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A Second Enigma

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"I wonder where the hare-brained savant that writes them can be living?" observed Servadac.

"Very likely he may have met with the fate of AEsop's abstracted astronomer, who found himself at the bottom of a well."

"Ay; but where is that well?" demanded the captain.

This was a question which the count was incapable of settling; and they could only speculate afresh as to whether the author of the riddles was dwelling upon some solitary island, or, like themselves, was navigating the waters of the new Mediterranean. But they could detect nothing to guide them to a definite decision.

After thoughtfully regarding the document for some time. Lieutenant Procope proceeded to observe that he believed the paper might be considered as genuine, and accordingly, taking its statements as reliable, he deduced two important conclusions: first, that whereas, in the month of January, the distance traveled by the planet (hypothet-ically called Gallia) had been recorded as 82,000,000 leagues, the distance traveled in February was only 59,- 000,000 leagues--a difference of 23,000,000 leagues in one month; secondly, that the distance of the planet from the sun, which on the 15th of February had been 59,000,000 leagues, was on the 1st of March 78,000,000 leagues-- an increase of 19,000,000 leagues in a fortnight. Thus, in proportion as Gallia receded from the sun, so did the rate of speed diminish by which she traveled along her orbit; facts to be observed in perfect conformity with the known laws of celestial mechanism.

"And your inference?" asked the count.

"My inference," replied the lieutenant, "is a confirmation of my surmise that we are following an orbit decidedly elliptical, although we have not yet the material to determine its eccentricity."

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"As the writer adheres to the appellation of Gallia, do you not think," asked the count, "that we might call these new waters the Gallian Sea?"

"There can be no reason to the contrary, count," replied the lieutenant; "and as such I will insert it upon my new chart."

"Our friend," said Servadac, "seems to be more and more gratified with the condition of things; not only has he adopted our motto, 'Nil desperandum!' but see how enthusiastically he has wound up with his 'Enchante!'"

The conversation dropped.

A few hours later the man on watch announced that Gourbi Island was in sight.

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Off on a Comet
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