Topsy Turvy

Page 33

As soon as he should know this he would be master of the situation and know exactly the place which would be in the most danger. It has been mentioned before that the countries of the old continent were probably connected with those of the new across the North Pole. Was it not possible, it was asked in Europe, that President Barbicane and Capt. Nicholl and J.T. Maston had considered only how to save their own country from any ill consequences which might come from the shock? He was a Yankee—it was pointed out they were all Yankees—and particularly this man Barbicane, who had created the idea of going to the moon. In any case, it was argued, the whole new world, from the Arctic regions to the Gulf of Mexico, would not have to fear anything from the shock. It is even probable on the other hand that America would profit immensely by it and gain some territory. “Who knows what is lying in the two oceans which wash the American coast? Was it not probable that there was some valuable territory which they wished to take possession of?” asked people who never saw anything but the dark side of a question. “Is it sure that there is no danger? Suppose J.T. Maston should make a mistake in his calculations? And could not the President have made a mistake when he came to put his apparatus in working order? This might happen to the smartest people. They might not always put the bullet in the target, or they might neglect to put the cannonball into the cannon,” were the comments of these nervous folk. This uneasiness was fomented by the European delegates. Secretary Dean Toodrink published several articles in this line, and even stronger ones were put by him in the Standard. Jan Harald put some in the Swedish journal Aftenbladt, and Col. Boris Karkof in a Russian journal which had a large circulation. Even in America opinions differed. The Republicans were friends of President Barbicane, but the Democrats declared themselves against him. A part of the American press agreed with the European press. And as in the United States the papers had become great powers, paying yearly for news about twenty millions of dollars, they had great influence on the people. In vain did other journals of large circulation speak in favor of the N.P.P.A. In vain did Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt pay as high as $10 a line for articles showing the advantages of this invention. In vain did this ardent widow try to demonstrate that everything was perfectly correct, and that J.T. Maston could never commit an error in figuring. Finally America took fright in the matter and was inclined to be governed by Europe. But neither President Barbicane nor Secretary Maston of the Gun Club seemed to care what was said. They did not even take the trouble to correct the different articles. They let people say what they liked and did not try to change their minds at all. They were too much occupied in preparations for the immense undertaking. It is indeed strange that the public, who were at first so enthusiastic and so certain of success, should so suddenly turn and go against this operation.

Soon, however, in spite of the money Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt spent on the matter, the President and Secretary of the Club came to be considered dangerous characters by the people of the two worlds. The Government of the United States was asked officially by the European powers to interfere and examine the matter. The originators were to openly show their ideas and by what means they hoped to accomplish what they intended. They would have to inform the Government which parts of the world would be most in danger and, in short, tell everything which the public demanded to know. The Government at Washington was compelled to do what they were asked. The uprising of public sentiment in the Northern, Southern, and Middle States of the Union did not allow them any other course. A commission of engineers, mechanicians, mathematicians, and geographers were appointed—fifty in all, presided over by John Prestice—by the act of the 19th of February, with full power to do anything which they considered necessary in the matter.

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Topsy Turvy Page 34

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Jules Verne

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