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Chapter 22


CHAPTER XXII


THE NEW CITIZEN OF THE UNITED STATES


That same day all America heard of the affair of Captain Nicholl
and President Barbicane, as well as its singular _denouement_.
From that day forth, Michel Ardan had not one moment's rest.
Deputations from all corners of the Union harassed him without
cessation or intermission. He was compelled to receive them
all, whether he would or no. How many hands he shook, how many
people he was "hail-fellow-well-met" with, it is impossible
to guess! Such a triumphal result would have intoxicated any
other man; but he managed to keep himself in a state of delightful
_semi_-tipsiness.

Among the deputations of all kinds which assailed him, that of
"The Lunatics" were careful not to forget what they owed to the
future conqueror of the moon. One day, certain of these poor
people, so numerous in America, came to call upon him, and
requested permission to return with him to their native country.

"Singular hallucination!" said he to Barbicane, after having
dismissed the deputation with promises to convey numbers of
messages to friends in the moon. "Do you believe in the
influence of the moon upon distempers?"

"Scarcely!"

"No more do I, despite some remarkable recorded facts of history.
For instance, during an epidemic in 1693, a large number of
persons died at the very moment of an eclipse. The celebrated
Bacon always fainted during an eclipse. Charles VI relapsed
six times into madness during the year 1399, sometimes during
the new, sometimes during the full moon. Gall observed that
insane persons underwent an accession of their disorder twice
in every month, at the epochs of new and full moon. In fact,
numerous observations made upon fevers, somnambulisms, and other
human maladies, seem to prove that the moon does exercise some
mysterious influence upon man."

"But the how and the wherefore?" asked Barbicane.

"Well, I can only give you the answer which Arago borrowed from
Plutarch, which is nineteen centuries old. `Perhaps the stories
are not true!'"

In the height of his triumph, Michel Ardan had to encounter all
the annoyances incidental to a man of celebrity. Managers of
entertainments wanted to exhibit him. Barnum offered him a
million dollars to make a tour of the United States in his show.
As for his photographs, they were sold of all size, and his
portrait taken in every imaginable posture. More than half a
million copies were disposed of in an incredibly short space of time.

But it was not only the men who paid him homage, but the women
as well. He might have married well a hundred times over, if he
had been willing to settle in life. The old maids, in
particular, of forty years and upward, and dry in proportion,
devoured his photographs day and night. They would have married
him by hundreds, even if he had imposed upon them the condition
of accompanying him into space. He had, however, no intention
of transplanting a race of Franco-Americans upon the surface of
the moon.

He therefore declined all offers.

As soon as he could withdraw from these somewhat embarrassing
demonstrations, he went, accompanied by his friends, to pay a
visit to the Columbiad. He was highly gratified by his
inspection, and made the descent to the bottom of the tube of
this gigantic machine which was presently to launch him to the
regions of the moon. It is necessary here to mention a proposal
of J. T. Maston's. When the secretary of the Gun Club found
that Barbicane and Nicholl accepted the proposal of Michel
Ardan, he determined to join them, and make one of a smug party
of four. So one day he determined to be admitted as one of the
travelers. Barbicane, pained at having to refuse him, gave him
clearly to understand that the projectile could not possibly
contain so many passengers. Maston, in despair, went in search
of Michel Ardan, who counseled him to resign himself to the
situation, adding one or two arguments _ad hominem_.

"You see, old fellow," he said, "you must not take what I say in
bad part; but really, between ourselves, you are in too
incomplete a condition to appear in the moon!"

"Incomplete?" shrieked the valiant invalid.

"Yes, my dear fellow! imagine our meeting some of the
inhabitants up there! Would you like to give them such a
melancholy notion of what goes on down here? to teach them what
war is, to inform them that we employ our time chiefly in
devouring each other, in smashing arms and legs, and that too
on a globe which is capable of supporting a hundred billions
of inhabitants, and which actually does contain nearly two
hundred millions? Why, my worthy friend, we should have to
turn you out of doors!"

"But still, if you arrive there in pieces, you will be as
incomplete as I am."

"Unquestionably," replied Michel Ardan; "but we shall not."

In fact, a preparatory experiment, tried on the 18th of October,
had yielded the best results and caused the most well-grounded
hopes of success. Barbicane, desirous of obtaining some notion
of the effect of the shock at the moment of the projectile's
departure, had procured a 38-inch mortar from the arsenal
of Pensacola. He had this placed on the bank of Hillisborough
Roads, in order that the shell might fall back into the sea, and
the shock be thereby destroyed. His object was to ascertain the
extent of the shock of departure, and not that of the return.

A hollow projectile had been prepared for this curious experiment.
A thick padding fastened upon a kind of elastic network, made of
the best steel, lined the inside of the walls. It was a veritable
_nest_ most carefully wadded.

"What a pity I can't find room in there," said J. T. Maston,
regretting that his height did not allow of his trying the adventure.

Within this shell were shut up a large cat, and a squirrel
belonging to J. T. Maston, and of which he was particularly fond.
They were desirous, however, of ascertaining how this little
animal, least of all others subject to giddiness, would endure
this experimental voyage.

The mortar was charged with 160 pounds of powder, and the shell
placed in the chamber. On being fired, the projectile rose with
great velocity, described a majestic parabola, attained a height
of about a thousand feet, and with a graceful curve descended in
the midst of the vessels that lay there at anchor.

Without a moment's loss of time a small boat put off in the
direction of its fall; some divers plunged into the water
and attached ropes to the handles of the shell, which was
quickly dragged on board. Five minutes did not elapse between
the moment of enclosing the animals and that of unscrewing the
coverlid of their prison.

Ardan, Barbicane, Maston, and Nicholl were present on board the
boat, and assisted at the operation with an interest which may
readily be comprehended. Hardly had the shell been opened when
the cat leaped out, slightly bruised, but full of life, and
exhibiting no signs whatever of having made an aerial expedition.
No trace, however, of the squirrel could be discovered. The truth
at last became apparent-- the cat had eaten its fellow-traveler!

J. T. Maston grieved much for the loss of his poor squirrel, and
proposed to add its case to that of other martyrs to science.

After this experiment all hesitation, all fear disappeared.
Besides, Barbicane's plans would ensure greater perfection for
his projectile, and go far to annihilate altogether the effects
of the shock. Nothing now remained but to go!

Two days later Michel Ardan received a message from the
President of the United States, an honor of which he showed
himself especially sensible.

After the example of his illustrious fellow-countryman, the
Marquis de la Fayette, the government had decreed to him the
title of "Citizen of the United States of America."


Jules Verne

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