By the return of the expedition, conveying its contribution from Formentera, the known population of Gallia was raised to a total of thirty-six.
On learning the details of his friends' discoveries, Count Timascheff did not hesitate in believing that the exhausted individual who was lying before him was the author alike of the two unsigned documents picked up at sea, and of the third statement so recently brought to hand by the carrier-pigeon. Manifestly, he had arrived at some knowledge of Gallia's movements: he had estimated her distance from the sun; he had calculated the diminution of her tangential speed; but there was nothing to show that he had arrived at the conclusions which were of the most paramount interest to them all. Had he ascertained the true character of her orbit? had he established any data from which it would be possible to reckon what time must elapse before she would again approach the earth?
The only intelligible words which the astronomer had uttered had been, "My comet!"
To what could the exclamation refer? Was it to be conjectured that a fragment of the earth had been chipped off by the collision of a comet? and if so, was it implied that the name of the comet itself was Gallia, and were they mistaken in supposing that such was the name given by the _savant_ to the little world that had been so suddenly launched into space? Again and again they discussed. these questions; but no satisfactory answer could be found. The only man who was able to throw any light upon the subject was lying amongst them in an unconscious and half-dying condition.
Apart from motives of humanity, motives of self-interest made it a matter of the deepest concern to restore animation to that senseless form. Ben Zoof, after making the encouraging remark that _savants_ have as many lives as a cat, proceeded, with Negrete's assistance, to give the body such a vigorous rubbing as would have threatened serious injury to any ordinary mortal, whilst they administered cordials and restoratives from the _Dobryna's_ medical stores powerful enough, one might think, to rouse the very dead.
Meanwhile the captain was racking his brain in his exertions to recall what were the circumstances of his previous acquaintance with the Frenchman upon whose features he was gazing; he only grew more and more convinced that he had once been familiar with them. Perhaps it was not altogether surprising that he had almost forgotten him; he had never seen him since the days of his youth, that time of life which, with a certain show of justice, has been termed the age of ingratitude; for, in point of fact, the astronomer was none other than Professor Palmyrin Rosette, Servadac's old science-master at the Lycee Charle-magne.
After completing his year of elementary studies, Hector Servadac had entered the school at Saint Cyr, and from that time he and his former tutor had never met, so that naturally they would well-nigh pass from each other's recollection. One thing, however, on the other hand, might conduce to a mutual and permanent impression on their memories; during the year at the Lycee, young Servadac, never of a very studious turn of mind, had contrived, as the ringleader of a set of like caliber as himself, to lead the poor professor a life of perpetual torment. On the discovery of each delinquency he would fume and rage in a manner that was a source of unbounded delight to his audience.
Two years after Servadac left the Lycee, Professor Rosette had thrown up all educational employment in order that he might devote himself entirely to the study of astronomy. He endeavored to obtain a post at the Observatory, but his ungenial character was so well known in scientific circles that he failed in his application; however, having some small private means, he determined on his own account to carry on his researches without any official salary. He had really considerable genius for the science that he had adopted; besides discovering three of the latest of the telescopic planets, he had worked out the elements of the three hundred and twenty-fifth comet in the catalogue; but his chief delight was to criticize the publications of other astronomers, and he was never better pleased than when he detected a flaw in their reckonings.