"Yes, my comet!" repeated the professor, and from time to time he knitted his brows, and looked around him with a defiant air, as though he could not get rid of the impression that someone was laying an unwarranted claim to its proprietorship, or that the individuals before him were intruders upon his own proper domain.
But for a considerable while, Servadac, the count, and the lieutenant remained silent and sunk in thought. Here then, at last, was the unriddling of the enigma they had been so long endeavoring to solve; both the hypotheses they had formed in succession had now to give way before the announcement of the real truth. The first supposition, that the rotatory axis of the earth had been subject to some accidental modification, and the conjecture that replaced it, namely, that a certain portion of the terrestrial sphere had been splintered off and carried into space, had both now to yield to the representation that the earth had been grazed by an unknown comet, which had caught up some scattered fragments from its surface, and was bearing them far away into sidereal regions. Unfolded lay the past and the present before them; but this only served to awaken a keener interest about the future. Could the professor throw any light upon that? they longed to inquire, but did not yet venture to ask him.
Meanwhile Rosette assumed a pompous professional air, and appeared to be waiting for the entire party to be ceremoniously introduced to him. Nothing unwilling to humor the vanity of the eccentric little man, Servadac proceeded to go through the expected formalities.
"Allow me to present to you my excellent friend, the Count Timascheff," he said.
"You are very welcome," said Rosette, bowing to the count with a smile of condescension.
"Although I am not precisely a voluntary resident on your comet, Mr. Professor, I beg to acknowledge your courteous reception," gravely responded Timascheff.
Servadac could not quite conceal his amusement at the count's irony, but continued, "This is Lieutenant Procope, the officer in command of the _Dobryna_."
The professor bowed again in frigid dignity.