THE PROFESSOR PERPLEXED
Too Long; Didn't ReadAnother month passed away, and it was now September, but it was still impossible to leave the warmth of the subterranean retreat for the more airy and commodious quarters of the Hive, where “the bees” would certainly have been frozen to death in their cells. It was altogether quite as much a matter of congratulation as of regret that the volcano showed no symptoms of resuming its activity; for although a return of the eruption might have rendered their former resort again habitable, any sudden outbreak would have been disastrous to them where they were, the crater being the sole outlet by which the burning lava could escape.
“A wretched time we have had for the last seven months,” said the orderly one day to his master; “but what a comfort little Nina has been to us all!”
“Yes, indeed,” replied Servadac; “she is a charming little creature. I hardly know how we should have got on without her.”
“What is to become of her when we arrive back at the earth?”
“Not much fear, Ben Zoof, but that she will be well taken care of. Perhaps you and I had better adopt her.”
“Ay, yes,” assented the orderly. “You can be her father, and I can be her mother.”
Servadac laughed. “Then you and I shall be man and wife.”
“We have been as good as that for a long time,” observed Ben Zoof, gravely.
By the beginning of October, the temperature had so far moderated that it could scarcely be said to be intolerable. The comet’s distance was scarcely three times as great from the sun as the earth from the sun, so that the thermometer rarely sunk beyond 35 degrees below zero. The whole party began to make almost daily visits to the Hive, and frequently proceeded to the shore, where they resumed their skating exercise, rejoicing in their recovered freedom like prisoners liberated from a dungeon. Whilst the rest were enjoying their recreation, Servadac and the count would hold long conversations with Lieutenant Procope about their present position and future prospects, discussing all manner of speculations as to the results of the anticipated collision with the earth, and wondering whether any measures could be devised for mitigating the violence of a shock which might be terrible in its consequences, even if it did not entail a total annihilation of themselves.