When the noise had finally subsided Major Donellan could be heard to remark: “Well, seven minutes have already gone by of the ten which, as you say, would be sufficient to reach the North Pole.”
“We shall be there in three minutes,” coolly answered President Barbicane.
“But, even if this be a continent, which constitutes your purchase, and if it is a raised country, as we may have reasons to believe, it is also obstructed by eternal ice, and in a condition which will make exploration extremely difficult,” responded the Major. “Impossible,” cried Jan Harald, who emphasized this remark with a wave of his hand. “Impossible, all right,” said Impey Barbicane. “But it is to conquer this impossibility that we have purchased this region. We will need neither vessels nor rafts to reach the North Pole; no, thanks to our operations, the ice and icebergs, new or old, will melt by themselves, and it will not cost one dollar of our capital nor one minute of our time.” At this there was absolute silence. The most important moment had come.
“Gentlemen,” said the President of the Gun Club, “Archimedes only asked for a lever to lift the world. Well, this lever we have found. We are now in a position to remove the North Pole.”
“What, remove the North Pole?” cried Eric Baldenak.
“Will you bring it to America?” asked Jan Harald. Without doubt President Barbicane did not wish to explain himself just yet, for he continued: “In regard to this point of leverage—” “Do not tell it! do not tell it!” cried one of his associates, with a terrible voice.
“In regard to this lever—”
“Keep the secret! keep the secret!” cried the majority of the spectators, taking up the cry.
“We will keep it,” said President Barbicane.
Naturally, the European delegates were very much vexed at this remark. This will be easily understood. In spite of all these exclamations the orator never had any intention of making his plan known. He continued to say: “We obtained our object, thanks to a mechanical device, one which has no precedent in the annals of industrial art. We will undertake it and bring it to a successful finish by means of our capital, and how I will inform you forthwith.”
“Hear! hear!” said the others present.
“First of all, the idea of our plan comes from one of the ablest, most devoted and illustrious calculators and one of our associates as well,” said President Barbicane. “One to whom we owe all the calculations which allows us to have our work in such good condition. As the exploration of the North Pole is not a piece of play the removal of the pole is a problem which could only be solved by the highest calculations. Therefore we have called the assistance of the honorable Secretary, Mr. J.T. Maston.”
“Hip, hip, hip, hurrah, for J. T. Maston,” exclaimed all the auditors, seemingly electrified by the presence of this extraordinary calculator.
Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt was deeply touched by this recognition of the celebrated mathematician, who had already entirely gained her heart. He contented himself with turning his head to the right and left, bowing and thanking his auditors.
“Already, dear subscribers,” said President Barbicane, “since the great meeting in honor of the arrival of the Frenchman, Michel Ardan, in America, some months before our departure for the moon” (and this confident Yankee spoke of the trip to the moon as quietly as if it were no more than a trip to New York), “J T. Maston had already said to himself: ‘We must invent machines to move the North Pole. We must find a point for action and put the axis of the earth in the right direction from the object.’ Well, any or all of you who listen to me find it if you can. I can only say the machines have been invented, the point of leverage has been found, and now let us pay our attention to the question of fixing, in the right way, for our end of the axis of the earth.” Here he stopped speaking, and the astonishment which was expressed on the faces of his auditors it is impossible to describe.
“What!” cried Major Donellan, “you then have the idea of putting the axis of the earth in another direction?”
“Yes, sir,” answered President Barbicane promptly.