"But now, gentlemen," added the professor, "I must tell you something more. Important changes have resulted from the collision; the cardinal points have been displaced; gravity has been diminished: not that I ever supposed for a minute, as you did, that I was still upon the earth. No! the earth, attended by her moon, continued to rotate along her proper orbit. But we, gentlemen, have nothing to complain of; our destiny might have been far worse; we might all have been crushed to death, or the comet might have remained in adhesion to the earth; and in neither of these cases should we have had the satisfaction of making this marvelous excursion through untraversed solar regions. No, gentlemen, I repeat it, we have nothing to regret."
And as the professor spoke, he seemed to kindle with the emotion of such supreme contentment that no one had the heart to gainsay his assertion. Ben Zoof alone ventured an unlucky remark to the effect that if the comet had happened to strike against Montmartre, instead of a bit of Africa, it would have met with some resistance.
"Pshaw!" said Rosette, disdainfully. "A mole-hill like Montmartre would have been ground to powder in a moment."
"Mole-hill!" exclaimed Ben Zoof, stung to the quick. "I can tell you it would have caught up your bit of a comet and worn it like a feather in a cap."
The professor looked angry, and Servadac having imposed silence upon his orderly, explained the worthy soldier's sensitiveness on all that concerned Montmartre. Always obedient to his master, Ben Zoof held his tongue; but he felt that he could never forgive the slight that had been cast upon his beloved home.
It was now all-important to learn whether the astronomer had been able to continue his observations, and whether he had learned sufficient of Gallia's path through space to make him competent to determine, at least approximately, the period of its revolution round the sun. With as much tact and caution as he could, Lieutenant Procope endeavored to intimate the general desire for some information on this point.
"Before the shock, sir," answered the professor, "I had conclusively demonstrated the path of the comet; but, in consequence of the modifications which that shock has entailed upon my comet's orbit, I have been compelled entirely to recommence my calculations."
The lieutenant looked disappointed.