"But would not our chances of escape be considerably better," asked Count Timascheff, "in the event of either of the comet's poles being the point of contact?"
"Taking the combined velocity into account," answered the lieutenant, "I confess that I fear the violence of the shock will be too great to permit our destruction to be averted."
A general silence ensued, which was broken by the lieutenant himself. "Even if none of these contingencies occur in the way we have contemplated, I am driven to the suspicion that we shall be burnt alive."
"Burnt alive!" they all exclaimed in a chorus of horror.
"Yes. If the deductions of modern science be true, the speed of the comet, when suddenly checked, will be transmuted into heat, and that heat will be so intense that the temperature of the comet will be raised to some millions of degrees."
No one having anything definite to allege in reply to Lieutenant Procope's forebodings, they all relapsed into silence. Presently Ben Zoof asked whether it was not possible for the comet to fall into the middle of the Atlantic.
Procope shook his head. "Even so, we should only be adding the fate of drowning to the list of our other perils."
"Then, as I understand," said Captain Servadac, "in whatever way or in whatever place the concussion occurs, we must be either crushed, suffocated, roasted, or drowned. Is that your conclusion, lieutenant?"