He did not doubt it. Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt would have been only too happy to... But up to this time Mr. Maston had not been happy to ... and it seemed certain that these two beings, so well made one for the other, at least this was the opinion of the tender widow, would never reach the transformation period. The cottage was a very simple one. A ground-floor, with a veranda and a floor over it; a small parlor and small dining-room, with a kitchen and another room in an outbuilding stand at the back of the garden. Upstairs his sleeping-room and his working-studio, looking on the garden, and where the noise of the outer world could never penetrate. Within these walls there had been made calculations which would have made Newton, Euclid, or Laplace jealous. How different was the mansion of Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt, situated in the richest quarter of New Park, with facade of balconies, finished in the finest architecture, half Romanesque, half Gothic, with its richly-furnished apartments, its grand halls, its picture galleries, in which French artists held the highest places; its magnificent staircase, its great number of domestics, its stables, its coach-houses, its garden, with the finest of flowers, statues, fountains, and the tower on the top of the building, on which the blue and gold coat-of-arms of the Scorbitt family was upon a glittering banner. Three miles, three long miles at least separated the Palace at New Park from the “Ballistic Cottage.” But a private telephone wire connected there, and in answer to “Hello! hello!” a conversation could be carried on between the mansion and cottage. If the persons could not look at each other they could at least hear each other. It will astonish none to hear that time upon time Mrs. Scorbitt began talking and ringing on the telephone to Mr. Maston when he was busily engaged with his figures. Then the calculator had to quit his work with some reluctance. He received a friendly “How do you do?” from Mrs. Scorbitt, which he answered with a grunt, which was sweetened into a kindly greeting by the distance over the telephone. After a conversation he was glad to go back to his figures. It was on the 3d of December, after a long and last conference, that Mr. Maston took leave of his friends and members of the Club to begin to do his share of the work. It was a very important work with which he had charged himself, for it was the question of figure mechanical appliance which would enable him to gain access to the North Pole, and which would allow him to make use of those large fields of snow now covered with impenetrable ice. He estimated that he needed at least a week to accomplish this mysterious calculation, exceedingly complicated and delicate to handle, involving several deep and important problems. Therefore, to avoid all unnecessary annoyance, it had been decided that the Secretary of the Gun Club should retire to his cottage and that he should not be disturbed by any one. This was a great disappointment for Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt, but she was compelled to accept it. While President Barbicane, Capt. Nicholl and his associates, the jolly Bilsby, Col. Bloomsberry, Tom Hunter, with the wooden legs, were all saying their good-bys to him and wishing him success, Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt appeared and made her last visit to Mr. Maston.
“You will succeed, my dear,” said she at the moment of separation.
“And above all do not make a mistake,” added President Barbicane. “A mistake? He?” exclaimed Mrs. Scorbitt.
“No more than God has made a mistake in putting together this world,” modestly answered the Secretary. Then, after shaking hands all around and after several more sighs and wishes of success and suggestions not to make too severe a work of it, the calculator was left alone. The door of the Ballistic cottage was closed and Fire-Fire had orders to admit none, not even if the President of the United States should ask admission.
During his first two days of seclusion J.T. Maston thought and thought, without even touching the piece of chalk, upon the problem which he had taken on himself.