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Book II Jules Verne

A Journey And A Disappointment

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Table Of Contents: Off on a Comet

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Under these circumstances, it was not surprising that Hector Servadac should not have confided to the count a project which, wild as it was, could scarcely have failed to widen the unacknowledged breach that was opening in their friendship.

The project was the annexation of Ceuta to the French dominion. The Englishmen, rightly enough, had continued to occupy the fragment of Gibraltar, and their claim was indisputable. But the island of Ceuta, which before the shock had commanded the opposite side of the strait, and had been occupied by Spaniards, had since been abandoned, and was therefore free to the first occupant who should lay claim to it. To plant the tricolor upon it, in the name of France, was now the cherished wish of Servadac's heart.

"Who knows," he said to himself, "whether Ceuta, on its return to earth, may not occupy a grand and commanding situation? What a proud thing it would be to have secured its possession to France!"

Next morning, as soon as they had taken their brief farewell of their friends, and were fairly out of sight of the shore, Servadac imparted his design to Ben Zoof, who entered into the project with the greatest zest, and expressed himself delighted, not only at the prospect of adding to the dominions of his beloved country, but of stealing a march upon England.

Both travelers were warmly clad, the orderly's knapsack containing all the necessary provisions. The journey was accomplished without special incident; halts were made at regular intervals, for the purpose of taking food and rest. The temperature by night as well as by day was quite endurable, and on the fourth afternoon after starting, thanks to the straight course which their compass enabled them to maintain, the adventurers found themselves within a few miles of Ceuta.

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As soon as Ben Zoof caught sight of the rock on the western horizon, he was all excitement. Just as if he were in a regiment going into action, he talked wildly about "columns" and "squares" and "charges." The captain, although less demonstrative, was hardly less eager to reach the rock. They both pushed forward with all possible speed till they were within a mile and a half of the shore, when Ben Zoof, who had a very keen vision, stopped suddenly, and said that he was sure he could see something moving on the top of the island.

"Never mind, let us hasten on," said Servadac. A few minutes carried them over another mile, when Ben Zoof stopped again.

"What is it, Ben Zoof?" asked the captain.

"It looks to me like a man on a rock, waving his arms in the air," said the orderly.

"Plague on it!" muttered Servadac; "I hope we are not too late." Again they went on; but soon Ben Zoof stopped for the third time.

"It is a semaphore, sir; I see it quite distinctly." And he was not mistaken; it had been a telegraph in motion that had caught his eye.

"Plague on it!" repeated the captain.

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Off on a Comet
Jules Verne

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