It was about the beginning of February, when the professor brought his complaint to Captain Servadac, and begged him to assign him a chamber, no matter how small, in which he should be free to carry on his task in silence and without molestation. So readily did Servadac promise to do everything in his power to provide him with the accommodation for which he asked, that the professor was put into such a manifest good temper that the captain ventured to speak upon the matter that was ever uppermost in his mind.
"I do not mean," he began timidly, "to cast the least imputation of inaccuracy upon any of your calculations, but would you allow me, my dear professor, to suggest that you should revise your estimate of the duration of Gallia's period of revolution. It is so important, you know, so all important; the difference of one half minute, you know, would so certainly mar the expectation of reunion with the earth--"
And seeing a cloud gathering on Rosette's face, he added:
"I am sure Lieutenant Procope would be only too happy to render you any assistance in the revision."
"Sir," said the professor, bridling up, "I want no assistant; my calculations want no revision. I never make an error. I have made my reckoning as far as Gallia is concerned. I am now making a like estimate of the elements of Nerina."
Conscious how impolitic it would be to press this matter further, the captain casually remarked that he should have supposed that all the elements of Nerina had been calculated long since by astronomers on the earth. It was about as unlucky a speech as he could possibly have made. The professor glared at him fiercely.
"Astounding, sir!" he exclaimed. "Yes! Nerina was a planet then; everything that appertained to the planet was determined; but Nerina is a moon now. And do you not think, sir, that we have a right to know as much about our moon as those _terrestrials_"-- and he curled his lip as he spoke with a contemptuous emphasis--"know of theirs?"
"I beg pardon," said the corrected captain.