What time is it?" asked Barbicane.
"Three o'clock," answered Nicholl.
"How time goes," said Michel, "in the conversation of scientific men such as we are! Certainly, I feel I know too much! I feel that I am becoming a well!"
Saying which, Michel hoisted himself to the roof of the projectile, "to observe the moon better," he pretended. During this time his companions were watching through the lower glass. Nothing new to note!
When Michel Ardan came down, he went to the side scuttle; and suddenly they heard an exclamation of surprise!
"What is it?" asked Barbicane.
The president approached the window, and saw a sort of flattened sack floating some yards from the projectile. This object seemed as motionless as the projectile, and was consequently animated with the same ascending movement.
"What is that machine?" continued Michel Ardan. "Is it one of the bodies which our projectile keeps within its attraction, and which will accompany it to the moon?"
"What astonishes me," said Nicholl, "is that the specific weight of the body, which is certainly less than that of the projectile, allows it to keep so perfectly on a level with it."
"Nicholl," replied Barbicane, after a moment's reflection, "I do not know what the object it, but I do know why it maintains our level."
"Because we are floating in space, my dear captain, and in space bodies fall or move (which is the same thing) with equal speed whatever be their weight or form; it is the air, which by its resistance creates these differences in weight. When you create a vacuum in a tube, the objects you send through it, grains of dust or grains of lead, fall with the same rapidity. Here in space is the same cause and the same effect."
"Just so," said Nicholl, "and everything we throw out of the projectile will accompany it until it reaches the moon."
"Ah! fools that we are!" exclaimed Michel.
"Why that expletive?" asked Barbicane.
"Because we might have filled the projectile with useful objects, books, instruments, tools, etc. We could have thrown them all out, and all would have followed in our train. But happy thought! Why cannot we walk outside like the meteor? Why cannot we launch into space through the scuttle? What enjoyment it would be to feel oneself thus suspended in ether, more favored than the birds who must use their wings to keep themselves up!"
"Granted," said Barbicane, "but how to breathe?"
"Hang the air, to fail so inopportunely!"
"But if it did not fail, Michel, your density being less than that of the projectile, you would soon be left behind."
"Then we must remain in our car?"
"Ah!" exclaimed Michel, in a load voice.
"What is the matter," asked Nicholl.
"I know, I guess, what this pretended meteor is! It is no asteroid which is accompanying us! It is not a piece of a planet."
"What is it then?" asked Barbicane.
"It is our unfortunate dog! It is Diana's husband!"
Indeed, this deformed, unrecognizable object, reduced to nothing, was the body of Satellite, flattened like a bagpipe without wind, and ever mounting, mounting!
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.