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Wanted: A Steelyard

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Under the still diminishing influence of the sun's attraction, but without let or hindrance, Gallia continued its interplanetary course, accompanied by Nerina, its captured satellite, which performed its fortnightly revolutions with unvarying regularity.

Meanwhile, the question beyond all others important was ever recurring to the minds of Servadac and his two companions: were the astronomer's calculations correct, and was there a sound foundation for his prediction that the comet would again touch the earth? But whatever might be their doubts or anxieties, they were fain to keep all their misgivings to themselves; the professor was of a temper far too cross-grained for them to venture to ask him to revise or re-examine the results of his observations.

The rest of the community by no means shared in their uneasiness. Negrete and his fellow-countrymen yielded to their destiny with philosophical indifference. Happier and better provided for than they had ever been in their lives, it did not give them a passing thought, far less cause any serious concern, whether they were still circling round the sun, or whether they were being carried right away within the limits of another system. Utterly careless of the future, the majos, light-hearted as ever, carolled out their favorite songs, just as if they had never quitted the shores of their native land.

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Happiest of all were Pablo and Nina. Racing through the galleries of the Hive, clambering over the rocks upon the shore, one day skating far away across the frozen ocean, the next fishing in the lake that was kept liquid by the heat of the lava-torrent, the two children led a life of perpetual enjoyment. Nor was their recreation allowed to interfere with their studies. Captain Servadac, who in common with the count really liked them both, conceived that the responsibilities of a parent in some degree had devolved upon him, and took great care in superintending their daily lessons, which he succeeded in making hardly less pleasant than their sports.

Indulged and loved by all, it was little wonder that young Pablo had no longing for the scorching plains of Andalusia, or that little Nina had lost all wish to return with her pet goat to the barren rocks of Sardinia. They had now a home in which they had nothing to desire.

"Have you no father nor mother?" asked Pablo, one day.

"No," she answered.

"No more have I," said the boy, "I used to run along by the side of the diligences when I was in Spain."

"I used to look after goats at Madalena," said Nina; "but it is much nicer here--I am so happy here. I have you for a brother, and everybody is so kind. I am afraid they will spoil us, Pablo," she added, smiling.

"Oh, no, Nina; you are too good to be spoiled, and when I am with you, you make me good too," said Pablo, gravely.

July had now arrived. During the month Gallia's advance along its orbit would be reduced to 22,000,000 leagues, the distance from the sun at the end being 172,000,000 leagues, about four and a half times as great as the average distance of the earth from the sun. It was traveling now at about the same speed as the earth, which traverses the ecliptic at a rate of 21,000,000 leagues a month, or 28,800 leagues an hour.

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Off on a Comet
Jules Verne

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