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|Earth to the Moon||Jules Verne|
ATTACK AND RIPOSTE
|Page 1 of 6||
As soon as the excitement had subsided, the following words were heard uttered in a strong and determined voice:
"Now that the speaker has favored us with so much imagination, would he be so good as to return to his subject, and give us a little practical view of the question?"
All eyes were directed toward the person who spoke. He was a little dried-up man, of an active figure, with an American "goatee" beard. Profiting by the different movements in the crowd, he had managed by degrees to gain the front row of spectators. There, with arms crossed and stern gaze, he watched the hero of the meeting. After having put his question he remained silent, and appeared to take no notice of the thousands of looks directed toward himself, nor of the murmur of disapprobation excited by his words. Meeting at first with no reply, he repeated his question with marked emphasis, adding, "We are here to talk about the moon and not about the earth."
"You are right, sir," replied Michel Ardan; "the discussion has become irregular. We will return to the moon."
"Sir," said the unknown, "you pretend that our satellite is inhabited. Very good, but if Selenites do exist, that race of beings assuredly must live without breathing, for-- I warn you for your own sake-- there is not the smallest particle of air on the surface of the moon."
At this remark Ardan pushed up his shock of red hair; he saw that he was on the point of being involved in a struggle with this person upon the very gist of the whole question. He looked sternly at him in his turn and said:
"Oh! so there is no air in the moon? And pray, if you are so good, who ventures to affirm that?
"The men of science."
"Sir," replied Michel, "pleasantry apart, I have a profound respect for men of science who do possess science, but a profound contempt for men of science who do not."
"Do you know any who belong to the latter category?"
"Decidedly. In France there are some who maintain that, mathematically, a bird cannot possibly fly; and others who demonstrate theoretically that fishes were never made to live in water."
"I have nothing to do with persons of that description, and I can quote, in support of my statement, names which you cannot refuse deference to."
"Then, sir, you will sadly embarrass a poor ignorant, who, besides, asks nothing better than to learn."
"Why, then, do you introduce scientific questions if you have never studied them?" asked the unknown somewhat coarsely.
"For the reason that `he is always brave who never suspects danger.' I know nothing, it is true; but it is precisely my very weakness which constitutes my strength."
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