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Book II Jules Verne

A Revised Calendar

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Table Of Contents: Off on a Comet

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On the 27th of June (old calendar) the professor burst like a cannon-ball into the central hall, where they were all assembled, and without a word of salutation or of preface, accosted the lieutenant in the way in which in earlier days he had been accustomed to speak to an idle school-boy, "Now, lieutenant! no evasions! no shufflings! Tell me, have you or have you not circumnavigated Gallia?"

The lieutenant drew himself up stiffly. "Evasions! shufflings! I am not accustomed, sir--" he began in a tone evidencing no little resentment; but catching a hint from the count he subdued his voice, and simply said, "We have."

"And may I ask," continued the professor, quite unaware of his previous discourtesy, "whether, when you made your voyage, you took any account of distances?"

"As approximately as I could," replied the lieutenant; "I did what I could by log and compass. I was unable to take the altitude of sun or star."

"At what result did you arrive? What is the measurement of our equator?"

"I estimate the total circumference of the equator to be about 1,400 miles."

"Ah!" said the professor, more than half speaking to himself, "a circumference of 1,400 miles would give a diameter of about 450 miles. That would be approximately about one-sixteenth of the diameter of the earth."

Raising his voice, he continued, "Gentlemen, in order to complete my account of my comet Gallia, I require to know its area, its mass, its volume, its density, its specific gravity."

"Since we know the diameter," remarked the lieutenant, "there can be no difficulty in finding its surface and its volume."

"And did I say there was any difficulty?" asked the professor, fiercely. "I have been able to reckon that ever since I was born."

"Cock-a-doodle-doo!" cried Ben Zoof, delighted at any opportunity of paying off his old grudge.

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The professor looked at him, but did not vouchsafe a word. Addressing the captain, he said, "Now, Servadac, take your paper and a pen, and find me the surface of Gallia."

With more submission than when he was a school-boy, the captain sat down and endeavored to recall the proper formula.

"The surface of a sphere? Multiply circumference by diameter."

"Right!" cried Rosette; "but it ought to be done by this time."

"Circumference, 1,400; diameter, 450; area of surface, 630,000," read the captain.

"True," replied Rosette, "630,000 square miles; just 292 times less than that of the earth."

"Pretty little comet! nice little comet!" muttered Ben Zoof.

The astronomer bit his lip, snorted, and cast at him a withering look, but did not take any further notice.

"Now, Captain Servadac," said the professor, "take your pen again, and find me the volume of Gallia."

The captain hesitated.

"Quick, quick!" cried the professor, impatiently; "surely you have not forgotten how to find the volume of a sphere!"

"A moment's breathing time, please."

"Breathing time, indeed! A mathematician should not want breathing time! Come, multiply the surface by the third of the radius. Don't you recollect?"

Captain Servadac applied himself to his task while the by-standers waited, with some difficulty suppressing their inclination to laugh. There was a short silence, at the end of which Servadac announced that the volume of the comet was 47,880,000 cubic miles.

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Off on a Comet
Jules Verne

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