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Book II Jules Verne

A Bold Proposition

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Table Of Contents: Off on a Comet

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"That I can't say," replied the orderly.

"I am not sure that that could not be accomplished," said the lieutenant.

All eyes in a moment were riveted upon him, as, with his head resting on his hands, he was manifestly cogitating a new idea. "Yes, I think it could be accomplished," he repeated. "The project may appear extravagant, but I do not know why it should be impossible. Ben Zoof has hit the right nail on the head; we must try and leave Gallia before the shock."

"Leave Gallia! How?" said Count Timascheff.

The lieutenant did not at once reply. He continued pondering for a time, and at last said, slowly and distinctly, "By making a balloon!"

Servadac's heart sank.

"A balloon!" he exclaimed. "Out of the question! Balloons are exploded things. You hardly find them in novels. Balloon, indeed!"

"Listen to me," replied Procope. "Perhaps I can convince you that my idea is not so chimerical as you imagine." And, knitting his brow, he proceeded to establish the feasibility of his plan. "If we can ascertain the precise moment when the shock is to happen, and can succeed in launching ourselves a sufficient time beforehand into Gallia's atmosphere, I believe it will transpire that this atmosphere will amalgamate with that of the earth, and that a balloon whirled along by the combined velocity would glide into the mingled atmosphere and remain suspended in mid-air until the shock of the collision is overpast."

Count Timascheff reflected for a minute, and said, "I think, lieutenant, I understand your project. The scheme seems tenable; and I shall be ready to co-operate with you, to the best of my power, in putting it into execution."

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"Only, remember," continued Procope, "there are many chances to one against our success. One instant's obstruction and stoppage in our passage, and our balloon is burnt to ashes. Still, reluctant as I am to acknowledge it, I confess that I feel our sole hope of safety rests in our getting free from this comet."

"If the chances were ten thousand to one against us," said Servadac, "I think the attempt ought to be made."

"But have we hydrogen enough to inflate a balloon?" asked the count.

"Hot air will be all that we shall require," the lieutenant answered; "we are only contemplating about an hour's journey."

"Ah, a fire-balloon! A montgolfier!" cried Servadac. "But what are you going to do for a casing?"

"I have thought of that. We must cut it out of the sails of the Dobryna; they are both light and strong," rejoined the lieutenant. Count Timascheff complimented the lieutenant upon his ingenuity, and Ben Zoof could not resist bringing the meeting to a conclusion by a ringing cheer.

Truly daring was the plan of which Lieutenant Procope had thus become the originator; but the very existence of them all was at stake, and the design must be executed resolutely. For the success of the enterprise it was absolutely necessary to know, almost to a minute, the precise time at which the collision would occur, and Captain Servadac undertook the task, by gentle means or by stern, of extracting the secret from the professor.

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Off on a Comet
Jules Verne

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