Topsy Turvy

Page 32

Then, again, he would say, “There is the daily movement. It is impossible to surpress it; how they will do it, is a perfect conundrum to me.” He had no idea what the plans of Barbicane and Maston were. It is to be regretted very much that their intentions were not known to him, as he would have been able to figure out the formulae in a very short time. And so it came about that on this 29th day of December, Alcide Pierdeux was walking with his hand at his brow, pondering, about the streets of Baltimore.

CHAPTER X.

IN WHICH A LITTLE UNEASINESS BEGINS TO SHOW ITSELF.

A month had elapsed since the meeting of the Gun Club and the stockholders of the new-formed society, and public opinion was getting much altered. The advantages of the change to be wrought in the axis of the earth were forgotten and its disadvantages began to be spoken of. It was very probable, public opinion said, that a terrible catastrophe would happen, as the change could only be brought about by a violent shock. What would this catastrophe exactly be? In regard to the change of climates, was it so desirable after all? The Esquimaux and the Laps and the Samoyeden and the Tchuktchees would benefit by it, as they had nothing to lose. The European delegates were very energetic in their talk against President Barbicane and his work. To begin with they sent information to their Government. They used the cable frequently and always sent cipher messages. They asked questions and received instructions. What, then, were these instructions, always in cipher and very guarded? “Show energy, but do not compromise our Government,” said one. “Act very considerately, but do not touch the ‘statu[s] quo,’” said another. Major Donellan and his associates did not fail to predict a terrible accident. “It is very evident that the American engineers have taken steps so as not to hurt, or at least as little as possible, the territory of the United States,” thought Col. Boris Karkof. “But how could they do it?” asked Jan Harald. “If you shake a tree do not all its branches suffer while you are shaking it?” “And if somebody hits you on the back does not your whole body feel the pain?” said Jacques Jansen. “That is, then, what this strange paragraph of the document meant,” said Dean Toodrink. “That is the reason why they mentioned certain geographical changes.”

“Yes,” said Eric Baldenak, “that is what we have to fear; this change will throw the sea out of its basin, and should the ocean leave its present quarters, would not certain inhabitants of this globe find themselves so located that they could not readily communicate with their fellow-citizens?”

“It is very possible that they may be brought into such a density of surrounding medium,” said Jan Harald, gravely, “that they will be unable to breathe.”

“We will see London at the top of Mount Blanc,” exclaimed Major Donellan. And with his legs crossed and his head thrown back this gentleman looked straight up as if the capital of his country was already lost in the clouds. In short, it became a public danger and a most annoying one. True, it was only a question of a change of 23 degrees and 28 minutes, but this change might bring about a great movement of the oceans as the new earth flattened itself around the pole. Protestations were heard from all over, and the Government of the United States was asked to interfere. “It was best not to try the operation at all.” “The consequences of it might destroy this world.” “God has done all things well; it was not necessary to better his work,” were the comments. And yet there were people light-hearted enough to make merry at the whole matter. “Look at these Yankees,” they said, “they want to turn the earth on its axis. If the earth had shown any faults in its motion it would be all right to better it, but it had gone on for millions of years and always as regularly as clockwork.”

Instead of answering such questions Engineer Alcide Pierdeux tried to find which would be the countries and directions, figured out by Mathematician Maston, in which the test would take place—the exact point of the globe where the work would begin.

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