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|Round the Moon||Jules Verne|
RECOVERED FROM THE SEA
|Page 4 of 5||
On the 29th of December, at nine A.M., the Susquehanna, heading northeast, resumed her course to the bay of San Francisco.
It was ten in the morning; the corvette was under half-steam, as it was regretting to leave the spot where the catastrophe had taken place, when a sailor, perched on the main-top-gallant crosstrees, watching the sea, cried suddenly:
"A buoy on the lee bow!"
The officers looked in the direction indicated, and by the help of their glasses saw that the object signalled had the appearance of one of those buoys which are used to mark the passages of bays or rivers. But, singularly to say, a flag floating on the wind surmounted its cone, which emerged five or six feet out of water. This buoy shone under the rays of the sun as if it had been made of plates of silver. Commander Blomsberry, J. T. Maston, and the delegates of the Gun Club were mounted on the bridge, examining this object straying at random on the waves.
All looked with feverish anxiety, but in silence. None dared give expression to the thoughts which came to the minds of all.
The corvette approached to within two cables' lengths of the object.
A shudder ran through the whole crew. That flag was the American flag!
At this moment a perfect howling was heard; it was the brave J. T. Maston who had just fallen all in a heap. Forgetting on the one hand that his right arm had been replaced by an iron hook, and on the other that a simple gutta-percha cap covered his brain-box, he had given himself a formidable blow.
They hurried toward him, picked him up, restored him to life. And what were his first words?
"Ah! trebly brutes! quadruply idiots! quintuply boobies that we are!"
"What is it?" exclaimed everyone around him.
"What is it?"
"It is, simpletons," howled the terrible secretary, "it is that the projectile only weighs 19,250 pounds!"
"And that it displaces twenty-eight tons, or in other words 56,000 pounds, and that consequently it floats!"
Ah! what stress the worthy man had laid on the verb "float!" And it was true! All, yes! all these savants had forgotten this fundamental law, namely, that on account of its specific lightness, the projectile, after having been drawn by its fall to the greatest depths of the ocean, must naturally return to the surface. And now it was floating quietly at the mercy of the waves.
The boats were put to sea. J. T. Maston and his friends had rushed into them! Excitement was at its height! Every heart beat loudly while they advanced to the projectile. What did it contain? Living or dead?
Living, yes! living, at least unless death had struck Barbicane and his two friends since they had hoisted the flag. Profound silence reigned on the boats. All were breathless. Eyes no longer saw. One of the scuttles of the projectile was open. Some pieces of glass remained in the frame, showing that it had been broken. This scuttle was actually five feet above the water.
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