Topsy Turvy

Page 31

It was not agreeable to know that a blow was to be struck and not know precisely what the after effects were to be.

It seemed as if the promoters of this undertaking had not fully considered the consequences - that they would be so very dangerous to the earth, and that it would not do as much good as first thought. The European delegates, more than ever angry at the loss which they had suffered, resolved to make the most of this question and to excite the public as much as possible upon it so as to turn feeling against the members of the Gun Club.

It will not be forgotten that France had absolutely nothing to do with these delegates, as it had no intentions of buying the Arctic region. However, a Frenchman had come to Baltimore, and for his own personal benefit and information had watched with great interest the proceedings of the Gun Club. He was an engineer, not more than thirty-five years old. He had been first in the polytechnic school, and came out of it with the highest honors. He was without doubt as skilful a calculator as Mr. J.T. Maston. This engineer was a very intelligent young man, very original, always pleasant, and with most amiable manners. He always spoke very frankly and used plain language, no matter whether he was speaking in earnest or in fun. He even went so far as to use slangy expressions when they served his purpose. He could sit for hours at his table and figure and calculate, making his figures and calculations as fast as he could write with a pen. His greatest pleasure, next to these difficult mathematical efforts, was in “whist,” which he played apparently very indifferently, not forgetting to figure out all his chances. His name was Alcide Pierdeux, but he generally signed it, A. Pierd, and sometimes only A. Pie. He was very tall. His friends remarked that his height measured about the five millionth part of the quarter of the meridian, and they were not much mistaken. He had a small head, at least it looked so on his broad shoulders, but with a most lively expression on his face, and his blue eyes behind his eye-glasses twinkled merrily. This was characteristic of him, for he had one of those faces which appear merry, even when they are in sober earnest. He was at once the best scholar in his class and the best tempered. But even if his head did seem a little small on his shoulders, it is safe to say that it was filled to its highest capacity. He was a mathematician, as all his ancestors had been, but he did not study mathematics to use them in his profession, for which he never had any taste, as he disliked trade. No, he studied mathematics for themselves alone, simply to find them out more and more where there was so much unknown to man. Let us also remark that Alcide Pierdeux was a bachelor. He was as yet single, or, as he would express it, equal to one (= 1) although his greatest wish was to get married. His friends all thought that he would marry a very charming girl, gay and spirituelle. But, unhappily for him, the girl’s father said that he was too smart and that he would talk to his daughter in language which she would not be able to understand. How modest and simple this father was, indeed. And for this reason the young engineer decided to place between himself and his country the broad ocean. He asked permission to go abroad for a year and obtained it. He thought that he could not make any better use of his time than to go to Baltimore and note the actions of the N.P.P.A. And this is how he came to be at this time in the United States. However, since he got to Baltimore he had cared little apparently for the great undertaking of Barbicane & Co. Whether the earth would have a change of the axis or not, what did it matter to him? He only wanted to know, and his curiosity was at the highest point to find out, by what means they were to move the earth. He thought again and again how they would do it and had several plans in his head and dismissed them only to consider the matter afresh. He concluded that they wanted probably to substitute a new axis, but he did not clearly see where their point of operations was to be.

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