAX." 

" Silfax ! " exclaimed Simon and Madge together. 



382 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

"Who is this man?" demanded Harry, looking alter- 
nately at his father and at the maiden. 

" Silfax! " repeated Nell in tones of despair, " Silfax! " 
and, murmuring this name, her whole frame shuddering 
with fear and agitation, she was borne away to her chamber 
by old Madge. 

James Starr, hastening to the spot, read the threatening 
sentences again and again. 

" The hand which traced these lines," said he at length, 
" is the same which wrote me the letter contradicting yours, 
Simon. The man calls himself Silfax. I see by your 
troubled manner that you know him. Who is this Silfax? " 



CHAPTER XVII 

THE " MONK " 

THIS name revealed everything to the old overman. It 
was that of the last " monk " of the Dochart pit. 

In former days, before the invention of the safety-lamp, 
Simon had known this fierce man, whose business it was to 
go daily, at the risk of his life, to produce partial explosions 
of fire-damp in the passages. He used to see this strange 
solitary being prowling about the mine, always accompanied 
by a monstrous owl, which he called Harfang, who assisted 
him in his perilous occupation, by soaring with a lighted 
match to places Silfax was unable to reach. 

One day this old man disappeared, and at the same time 
also, a little orphan girl born in the mine, who had no rela- 
tion but himself, her great-grandfather. It was perfectly 
evident now that this child was Nell. During the fifteen 
years, up to the time when she was saved by Harry, they 
must have lived in some secret abyss of the mine. 

The old overman, full of mingled compassion and anger, 
made known to the engineer and Harry all that the name 
of Silfax had revealed to him. It explained the whole 
mystery. Silfax was the mysterious being so long vainly 
sought for in the depths of New Aberfoyle. 

" So you knew him, Simon? " demanded Mr. Starr. 

" Yes, that I did," replied the overman. " The Harfang 
man, we used to call him. Why, he was old then! He 
must be fifteen or twenty years older than I am. A wild, 



THE "MONK" 383 

savage sort of fellow, who held aloof from everyone and 
was known to fear nothing neither fire nor water. It was 
his own fancy to follow the trade of * monk/ which faw 
would have liked. The constant danger of the business 
had unsettled his 'brain. He was prodigiously strong, and 
he knew the mine as no one else at any rate, as well as I 
did. He lived on a small allowance. In faith, I believed 
him dead years ago." 

" But," resumed James Starr, " what does he mean by 
those words, ' You have robbed me of the last vein of our 
old mine'?" 

" Ah ! there it is," replied Simon ; " for a long time it had 
been a fancy of his I told you his mind was deranged 
that he had a right to the mine of Aberfoyle; so he became 
more and more savage in temper the deeper the Dochart 
pit his pit ! -was worked out. It just seemed as if it was 
his own body that suffered from every blow of the pickax. 
You must remember that, Madge ? " 

" Ay, that I do, Simon," replied she. 

" I can recollect all this," resumed Simon, " since I have 
seen the name of Silfax on the door. But I tell you, I 
thought the man was dead, and never imagined that the 
spiteful 'being we have so long sought for could be the old 
fireman of the Dochart pit." 

" Well, now, then," said Starr, " it is all quite plain. 
Chance made known to Silfax the new vein of coal. With 
the egotism of madness, he believed himself the owner of a 
treasure he must conceal and defend. Living in the mine, 
and wandering about day and night, he perceived that you 
had discovered the secret, and had written in all haste to 
beg me to come. Hence the letter contradicting yours; 
hence, after my arrival, all the accidents that occurred, such 
as the block of stone thrown at Harry, the broken ladder 
at the Yarrow shaft, the obstruction of the openings into 
the wall of the new cutting; hence, in short, our imprison- 
ment, and then our deliverance, brought about by the kind 
assistance of Nell, who acted of course without the 'knowl- 
edge of this man Silfax, and contrary to his intentions." 

" You describe everything exactly as it must have hap- 
pened, Mr. Starr," returned old Simon. " The old * Monk ' 
is mad enough now, at any rate ! " 

" All the better," quoth Madge. 



384 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

" I don't know that," said Starr, shaking his head; " it is 
a terrible sort of madness this." 

"Ah! now I understand that the very thought of him 
must have terrified poor little Nell, and also I see that she 
could not bear to denounce her grandfather. What a miser- 
able time she must have had of it with the old man ! " 

" Miserable with a vengeance," replied Simon, " between 
that savage and his owl, as savage as himself. Depend upon 
it, that bird isn't dead. That was what put our lamp out, 
and also so nearly cut the rope by which Harry and Nell 
were suspended." 

"And then, you see," said Madge, "this news of the 
marriage of our son with his granddaughter added to his 
rancor and ill-will." 

"To be sure," said Simon. "To think that his Nell 
should marry one of the robbers of his own coal mine would 
just drive him wild altogether." 

" He will have to make up his mind to it, however," cried 
Harry. " Mad as he is, we shall manage to convince him 
that Nell is better off with us here than ever she was in the 
caverns of the pit. I am sure, Mr. Starr, if we could only 
catch him, we should be able to make him listen to reason." 

" My poor Harry ! there is no reasoning with a madman," 
replied the engineer. "Of course it is better to know your 
enemy than not; but you must not fancy all is right be- 
cause we have found out who he is. We must be on our 
guard, my friends ; and to begin with, Harry, you positively 
must question Nell. She will perceive that her silence is no 
longer reasonable. Even for her grandfather's own inter- 
est, she ought to speak now. For his own sake, as well as 
for ours, these insane plots must be put a stop to." 

" I feel sure, Mr. Starr," answered Harry, " that Nell will 
of herself propose to tell you what she knows. You see it 
was from a sense of duty that she has been silent hitherto. 
My mother was very right to take her to her room just now. 
She much needed time to recover her spirits ; but now I will 
go for her." 

" You need not do so, Harry," said the maiden in a clear 
and firm voice, as she entered at that moment the room in 
which they were. Nell was very pale; traces of tears were 
in her eyes; but her whole manner showed that she had 
nerved herself to act as her loyal heart dictated as her duty. 



THE "MONK" 385 

" Nell ! " cried Harry, springing towards her. 

The girl arrested her lover by a gesture, and continued, 
" Your father and mother, and you, Harry, must now know 
all. And you too, Mr. Starr, must remain ignorant of noth- 
ing that concerns the child you have received, and whom 
Harry unfortunately for him, alas! drew from the 
abyss." 

" Oh, Nell ! what are you saying? " cried Harry. 

"Allow her to speak," said James Starr in a decided 
tone. 

" I am the granddaughter of old Silfax," resumed Nell. 
" I never knew a mother till the day I came here," added 
she, looking at Madge. 

" Blessed be that day, my daughter ! " said the old woman. 

"I knew no father till I saw Simon Ford," continued 
Nell ; " nor friend till the day when Harry's hand touched 
mine. Alone with my grandfather I have lived during 
fifteen years in the remote and most solitary depths of the 
mine. I say with my grandfather, but I can scarcely use 
the expression, for I seldom saw him. When he disap- 
peared from Old Aberfoyle, he concealed himself in caverns 
known only to himself. In his way he was kind to me, 
dreadful as he was; he fed me with whatever he could pro- 
cure from outside the mine; but I can dimly recollect that 
in my earliest years I was the nursling of a goat, the death 
of which was a bitter grief to me. My grandfather, seeing 
my distress, brought me another animal a dog he said it 
was. But, unluckily, this dog was lively, and barked. 
Grandfather did not like anything cheerful. He had a 
horror of noise, and had taught me to be silent ; the dog he 
could not teach to be quiet, so the poor animal very soon 
disappeared. My grandfather's companion was a ferocious 
bird, Harfang, of which, at first, I had a perfect horror; 
but this creature, in spite of my dislike to it, took such a 
strong affection for me, that I could not help returning it. 
It even obeyed me better than its master, which used to 
make me quite uneasy, for my grandfather was jealous. 
Harfang and I did not dare to let him see us much together ; 
we both knew it would be dangerous. But I am talking 
too much about myself : the great thing is about you." 

" No, my child," said James Starr, " tell us everything 
that comes to your mind." 

V. IX Verne 



386 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

" My grandfather," continued Nell, " always regarded 
your abode in the mine with a very evil eye not that there 
was any lack of space. His chosen refuge was far very 
far from you. But he could not bear to feel that you were 
there. If I asked any questions about the people up above 
us, his face grew dark, he gave no answer, and continued 
quite silent for a long time afterwards. But when he per- 
ceived that, not content with the old domain, you seemed to 
think of encroaching upon his, then indeed his anger burst 
forth. He swore that, were you to succeed in reaching the 
new mine, you should assuredly perish. Notwithstanding 
his great age, his strength is astonishing, and his threats 
used to make me tremble." 

" Go on, Nell, my child," said Simon to the girl, who 
paused as though to collect her thoughts. 

" On the occasion of your first attempt," resumed Nell, 
" as soon as my grandfather saw that you were fairly inside 
the gallery leading to New Aberfoyle, he stopped up the 
opening, and turned it into a prison for you. I only knew 
you as shadows dimly seen in the gloom of the pit, but I 
could not endure the idea that you would die of hunger in 
these horrid places; and so, at the risk of being detected, I 
succeeded in obtaining bread and water for you during some 
days. I should have liked to help you to escape, but it was 
so difficult to avoid the vigilance of my grandfather. You 
were about to die. Then arrived Jack Ryan and the others. 
By the providence of God I met with them, and instantly 
guided them to where you were. When my grandfather 
discovered what I had done, his rage against me was terrible. 
I expected death at his hands. After that my life became 
insupportable to me. My grandfather completely lost his 
senses. He proclaimed himself King of Darkness and 
Flame ; and when he heard your tools at work on coal-beds 
which he considered entirely his own, he became furious 
and beat me cruelly. I would have fled from him, but it 
was impossible, so narrowly did he watch me. At last, in a 
fit of ungovernable fury, he threw me down into the abyss 
where you found me, and disappeared, vainly calling on 
Harfang, which faithfully stayed by me, to follow him. I 
know not how long I remained there, but I felt I was at the 
point of death when you, my Harry, came and saved me. 
But now you all see that the grandchild of old Silfax can 



THE "MONK" 387 

never be the wife of Harry Ford, because it would be cer- 
tain death to you all! " 

"Nell! "cried Harry. 

" No," continued the maiden, " my resolution is taken. 
By one means only can your ruin be averted ; I must return 
to my grandfather. He threatens to destroy the whole of 
New Aberfoyle. His is a soul incapable of mercy or for- 
giveness, and no mortal can say to what horrid deed the 
spirit of revenge will lead him. My duty is clear ; I should 
be the most despicable creature on earth did I hesitate to per- 
form it. Farewell! I thank you all heartily. You only 
have taught me what happiness is. Whatever may befall, 
believe that my whole heart remains with you." 

At these words, Simon, Madge, and Harry started up in 
an agony of grief, exclaiming in tones of despair, " What, 
Nell ! is it possible you would leave us ? " 

James Starr put them all aside with an air of authority, 
and, going straight up to Nell, he took both her hands in his, 
saying quietly, " Very right, my child ; you have said exactly 
what you ought to say ; and now listen to what we have to 
say in reply. We shall not let you go away; if necessary, 
we shall keep you by force. Do you think we could be so 
base as to accept of your generous proposal? These threats 
of Silfax are formidable no doubt about it! But, after 
all, a man is but a man, and we can take precautions. You 
will tell us, will you not, even for his own sake, all you can 
about his habits and his lurking-places ? All we want to do 
is to put it out of his power to do harm, and perhaps bring 
him to reason." 

" You want to do what is quite impossible," said Nell. 
" My grandfather is everywhere and nowhere. I have 
never seen his retreats. I have never seen him sleep. If 
he meant to conceal himself, he used to leave me alone, and 
vanish. When I took my resolution, Mr. Starr, I was aware 
of everything you could say against it. Believe me, there is 
but one way to render Silfax powerless, and that will be by 
my return to him. Invisible himself, he sees everything that 
goes on. Just think whether it is likely he could discover 
your very thoughts and intentions, from that time when the 
letter was written to Mr. Starr, up to now that my marriage 
with Harry has been arranged, if he did not possess the 
extraordinary faculty of knowing everything. As far as I 



388 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

am able to judge, my grandfather, in his very insanity, is a 
man of most powerful mind. He formerly used to talk to 
me on very lofty subjects. He taught me the existence of 
God, and never deceived me but on one point, which was * 
that he made me believe that all men were base and per- 
fidious, because he wished to inspire me with his own hatred 
of all the human race. When Harry brought me to the 
cottage, you thought I was simply ignorant of mankind, but, 
far beyond that, I was in mortal fear of you all. Ah, for- 
give me! I assure you, for many days I believed myself in 
the power of wicked wretches, and I longed to escape. You, 
Madge, first led me to perceive the truth, not by anything 
you said, but by the sight of your daily life, for I saw that 
your husband and son loved and respected you! Then all 
these good and happy workmen, who so revere and trust 
Mr. Starr, I used to think they were slaves; and when, for 
the first time, I saw the whole population of Aberfoyle come 
to church and kneel down to pray to God, and praise Him 
for His infinite goodness, I said to myself, ' My grandfather 
has deceived me/ But now, enlightened by all you have 
taught me, I am inclined to think he himself is deceived. I 
mean to return to the secret passages I formerly frequented 
with him. He is certain to be on the watch. I will call to 
him ; he will hear me, and who knows but that, by returning 
to him, I may be able to bring him to the knowledge of the 
truth?" 

The maiden spoke without interruption, for all felt that 
it was good for her to open her whole heart to her friends. 

But when, exhausted by emotion, and with eyes full of 
tears, she ceased speaking, Harry turned to old Madge and 
said, " Mother, what should you think of the man who could 
forsake the noble girl whose words you have been listening 
to?" 

"I should think he was a base coward," said Madge, 
" and, were he my son, I should renounce and curse him." 

"Nell, do you hear what our mother says?" resumed 
Harry. " Wherever you go I will follow you. If you per- 
sist in leaving us, we will go away together." 

" Harry ! Harry ! " cried Nell. 

Overcome by her feelings, the girl's lips blanched, and 
she sank into the arms of Madge, who begged she might 
be left alone with her. 



CHAPTER XVIII 
NELL'S WEDDING 

IT was agreed that the inhabitants of the cottage must 
keep more on their guard than ever. The threats of old Sil- 
fax were too serious to be disregarded. It was only too 
possible that he possessed some terrible means by which the 
whole of Aberfoyle might be annihilated. 

Armed sentinels were posted at the various entrances to 
the mine, with orders to keep strict watch day and night. 
Any stranger entering the mine was brought before James 
Starr, that he might give an account of himself. There be- 
ing no fear of treason among the inhabitants of Coal Town, 
the threatened danger to the subterranean colony was made 
known to them. Nell was informed of all the precautions 
taken, and became more tranquil, although she was not free 
from uneasiness. Harry's determination to follow her 
wherever she went compelled her to promise not to escape 
from her friends. 

During the week preceding the wedding, no accident what- 
ever occurred in Aberfoyle. The system of watching was 
carefully maintained, but the miners began to recover from 
the panic, which had seriously interrupted the work of ex- 
cavation. James Starr continued to look out for Silfax. 
The old man having vindictively declared that Nell should 
never marry Simon's son, it was natural to suppose that he 
would not hesitate to commit any violent deed which would 
hinder their union. 

The examination of the mine was carried on minutely. 
Every passage and gallery was searched, up to those higher 
ranges which opened out among the ruins of Dundonald 
Castle. It was rightly supposed that through this old build- 
ing Silfax passed out to obtain what was needful for the 
support of his miserable existence (which he must have 
done, either by purchasing or thieving). 

As to the " fire-maidens," James Starr began to thinlc 
that appearance must have been produced by some jet of 
fire-damp gas which, issuing from that part of the pit, could 
be lighted by Silfax. He was not far wrong; but all search 
for proof of this was fruitless, and the continued strain of 
anxiety in this perpetual effort to detect a malignant and in- 
visible being rendered the engineer outwardly calm an 
unhappy man. 

389 



390 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

As the wedding-day approached, his dread of some catas- 
trophe increased, and he could not but speak of it to the old 
overman, whose uneasiness soon more than equaled his 
own. At length the day came. Silfax had given no token 
of existence. 

By daybreak the entire population of Coal Town was 
astir. Work was suspended; overseers and workmen alike 
desired to do honor to Simon Ford and his son. They 
all felt they owed a large debt of gratitude to these bold 
and persevering men, by whose means the mine had been 
restored to its former prosperity. The ceremony was to 
take place at eleven o'clock, in St. Giles's chapel, which stood 
on the shores of Loch Malcolm. 

At the appointed time, Harry left the cottage, supporting 
his mother on his arm, while Simon led the bride. Follow- 
ing them came Starr, the engineer, composed in manner, but 
in reality nerved to expect the worst, and Jack Ryan, step- 
ping superb in full Highland piper's costume. Then came 
the other mining engineers, the principal people of Coal 
Town, the friends and comrades of the old overman every 
member of this great family of miners forming the popula- 
tion of New Aberfoyle. 

In the outer world, the day was one of the hottest of the 
month of August, peculiarly oppressive in northern coun- 
tries. The sultry air penetrated the depths of the coal 
mine, and elevated the temperature. The air which entered 
through the ventilating shafts, and the great tunnel of Loch 
Malcolm, was charged with electricity, and the barometer, 
it was afterwards remarked, had fallen in a remarkable man- 
ner. There was, indeed, every indication that a storm 
might burst forth beneath the rocky vault which formed the 
roof of the enormous crypt of the very mine itself. 

But the inhabitants were not at that moment troubling 
themselves about the chances of atmospheric disturbance 
above ground. Everybody, as a matter of course, had put 
on his best clothes for the occasion. Madge was dressed 
in the fashion of days gone by, wearing the " toy " and the 
" rofeelay," or Tarton plaid, of matrons of the olden time, 
old Simon wore a coat of which Bailie Nicol Jarvie him- 
self would have approved. 

Nell had resolved to show nothing of her mental agita- 
tion ; she forbade her heart to beat, or her inward terrors to 



NELL'S WEDDING 391 

betray themselves, and the brave girl appeared before all 
with a calm and collected aspect. She had declined every 
ornament of dress, and the very simplicity of her attire 
added to the charming elegance of her appearance. Her 
hair was bound with the " snood," the usual head-dress of 
Scottish maidens. 

All proceeded towards St. Giles's chapel, which had been 
handsomely decorated for the occasion. 

The electric discs of light which illuminated Coal Town 
blazed like so many suns. A luminous atmosphere per- 
vaded New Aberfoyle. In the chapel, electric lamps shed a 
glow over the stained-glass windows, which shone like fiery 
kaleidoscopes. At the porch of the chapel the minister 
awaited the arrival of the wedding party. 

It approached, after having passed in stately procession 
along the shore of Loch Malcolm. Then the tones of the 
organ were heard, and, preceded by the minister, the group 
advanced into the chapel. The Divine blessing was first in- 
voked on all present. Then Harry and Nell remained alone 
before the minister, who, holding the sacred book in his 
hand, proceeded to say, " Harry, will you take Nell to be 
your wife, and will you promise to love her always? " 

" I promise," answered the young man in a firm and 
steady voice. 

" And you, Nell," continued the minister, " will you take 
Harry to be your husband, and " 

Before he could finish the sentence, a prodigious noise 
resounded from without. One of the enormous rocks, on 
which was formed the terrace overhanging the banks of 
Loch Malcolm, had suddenly given way and opened without 
explosion, disclosing a profound abyss, into which the waters 
were now wildly plunging. 

In another instant, among the shattered rocks and rush- 
ing waves appeared a canoe, which a vigorous arm propelled 
along the surface of the lake. In the canoe was seen the 
figure of an old man standing upright. He was clothed in 
a dark mantle, his hair was dishevelled, a long white beard 
fell over his breast, and in his hand he bore a lighted Davy 
safety lamp, the flame being protected by the metallic gauze 
of the apparatus. 

In a loud voice this old man shouted, " The fire-damp is 
upon you ! Woe woe betide ye all ! " 



392 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

At the same moment the slight smell peculiar to car- 
buretted hydrogen was perceptibly diffused through the at- 
mosphere. And, in truth, the fall of the rock had made a 
passage of escape for an enormous quantity of explosive gas, 
accumulated in vast cavities, the openings to which had 
hitherto been blocked up. 

Jets and streams of the fire-damp now rose upward in the 
vaulted dome; and well did that fierce old man know that 
the consequence of what he had done would be to render 
explosive the whole atmosphere of the mine. 

James Starr and several others, having hastily quitted 
the chapel, and perceived the imminence of the danger, now 
rushed back, crying out in accents of the utmost alarm, 
" Fly from the mine ! Fly instantly from the mine ! " 

" Now for the fire-damp ! Here comes the fire-damp ! " 
yelled the old man, urging his canoe further along the lake. 

Harry with his bride, his father and his mother, left the 
chapel in haste and in terror. 

" Fly! fly for your lives! " repeated James Starr. Alas! 
it was too late to fly ! Old Silfax stood there, prepared to 
fulfill his last dreadful threat prepared to stop the marriage 
of Nell and Harry by overwhelming the entire population 
of the place beneath the ruins of the coal mine. 

As he stood ready to accomplish this act of vengeance, 
his enormous owl, whose white plumage was marked with 
black spots, was seen hovering directly above his head. 

At that moment a man flung himself into the waters of 
the lake, and swam vigorously towards the canoe. 

It was Jack Ryan, fully determined to reach the mad- 
man before he could do the dreadful deed of destruction. 

Silfax saw him coming. Instantly he smashed the glass 
of his lamp, and, snatching out the burning wick, waved it 
in the air. 

Silence like death fell upon the astounded multitude. 
James Starr, in the calmness of despair, marvelled that the 
inevitable explosion was even for a moment delayed. 

Silfax, gazing upwards with wild and contracted fea- 
tures, appeared to become aware that the gas, lighter than 
the lower atmosphere, was accumulating far up under the 
dome; and at a sign from him the owl, seizing in its claw 
the lighted match, soared upwards to the vaulted roof, to- 
wards which the madman pointed with outstretched arm. 



NELL'S WEDDING 393 

Another second and New Aberfoyle would be no more. 

Suddenly Nell sprang from Harry's arms, and, with a 
bright look of inspiration, she ran to the very brink of the 
waters of the lake. " Harfang! Harfang! " cried she in a 
clear voice ; " here ! come to me ! " 

The faithful bird, surprised, appeared to hesitate in its 
flight. Presently, recognizing Nell's voice, it dropped the 
burning match into the water, and, describing a wide circle, 
flew downwards, alighting at the maiden's feet. 

Then a terrible cry echoed through the vaulted roofs. 
It was the last sound uttered by old Silfax. 

Just as Jack Ryan laid his hand on the edge of the canoe, 
the old man, foiled in his purpose of revenge, cast himself 
headlong into the waters of the lake. 

" Save him ! oh, save him ! " shrieked Nell in a voice of 
agony. Immediately Harry plunged into the water, and, 
swimming towards Jack Ryan, he dived repeatedly. 

But his efforts were useless. The waters of Loch Mal- 
colm yielded not their prey : they closed forever over Silfax. 



CHAPTER XIX 

THE LEGEND OF OLD SILFAX 

Six months after these events, the marriage, so strangely 
interrupted, was finally celebrated in St. Giles's chapel, and 
the young couple, who still wore mourning garments, 're- 
turned to the cottage. James Starr and Simon Ford, 
henceforth free from the anxieties which had so long dis- 
tressed them, joyously presided over the entertainment which 
followed the ceremony, and prolonged it to the following 
day. 

On this memorable occasion, Jack Ryan, in his favorite 
character of piper, and in all the glory of full dress, blew 
up his chanter, and astonished the company by the unheard 
of achievement of playing, singing, and dancing all at 
once. 

It is needless to say that Harry and Nell were happy. 
These loving hearts, after the trials they had gone through 
found in their union the happiness they deserved. 

As to Simon Ford, the ex-overman of New Aberfoyle, 
he began to talk of celebrating his golden wedding, after 



394 THE UNDERGROUND CITY 

fifty years of marriage with good old Madge, who liked the 
idea immensely herself. 

" And after that, why not golden wedding number two? " 

" You would like a couple of fifties, would you, Mr. 
Simon ? " said Jack Ryan. 

" All right, my boy/' replied the overman quietly, " I see 
nothing against it in this fine climate of ours, and living 
far from the luxury and intemperance of the outer world." 

Will the dwellers in Coal Town ever be called to witness 
this second ceremony? Time .will show. Certainly the 
strange bird of old Silfax seemed destined to attain a won- 
derful longevity. The Harfang continued to haunt the 
gloomy recesses of the cave. After the old man's death, 
Nell had attempted to keep the owl, but in a very few days 
he flew away. He evidently disliked human society as 
much as his master had done, and, besides that, he appeared 
to have a particular spite against Harry. The jealous bird 
seemed to remember and hate him for having carried off 
Nell from the deep abyss, notwithstanding all he could do 
to prevent him. Still, at long intervals, Nell would see the 
creature hovering above Loch Malcolm. 

Could he possibly be watching for his friend of yore? 
Did he strive to pierce, with keen eye, the depths which had 
engulfed his master? 

The history of the Harfang became legendary, and fur- 
nished Jack Ryan with many a tale and song. Thanks to 
him, the story of old Silfax and his bird will long be pre- 
served, and handed down to future generations of the Scot- 
tish peasantry. 



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