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Chapter I: Twenty Minutes Past Ten To Forty-Seven Minutes Past Ten P. M.
As ten o’clock struck, Michel Ardan, Barbicane, and
Nicholl, took leave of the numerous friends they were leaving on
the earth. The two dogs, destined to propagate the canine race on
the lunar continents, were already shut up in the projectile.
The three travelers approached the orifice of the enormous
cast-iron tube, and a crane let them down to the conical top of the
projectile. There, an opening made for the purpose gave them access
to the aluminum car. The tackle belonging to the crane being hauled
from outside, the mouth of the Columbiad was instantly
disencumbered of its last supports.
Nicholl, once introduced with his companions inside the
projectile, began to close the opening by means of a strong plate,
held in position by powerful screws. Other plates, closely fitted,
covered the lenticular glasses, and the travelers, hermetically
enclosed in their metal prison, were plunged in profound
“And now, my dear companions,” said Michel Ardan,
“let us make ourselves at home; I am a domesticated man and
strong in housekeeping. We are bound to make the best of our new
lodgings, and make ourselves comfortable. And first let us try and
see a little. Gas was not invented for moles.”
So saying, the thoughtless fellow lit a match by striking it on
the sole of his boot; and approached the burner fixed to the
receptacle, in which the carbonized hydrogen, stored at high
pressure, sufficed for the lighting and warming of the projectile
for a hundred and forty-four hours, or six days and six nights. The
gas caught fire, and thus lighted the projectile looked like a
comfortable room with thickly padded walls, furnished with a
circular divan, and a roof rounded in the shape of a dome.
Michel Ardan examined everything, and declared himself satisfied
with his installation.
“It is a prison,” said he, “but a traveling
prison; and, with the right of putting my nose to the window, I
could well stand a lease of a hundred years. You smile, Barbicane.
Have you any arriere-pensee? Do you say to yourself, ‘This
prison may be our tomb?’ Tomb, perhaps; still I would not
change it for Mahomet’s, which floats in space but never
advances an inch!”
While Michel Ardan was speaking, Barbicane and Nicholl were
making their last preparations.
Nicholl’s chronometer marked twenty minutes past ten P.M.
when the three travelers were finally enclosed in their projectile.
This chronometer was set within the tenth of a second by that of
Murchison the engineer. Barbicane consulted it.
“My friends,” said he, “it is twenty minutes
past ten. At forty- seven minutes past ten Murchison will launch
the electric spark on the wire which communicates with the charge
of the Columbiad. At that precise moment we shall leave our
spheroid. Thus we still have twenty-seven minutes to remain on the
“Twenty-six minutes thirteen seconds,” replied the
“Well!” exclaimed Michel Ardan, in a good-humored
tone, “much may be done in twenty-six minutes. The gravest
questions of morals and politics may be discussed, and even solved.
Twenty-six minutes well employed are worth more than twenty-six
years in which nothing is done. Some seconds of a Pascal or a
Isaac Newton|Newton] are more precious than the whole existence of a crowd of raw
“And you conclude, then, you everlasting talker?”
“I conclude that we have twenty-six minutes left,”
“Twenty-four only,” said Nicholl.
“Well, twenty-four, if you like, my noble captain,”
said Ardan; “twenty-four minutes in which to
“Michel,” said Barbicane, “during the passage
we shall have plenty of time to investigate the most difficult
questions. For the present we must occupy ourselves with our
“Are we not ready?”
“Doubtless; but there are still some precautions to be
taken, to deaden as much as possible the first shock.”
“Have we not the water-cushions placed between the
partition- breaks, whose elasticity will sufficiently protect
“I hope so, Michel,” replied Barbicane gently,
“but I am not sure.”
“Ah, the joker!” exclaimed Michel Ardan. “He
hopes!—He is not sure!— and he waits for the moment
when we are encased to make this deplorable admission! I beg to be
allowed to get out!”
“And how?” asked Barbicane.
“Humph!” said Michel Ardan, “it is not easy;
we are in the train, and the guard’s whistle will sound
before twenty-four minutes are over.”
“Twenty,” said Nicholl.
For some moments the three travelers looked at each other. Then
they began to examine the objects imprisoned with them.
“Everything is in its place,” said Barbicane.
“We have now to decide how we can best place ourselves to
resist the shock. Position cannot be an indifferent matter; and we
must, as much as possible, prevent the rush of blood to the
“Just so,” said Nicholl.
“Then,” replied Michel Ardan, ready to suit the
action to the word, “let us put our heads down and our feet
in the air, like the clowns in the grand circus.”
“No,” said Barbicane, “let us stretch
ourselves on our sides; we shall resist the shock better that way.
Remember that, when the projectile starts, it matters little
whether we are in it or before it; it amounts to much the same
“If it is only ‘much the same thing,’ I may
cheer up,” said Michel Ardan.
“Do you approve of my idea, Nicholl?” asked
“Entirely,” replied the captain. “We’ve
still thirteen minutes and a half.”
“That Nicholl is not a man,” exclaimed Michel;
“he is a chronometer with seconds, an escape, and eight
But his companions were not listening; they were taking up their
last positions with the most perfect coolness. They were like two
methodical travelers in a car, seeking to place themselves as
comfortably as possible.
We might well ask ourselves of what materials are the hearts of
these Americans made, to whom the approach of the most frightful
danger added no pulsation.
Three thick and solidly-made couches had been placed in the
projectile. Nicholl and Barbicane placed them in the center of the
disc forming the floor. There the three travelers were to stretch
themselves some moments before their departure.
During this time, Ardan, not being able to keep still, turned in
his narrow prison like a wild beast in a cage, chatting with his
friends, speaking to the dogs Diana and Satellite, to whom, as may
be seen, he had given significant names.
“Ah, Diana! Ah, Satellite!” he exclaimed, teasing
them; “so you are going to show the moon-dogs the good habits
of the dogs of the earth! That will do honor to the canine race! If
ever we do come down again, I will bring a cross type of
‘moon-dogs,’ which will make a stir!”
“If there are dogs in the moon,” said Barbicane.
“There are,” said Michel Ardan, “just as there
are horses, cows, donkeys, and chickens. I bet that we shall find
“A hundred dollars we shall find none!” said
“Done, my captain!” replied Ardan, clasping
Nicholl’s hand. “But, by the bye, you have already lost
three bets with our president, as the necessary funds for the
enterprise have been found, as the operation of casting has been
successful, and lastly, as the Columbiad has been loaded without
accident, six thousand dollars.”
“Yes,” replied Nicholl. “Thirty-seven minutes
six seconds past ten.”
“It is understood, captain. Well, before another quarter
of an hour you will have to count nine thousand dollars to the
president; four thousand because the Columbiad will not burst, and
five thousand because the projectile will rise more than six miles
in the air.”
“I have the dollars,” replied Nicholl, slapping the
pocket of this coat. “I only ask to be allowed to
“Come, Nicholl. I see that you are a man of method, which
I could never be; but indeed you have made a series of bets of very
little advantage to yourself, allow me to tell you.”
“And why?” asked Nicholl.
“Because, if you gain the first, the Columbiad will have
burst, and the projectile with it; and Barbicane will no longer be
there to reimburse your dollars.”
“My stake is deposited at the bank in Baltimore,”
replied Barbicane simply; “and if Nicholl is not there, it
will go to his heirs.”
“Ah, you practical men!” exclaimed Michel Ardan;
“I admire you the more for not being able to understand
“Forty-two minutes past ten!” said Nicholl.
“Only five minutes more!” answered Barbicane.
“Yes, five little minutes!” replied Michel Ardan;
“and we are enclosed in a projectile, at the bottom of a gun
900 feet long! And under this projectile are rammed 400,000 pounds
of gun-cotton, which is equal to 1,600,000 pounds of ordinary
powder! And friend Murchison, with his chronometer in hand, his eye
fixed on the needle, his finger on the electric apparatus, is
counting the seconds preparatory to launching us into
“Enough, Michel, enough!” said Barbicane, in a
serious voice; “let us prepare. A few instants alone separate
us from an eventful moment. One clasp of the hand, my
“Yes,” exclaimed Michel Ardan, more moved than he
wished to appear; and the three bold companions were united in a
“God preserve us!” said the religious Barbicane.
Michel Ardan and Nicholl stretched themselves on the couches
placed in the center of the disc.
“Forty-seven minutes past ten!” murmured the
“Twenty seconds more!” Barbicane quickly put out the
gas and lay down by his companions, and the profound silence was
only broken by the ticking of the chronometer marking the
Suddenly a dreadful shock was felt, and the projectile, under
the force of six billions of litres of gas, developed by the
combustion of pyroxyle, mounted into space.
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