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0100_005E Book II Jules Verne

The Astronomer

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Table Of Contents: Off on a Comet

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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.

When Ben Zoof and Negrete had extricated their patient from the envelope of furs in which he had been wrapped by Servadac and the lieutenant, they found themselves face to face with a shrivelled little man, about five feet two inches high, with a round bald head, smooth and shiny as an ostrich's egg, no beard unless the unshorn growth of a week could be so described, and a long hooked nose that supported a huge pair of spectacles such as with many near-sighted people seems to have become a part of their individuality. His nervous system was remarkably developed, and his body might not inaptly be compared to one of the Rhumkorff's bobbins of which the thread, several hundred yards in length, is permeated throughout by electric fluid. But whatever he was, his life, if possible, must be preserved. When he had been partially divested of his clothing, his heart was found to be still beating, though very feebly. Asserting that while there was life there was hope, Ben Zoof recommenced his friction with more vigor than ever.

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When the rubbing had been continued without a moment's intermission for the best part of half an hour, the astronomer heaved a faint sigh, which ere long was followed by another and another. He half opened his eyes, closed them again, then opened them completely, but without exhibiting any consciousness whatever of his situation. A few words seemed to escape his lips, but they were quite unintelligible. Presently he raised his right hand to his forehead as though instinctively feeling for something that was missing; then, all of a sudden, his features became contracted, his face flushed with apparent irritation, and he exclaimed fretfully, "My spectacles!--where are my spectacles?"

In order to facilitate his operations, Ben Zoof had removed the spectacles in spite of the tenacity with which they seemed to adhere to the temples of his patient; but he now rapidly brought them back and readjusted them as best he could to what seemed to be their natural position on the aquiline nose. The professor heaved a long sigh of relief, and once more closed his eyes.

Before long the astronomer roused himself a little more, and glanced inquiringly about him, but soon relapsed into his comatose condition. When next he opened his eyes, Captain Servadac happened to be bending down closely over him, examining his features with curious scrutiny. The old man darted an angry look at him through the spectacles, and said sharply, "Servadac, five hundred lines to-morrow!"

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Off on a Comet
Jules Verne

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