"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 one!"
"And if there are no Selenites?" retorted Nicholl, who, under the influence of this unaccountable intoxication, was very contradictory.
"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 them."
"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 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.
"Very well, a president elected by the congress," cried Michel; "and as I am the congress, you are unanimously elected!"
"Hurrah! hurrah! hurrah! for President Barbicane," exclaimed Nicholl.
"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 "Marseillaise."
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.
AT SEVENTY-EIGHT THOUSAND FIVE HUNDRED AND FOURTEEN LEAGUES
What had happened? Whence the cause of this singular intoxication, the consequences of which might have been very disastrous? A simple blunder of Michel's, which, fortunately, Nicholl was able to correct in time.
After a perfect swoon, which lasted some minutes, the captain, recovering first, soon collected his scattered senses. Although he had breakfasted only two hours before, he felt a gnawing hunger, as if he had not eaten anything for several days. Everything about him, stomach and brain, were overexcited to the highest degree.