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Chapter VII. A Moment of Intoxication
Thus a phenomenon, curious but explicable, was happening under
these strange conditions.
Every object thrown from the projectile would follow the same
course and never stop until it did. There was a subject for
conversation which the whole evening could not exhaust.
Besides, the excitement of the three travelers increased as they
drew near the end of their journey. They expected unforseen
incidents, and new phenomena; and nothing would have astonished
them in the frame of mind they then were in. Their overexcited
imagination went faster than the projectile, whose speed was
evidently diminishing, though insensibly to themselves. But the
moon grew larger to their eyes, and they fancied if they stretched
out their hands they could seize it.
The next day, the 5th of November, at five in the morning, all
three were on foot. That day was to be the last of their journey,
if all calculations were true. That very night, at twelve
o’clock, in eighteen hours, exactly at the full moon, they
would reach its brilliant disc. The next midnight would see that
journey ended, the most extraordinary of ancient or modern times.
Thus from the first of the morning, through the scuttles silvered
by its rays, they saluted the orb of night with a confident and
The moon was advancing majestically along the starry firmament.
A few more degrees, and she would reach the exact point where her
meeting with the projectile was to take place.
According to his own observations, Barbicane reckoned that they
would land on her northern hemisphere, where stretch immense
plains, and where mountains are rare. A favorable circumstance if,
as they thought, the lunar atmosphere was stored only in its
“Besides,” observed Michel Ardan, “a plain is
easier to disembark upon than a mountain. A Selenite, deposited in
Europe on the summit of Mont Blanc, or in Asia on the top of the
Himalayas, would not be quite in the right place.”
“And,” added Captain Nicholl, “on a flat
ground, the projectile will remain motionless when it has once
touched; whereas on a declivity it would roll like an avalanche,
and not being squirrels we should not come out safe and sound. So
it is all for the best.”
Indeed, the success of the audacious attempt no longer appeared
doubtful. But Barbicane was preoccupied with one thought; but not
wishing to make his companions uneasy, he kept silence on this
The direction the projectile was taking toward the moon’s
northern hemisphere, showed that her course had been slightly
altered. The discharge, mathematically calculated, would carry the
projectile to the very center of the lunar disc. If it did not land
there, there must have been some deviation. What had caused it?
Barbicane could neither imagine nor determine the importance of the
deviation, for there were no points to go by.
He hoped, however, that it would have no other result than that
of bringing them nearer the upper border of the moon, a region more
suitable for landing.
Without imparting his uneasiness to his companions, Barbicane
contented himself with constantly observing the moon, in order to
see whether the course of the projectile would not be altered; for
the situation would have been terrible if it failed in its aim, and
being carried beyond the disc should be launched into
interplanetary space. At that moment, the moon, instead of
appearing flat like a disc, showed its convexity. If the
sun’s rays had struck it obliquely, the shadow thrown would
have brought out the high mountains, which would have been clearly
detached. The eye might have gazed into the crater’s gaping
abysses, and followed the capricious fissures which wound through
the immense plains. But all relief was as yet leveled in intense
brilliancy. They could scarcely distinguish those large spots which
give the moon the appearance of a human face.
“Face, indeed!” said Michel Ardan; “but I am
sorry for the amiable sister of Apollo. A very pitted
But the travelers, now so near the end, were incessantly
observing this new world. They imagined themselves walking through
its unknown countries, climbing its highest peaks, descending into
its lowest depths. Here and there they fancied they saw vast seas,
scarcely kept together under so rarefied an atmosphere, and
water-courses emptying the mountain tributaries. Leaning over the
abyss, they hoped to catch some sounds from that orb forever mute
in the solitude of space. That last day left them.
They took down the most trifling details. A vague uneasiness
took possession of them as they neared the end. This uneasiness
would have been doubled had they felt how their speed had
decreased. It would have seemed to them quite insufficient to carry
them to the end. It was because the projectile then
“weighed” almost nothing. Its weight was ever
decreasing, and would be entirely annihilated on that line where
the lunar and terrestrial attractions would neutralize each
But in spite of his preoccupation, Michel Ardan did not forget
to prepare the morning repast with his accustomed punctuality. They
ate with a good appetite. Nothing was so excellent as the soup
liquefied by the heat of the gas; nothing better than the preserved
meat. Some glasses of good French wine crowned the repast, causing
Michel Ardan to remark that the lunar vines, warmed by that ardent
sun, ought to distill even more generous wines; that is, if they
existed. In any case, the far-seeing Frenchman had taken care not
to forget in his collection some precious cuttings of the Medoc and
Cote d’Or, upon which he founded his hopes.
Reiset and Regnaut’s apparatus worked with great
regularity. Not an atom of carbonic acid resisted the potash; and
as to the oxygen, Captain Nicholl said “it was of the first
quality.” The little watery vapor enclosed in the projectile
mixing with the air tempered the dryness; and many apartments in
London, Paris, or New York, and many theaters, were certainly not
in such a healthy condition.
But that it might act with regularity, the apparatus must be
kept in perfect order; so each morning Michel visited the escape
regulators, tried the taps, and regulated the heat of the gas by
the pyrometer. Everything had gone well up to that time, and the
travelers, imitating the worthy Joseph T. Maston, began to acquire
a degree of embonpoint which would have rendered them
unrecognizable if their imprisonment had been prolonged to some
months. In a word, they behaved like chickens in a coop; they were
In looking through the scuttle Barbicane saw the specter of the
dog, and other divers objects which had been thrown from the
projectile, obstinately following them. Diana howled lugubriously
on seeing the remains of Satellite, which seemed as motionless as
if they reposed on solid earth.
“Do you know, my friends,” said Michel Ardan,
“that if one of us had succumbed to the shock consequent on
departure, we should have had a great deal of trouble to bury him?
What am I saying? to etherize him, as here ether takes the place of
earth. You see the accusing body would have followed us into space
like a remorse.”
“That would have been sad,” said Nicholl.
“Ah!” continued Michel, “what I regret is not
being able to take a walk outside. What voluptuousness to float
amid this radiant ether, to bathe oneself in it, to wrap oneself in
the sun’s pure rays. If Barbicane had only thought of
furnishing us with a diving apparatus and an air-pump, I could have
ventured out and assumed fanciful attitudes of feigned monsters on
the top of the projectile.”
“Well, old Michel,” replied Barbicane, “you
would not have made a feigned monster long, for in spite of your
diver’s dress, swollen by the expansion of air within you,
you would have burst like a shell, or rather like a balloon which
has risen too high. So do not regret it, and do not forget
this— as long as we float in space, all sentimental walks
beyond the projectile are forbidden.”
Michel Ardan allowed himself to be convinced to a certain
extent. He admitted that the thing was difficult but not
impossible, a word which he never uttered.
The conversation passed from this subject to another, not
failing him for an instant. It seemed to the three friends as
though, under present conditions, ideas shot up in their brains as
leaves shoot at the first warmth of spring. They felt bewildered.
In the middle of the questions and answers which crossed each
other, Nicholl put one question which did not find an immediate
“Ah, indeed!” said he; “it is all very well to
go to the moon, but how to get back again?”
His two interlocutors looked surprised. One would have thought
that this possibility now occurred to them for the first time.
“What do you mean by that, Nicholl?” asked Barbicane
“To ask for means to leave a country,” added Michel,
“When we have not yet arrived there, seems to me rather
“I do not say that, wishing to draw back,” replied
Nicholl; “but I repeat my question, and I ask, ‘How
shall we return?’”
“I know nothing about it,” answered Barbicane.
“And I,” said Michel, “if I had known how to
return, I would never have started.”
“There’s an answer!” cried Nicholl.
“I quite approve of Michel’s words,” said
Barbicane; “and add, that the question has no real interest.
Later, when we think it is advisable to return, we will take
counsel together. If the Columbiad is not there, the projectile
“That is a step certainly. A ball without a
“The gun,” replied Barbicane, “can be
manufactured. The powder can be made. Neither metals, saltpeter,
nor coal can fail in the depths of the moon, and we need only go
8,000 leagues in order to fall upon the terrestrial globe by virtue
of the mere laws of weight.”
“Enough,” said Michel with animation. “Let it
be no longer a question of returning: we have already entertained
it too long. As to communicating with our former earthly
colleagues, that will not be difficult.”
“By means of meteors launched by lunar
“Well thought of, Michel,” said Barbicane in a
convinced tone of voice. “Laplace has calculated that a force
five times greater than that of our gun would suffice to send a
meteor from the moon to the earth, and there is not one volcano
which has not a greater power of propulsion than that.”
“Hurrah!” exclaimed Michel; “these meteors are
handy postmen, and cost nothing. And how we shall be able to laugh
at the post-office administration! But now I think of
“What do you think of?”
“A capital idea. Why did we not fasten a thread to our
projectile, and we could have exchanged telegrams with the
“The deuce!” answered Nicholl. “Do you
consider the weight of a thread 250,000 miles long
“As nothing. They could have trebled the Columbiad’s
charge; they could have quadrupled or quintupled it!”
exclaimed Michel, with whom the verb took a higher intonation each
“There is but one little objection to make to your
proposition,” replied Barbicane, “which is that, during
the rotary motion of the globe, our thread would have wound itself
round it like a chain on a capstan, and that it would inevitably
have brought us to the ground.”
“By the thirty-nine1 stars of the Union!” said
Michel, “I have nothing but impracticable ideas to-day; ideas
worthy of J. T. Maston. But I have a notion that, if we do not
return to earth, J. T. Maston will be able to come to
“Yes, he’ll come,” replied Barbicane;
“he is a worthy and a courageous comrade. Besides, what is
easier? Is not the Columbiad still buried in the soil of Florida?
Is cotton and nitric acid wanted wherewith to manufacture the
pyroxyle? Will not the moon pass the zenith of Florida? In eighteen
years’ time will she not occupy exactly the same place as
“Yes,” continued Michel, “yes, Maston will
come, and with him our friends Elphinstone, Blomsberry, all the
members of the Gun Club, and they will be well received. And by and
by they will run trains of projectiles between the earth and the
moon! Hurrah for J. T. Maston!”
It is probable that, if the Hon. J. T. Maston did not hear the
hurrahs uttered in his honor, his ears at least tingled. What was
he doing then? Doubtless, posted in the Rocky Mountains, at the
station of Long’s Peak, he was trying to find the invisible
projectile gravitating in space. If he was thinking of his dear
companions, we must allow that they were not far behind him; and
that, under the influence of a strange excitement, they were
devoting to him their best thoughts.
But whence this excitement, which was evidently growing upon the
tenants of the projectile? Their sobriety could not be doubted.
This strange irritation of the brain, must it be attributed to the
peculiar circumstances under which they found themselves, to their
proximity to the orb of night, from which only a few hours
separated them, to some secret influence of the moon acting upon
their nervous system? Their faces were as rosy as if they had been
exposed to the roaring flames of an oven; their voices resounded in
loud accents; their words escaped like a champagne cork driven out
by carbonic acid; their gestures became annoying, they wanted so
much room to perform them; and, strange to say, they none of them
noticed this great tension of the mind.
“Now,” said Nicholl, in a short tone, “now
that I do not know whether we shall ever return from the moon, I
want to know what we are going to do there?”
“What we are going to do there?” replied Barbicane,
stamping with his foot as if he was in a fencing saloon; “I
do not know.”
“You do not know!” exclaimed Michel, with a bellow
which provoked a sonorous echo in the projectile.
“No, I have not even thought about it,” retorted
Barbicane, in the same loud tone.
“Well, I know,” replied Michel.
“Speak, then,” cried Nicholl, who could no longer
contain the growling of his voice.
“I shall speak if it suits me,” exclaimed Michel,
seizing his companions’ arms with violence.
“It must suit you,” said Barbicane, with an eye on
fire and a threatening hand. “It was you who drew us into
this frightful journey, and we want to know what for.”
“Yes,” said the captain, “now that I do not
know where I am going, I want to know why I am going.”
“Why?” exclaimed Michel, jumping a yard high,
“why? To take possession of the moon in the name of the
United States; to add a fortieth State to the Union; to colonize
the lunar regions; to cultivate them, to people them, to transport
thither all the prodigies of art, of science, and industry; to
civilize the Selenites, unless they are more civilized than we are;
and to constitute them a republic, if they are not already
“And if there are no Selenites?” retorted Nicholl,
who, under the influence of this unaccountable intoxication, was
“Who said that there were no Selenites?” exclaimed
Michel in a threatening tone.
“I do,” howled Nicholl.
“Captain,” said Michel, “do not repreat that
insolence, or I will knock your teeth down your throat!”
The two adversaries were going to fall upon each other, and the
incoherent discussion threatened to merge into a fight, when
Barbicane intervened with one bound.
“Stop, miserable men,” said he, separating his two
companions; “if there are no Selenites, we will do without
“Yes,” exclaimed Michel, who was not particular;
“yes, we will do without them. We have only to make
Selenites. Down with the Selenites!”
“The empire of the moon belongs to us,” said
“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
“Very well, a president elected by the congress,”
cried Michel; “and as I am the congress, you are unanimously
“Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! for President Barbicane,”
“Hip! hip! hip!” vociferated Michel Ardan.
Then the president and the senate struck up in a tremendous
voice the popular song “Yankee Doodle,” while from the
congress resounded the masculine tones of the
Then they struck up a frantic dance, with maniacal gestures,
idiotic stampings, and somersaults like those of the boneless
clowns in the circus. Diana, joining in the dance, and howling in
her turn, jumped to the top of the projectile. An unaccountable
flapping of wings was then heard amid most fantastic cock-crows,
while five or six hens fluttered like bats against the walls.
Then the three traveling companions, acted upon by some
unaccountable influence above that of intoxication, inflamed by the
air which had set their respiratory apparatus on fire, fell
motionless to the bottom of the projectile.
1This presents one of the several continuity/time inconsistencies in Verne's work as only one year has transpired in book time from From the Earth to the Moon: 2: President Barbicane's Communication where an allusion to thirty-six states of the union is made, but in the real world, there were five years from the publication of From the Earth to the Moon to the publication of this book and hence the number of states in real time have grown to thirty-nine.
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