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Chapter XXII: The New Citizen of the United States
That same day all America heard of the affair of Captain Nicholl
and President Barbicane, as well as its singular denouement. From
that day forth, Michel Ardan had not one moment’s rest.
Deputations from all corners of the Union harassed him without
cessation or intermission. He was compelled to receive them all,
whether he would or no. How many hands he shook, how many people he
was “hail-fellow-well-met” with, it is impossible to
guess! Such a triumphal result would have intoxicated any other
man; but he managed to keep himself in a state of delightful
Among the deputations of all kinds which assailed him, that of
“The Lunatics” were careful not to forget what they
owed to the future conqueror of the moon. One day, certain of these
poor people, so numerous in America, came to call upon him, and
requested permission to return with him to their native
“Singular hallucination!” said he to Barbicane,
after having dismissed the deputation with promises to convey
numbers of messages to friends in the moon. “Do you believe
in the influence of the moon upon distempers?”
“No more do I, despite some remarkable recorded facts of
history. For instance, during an epidemic in 1693, a large number
of persons died at the very moment of an eclipse. The celebrated
Bacon always fainted during an eclipse. Charles VI relapsed six
times into madness during the year 1399, sometimes during the new,
sometimes during the full moon. Gall observed that insane persons
underwent an accession of their disorder twice in every month, at
the epochs of new and full moon. In fact, numerous observations
made upon fevers, somnambulisms, and other human maladies, seem to
prove that the moon does exercise some mysterious influence upon
“But the how and the wherefore?” asked
“Well, I can only give you the answer which Arago borrowed
from Plutarch, which is nineteen centuries old. ‘Perhaps the
stories are not true!’”
In the height of his triumph, Michel Ardan had to encounter all
the annoyances incidental to a man of celebrity. Managers of
entertainments wanted to exhibit him. Barnum offered him a million
dollars to make a tour of the United States in his show. As for his
photographs, they were sold of all size, and his portrait taken in
every imaginable posture. More than half a million copies were
disposed of in an incredibly short space of time.
But it was not only the men who paid him homage, but the women
as well. He might have married well a hundred times over, if he had
been willing to settle in life. The old maids, in particular, of
forty years and upward, and dry in proportion, devoured his
photographs day and night. They would have married him by hundreds,
even if he had imposed upon them the condition of accompanying him
into space. He had, however, no intention of transplanting a race
of Franco-Americans upon the surface of the moon.
He therefore declined all offers.
As soon as he could withdraw from these somewhat embarrassing
demonstrations, he went, accompanied by his friends, to pay a visit
to the Columbiad. He was highly gratified by his inspection, and
made the descent to the bottom of the tube of this gigantic machine
which was presently to launch him to the regions of the moon. It is
necessary here to mention a proposal of J. T. Maston’s. When
the secretary of the Gun Club found that Barbicane and Nicholl
accepted the proposal of Michel Ardan, he determined to join them,
and make one of a smug party of four. So one day he determined to
be admitted as one of the travelers. Barbicane, pained at having to
refuse him, gave him clearly to understand that the projectile
could not possibly contain so many passengers. Maston, in despair,
went in search of Michel Ardan, who counseled him to resign himself
to the situation, adding one or two arguments ad hominem.
“You see, old fellow,” he said, “you must not
take what I say in bad part; but really, between ourselves, you are
in too incomplete a condition to appear in the moon!”
“Incomplete?” shrieked the valiant invalid.
“Yes, my dear fellow! imagine our meeting some of the
inhabitants up there! Would you like to give them such a melancholy
notion of what goes on down here? to teach them what war is, to
inform them that we employ our time chiefly in devouring each
other, in smashing arms and legs, and that too on a globe which is
capable of supporting a hundred billions of inhabitants, and which
actually does contain nearly two hundred millions1? Why, my worthy
friend, we should have to turn you out of doors!”
“But still, if you arrive there in pieces, you will be as
incomplete as I am.”
“Unquestionably,” replied Michel Ardan; “but
we shall not.”
In fact, a preparatory experiment, tried on the 18th of October,
had yielded the best results and caused the most well-grounded
hopes of success. Barbicane, desirous of obtaining some notion of
the effect of the shock at the moment of the projectile’s
departure, had procured a 38-inch mortar from the arsenal of
Pensacola. He had this placed on the bank of Hillisborough Roads,
in order that the shell might fall back into the sea, and the shock
be thereby destroyed. His object was to ascertain the extent of the
shock of departure, and not that of the return.
A hollow projectile had been prepared for this curious
experiment. A thick padding fastened upon a kind of elastic
network, made of the best steel, lined the inside of the walls. It
was a veritable nest most carefully wadded.
“What a pity I can’t find room in there,” said
J. T. Maston, regretting that his height did not allow of his
trying the adventure.
Within this shell were shut up a large cat, and a squirrel
belonging to J. T. Maston, and of which he was particularly fond.
They were desirous, however, of ascertaining how this little
animal, least of all others subject to giddiness, would endure this
The mortar was charged with 160 pounds of powder, and the shell
placed in the chamber. On being fired, the projectile rose with
great velocity, described a majestic parabola, attained a height of
about a thousand feet, and with a graceful curve descended in the
midst of the vessels that lay there at anchor.
Without a moment’s loss of time a small boat put off in
the direction of its fall; some divers plunged into the water and
attached ropes to the handles of the shell, which was quickly
dragged on board. Five minutes did not elapse between the moment of
enclosing the animals and that of unscrewing the coverlid of their
Ardan, Barbicane, Maston, and Nicholl were present on board the
boat, and assisted at the operation with an interest which may
readily be comprehended. Hardly had the shell been opened when the
cat leaped out, slightly bruised, but full of life, and exhibiting
no signs whatever of having made an aerial expedition. No trace,
however, of the squirrel could be discovered. The truth at last
became apparent— the cat had eaten its fellow-traveler!
J. T. Maston grieved much for the loss of his poor squirrel, and
proposed to add its case to that of other martyrs to science.
After this experiment all hesitation, all fear disappeared.
Besides, Barbicane’s plans would ensure greater perfection
for his projectile, and go far to annihilate altogether the effects
of the shock. Nothing now remained but to go!
Two days later Michel Ardan received a message from the
President of the United States, an honor of which he showed himself
After the example of his illustrious fellow-countryman, the
Marquis de la Fayette, the government had decreed to him the title
of “Citizen of the United States of America.”
1 Another gross factual error, in 1865 the population of the earth stood around 1.1 billion souls.
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