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"Yes," said Nicholl; "and if our initiatory speed of twelve thousand yards has been kept up, we shall have made about twenty thousand miles in the hour." "That is all very well, my friends," said the president, "but the insoluble question still remains. Why did we not hear the detonation of the Columbiad?"
And is that the future that awaits us?" Neither Barbicane nor Nicholl answered. "Why do you not answer?" asked the impatient Michel. "There is nothing to answer," said Nicholl. "Can nothing be done?" "No," answered Barbicane. "Do you pretend to struggle with the impossible?" "Why not? Ought a Frenchman and two Americans to recoil at such a word?" "But what do you want to do?"
Nothing more! well! to prove that it is all over between you, accept frankly the proposal I am going to make to you." "Make it," said Nicholl. "Our friend Barbicane believes that his projectile will go straight to the moon?" "Yes, certainly," replied the president. "And our friend Nicholl is persuaded it will fall back upon the earth?" "I am certain of it," cried the captain. "Good!" said Ardan.
Now this distance may be estimated at the two-hundredth part of that which separates the sun and the earth; or, in round numbers, at two hundred thousand leagues. Therefore this visible face is nearer the sun by two hundred thousand leagues when it receives his rays." "Quite right," replied Nicholl. "Whilst " resumed Barbicane. "Allow me," said Michel, interrupting his grave companion.
About forty-five minutes past five in the evening, Nicholl, armed with his glass, sighted toward the southern border of the moon, and in the direction followed by the projectile, some bright points cut upon the dark shield of the sky. They looked like a succession of sharp points lengthened into a tremulous line. They were very bright.
These eclipses, caused by the interposition of the earth between the sun and the moon, may last two hours, during which, on account of the rays refracted by its atmosphere, the terrestrial globe can only appear like a black spot upon the sun. "Then," said Nicholl, "the invisible hemisphere is very ill-treated by Nature." "Yes," answered Barbicane, "but not the whole of it.
His operation succeeded, and through the glass the moon filled the interior of the projectile with brilliant light. Nicholl, like an economical man, put out the gas that was thus rendered useless, and the brilliance of which obstructed the observation of planetary space. The lunar disc then shone with incomparable purity.
Down with the Selenites!" "The empire of the moon belongs to us," said Nicholl. "Let us three constitute the republic." "I will be the congress," cried Michel. "And I the senate," retorted Nicholl. "And Barbicane, the president," howled Michel. "Not a president elected by the nation," replied Barbicane.
This persevering enemy the president of the Gun Club had never seen. Fortunate that it was so, for a meeting between the two men would certainly have been attended with serious consequences. This rival was a man of science, like Barbicane himself, of a fiery, daring, and violent disposition; a pure Yankee. His name was Captain Nicholl; he lived at Philadelphia.
The sleep of the three adventurers would have, perhaps, been indefinitely prolonged if an unexpected noise had not awakened them about 7 a.m. on the 2nd of December, eight hours after their departure. This noise was a very distinct bark. "The dogs! It is the dogs!" cried Michel Ardan, getting up immediately. "They are hungry," said Nicholl.