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Winter Quarters

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The colony took possession of their new abode with but few formalities. Everyone, however, approved of all the internal arrangements of Nina's Hive, and were profuse in their expressions of satisfaction at finding themselves located in such comfortable quarters. The only malcontent was Hakkabut; he had no share in the general enthusiasm, refused even to enter or inspect any of the galleries, and insisted on remaining on board his tartan.

"He is afraid," said Ben Zoof, "that he will have to pay for his lodgings. But wait a bit; we shall see how he stands the cold out there; the frost, no doubt, will drive the old fox out of his hole."

Towards evening the pots were set boiling, and a bountiful supper, to which all were invited, was spread in the central hall. The stores of the Dobryna contained some excellent wine, some of which was broached to do honor to the occasion. The health of the governor general was drunk, as well as the toast "Success to his council," to which Ben Zoof was called upon to return thanks. The entertainment passed off merrily. The Spaniards were in the best of spirits; one of them played the guitar, another the castanets, and the rest joined in a ringing chorus. Ben Zoof contributed the famous Zouave refrain, well known throughout the French army, but rarely performed in finer style than by this virtuoso:

_"Misti goth dar dar tire lyre!
Flic! floc! flac! lirette, lira!
    Far la rira,
    Tour tala rire,
    Tour la Ribaud,

Sans repos, repit, repit, repos, ris pot, ripette!
    Si vous attrapez mon refrain,
    Fameux vous etes."_

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The concert was succeeded by a ball, unquestionably the first that had ever taken place in Gallia. The Russian sailors exhibited some of their national dances, which gained considerable applause, even although they followed upon the marvelous fandangos of the Spaniards. Ben Zoof, in his turn, danced a pas seul (often performed in the Elysee Montmartre) with an elegance and vigor that earned many compliments from Negrete.

It was nine o'clock before the festivities came to an end, and by that time the company, heated by the high temperature of the hall, and by their own exertions, felt the want of a little fresh air. Accordingly the greater portion of the party, escorted by Ben Zoof, made their way into one of the adjacent galleries that led to the shore. Servadac, with the count and lieutenant, did not follow immediately; but shortly afterwards they proceeded to join them, when on their way they were startled by loud cries from those in advance.

Their first impression was that they were cries of distress, and they were greatly relieved to find that they were shouts of delight, which the dryness and purity of the atmosphere caused to re-echo like a volley of musketry.

Reaching the mouth of the gallery, they found the entire group pointing with eager interest to the sky.

"Well, Ben Zoof," asked the captain, "what's the matter now?"

"Oh, your Excellency," ejaculated the orderly, "look there! look there! The moon! the moon's come back!"

And, sure enough, what was apparently the moon was rising above the mists of evening.

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Off on a Comet
Jules Verne

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