Topsy Turvy

Page 21

T. Maston were seated playing checkers and waiting their arrival at a good point. The new Jonah and his Secretary had got themselves swallowed by an immense fish, and it was in this way, after having gone under the icebergs, that they hoped to gain access to the North Pole. The President of this new Society did not care much about these pictures, and let them say and write and sing whatever they liked.

Immediately after the concession was made and the Society was absolute master of the northern region, appeal was made for a public subscription of $15,000,000. Shares were issued at $100, to be paid for at once, and the credit of Barbicane & Co. was such that the money ran in as fast as possible. The most of it came from the various States of the Union. “So much the better,” said the people on the part of the N.P.P.A. “The undertaking will be entirely American.”

So strong, indeed, were the foundations upon which Barbicane & Co. were established that the amount necessary to be subscribed was raised in a very short time, and even thrice the amount. Everybody was interested in the matter, and the most scientific experts did not doubt its success.

The shares were reduced one-third, and on Dec. 16 the capital of the Society was $15,000,000 in cash. This was about three times as much as the amount subscribed to the credit of the Gun Club when it was going to send a projectile from the earth to the moon.

CHAPTER VI.

IN WHICH A TELEPHONE COMMUNICATION BETWEEN MRS. SCORBITT AND J.T. MASTON IS INTERRUPTED.

President Barbicane was not only convinced that he would reach his object when the amount which had been raised took another obstacle out of his way. Had he not been perfectly sure of success he would not have made an application for a public subscription. And now the time had come when the North Pole would be conquered. It was felt certain that President Barbicane and his Council of Administration had means to succeed where so many others had failed. They would do what neither Franklin, nor Kane, nor De Long, nor Nares, nor Greely had been able to accomplish. They would pass the 84th parallel, they would take possession of the vast region purchased at an auction sale, they would make this country the thirty-ninth star in the flag of the American Union. “Fake,” was all that the European delegates and their friends in the Old World could say. Nothing was more true, however, and this practical, logical means of conquering the North Pole, which was so simple that it was almost childish, was one which J.T. Maston had suggested to them. It was that brain, where ideas were constantly evolving, which had laid out this great geographical project in a way which could not but succeed.

It cannot be too often repeated that the Secretary of the Gun Club was a remarkable calculator, we might say a postgraduate calculator. But a single day was needed by him to solve the most complicated problems in mathematical science. He laughed at these difficulties whether in algebra or in plain mathematics. You should have seen him handle his figures, the signs which make up algebra, the letters in the alphabet, representing the unknown quantities, the square or crossed lines representing the way in which quantities are to be operated. All signs and lines, and radicals used in this complex language were perfectly familiar to him. And how they flew around under his pen, or rather under the piece of chalk which he attached to his iron hand, because he preferred to work on a blackboard. And this blackboard, six feet square, this was all he wanted, he was perfectly at home in his work. Nor was it figures alone which he used in his calculations. His figures were fantastic, gigantic, written with a practiced hand. His "2" and "3" were as nice and round as they could be, his 7 looked like a crutch and almost invited a person to hang on it. His 8 was as well formed as a pair of eye-glasses; and the letters with which he established his formulas, the first of the alphabet, a, b, c, which he used to represent given or known quantities, and the last, x, y, z, which he used for unknown quantities to be discovered, particularly the "z," and those Greek letters d, ?, a.

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