Topsy Turvy

Page 35

“Hello! hello!” said he, annoyed by this sudden interruption, “who wants me?” “Mme. Scorbitt.” “What does Mrs. Scorbitt want?” “She wants to put you on your guard, I am informed this moment”—and she had not time to finish the phrase when Mr. Maston heard a terrible noise at the door of his house. On the stairs which led to his study there was an extraordinary racket. He could hear loud voices, many angry voices. Then the noise of a whole army of men moving towards his door. It was his servant Fire-Fire, who was trying to keep the intruders from breaking, into the house and disturbing the “home” of the master. A moment afterwards the door was violently opened and a policeman appeared, followed by several others. This policeman had a warrant to make a visit to the house and to take possession of all papers and also of J.T. Maston himself. The angry Secretary of the Gun Club reached for his revolver, and would have certainly defended himself had he not been suddenly disarmed. He was held by officers, and all his papers were put in a bundle. Suddenly he made a bold effort, freed himself, grabbed his note-book, out of which he tore the last page and began to chew it very quickly. “Now you can take it,” said he, “for it will be no good to you.” An hour afterwards he was a prisoner in the jail of Baltimore. This was undoubtedly the best that could happen to him, as it was extremely dangerous for him to be at liberty due to the then excited state of the public mind.



The notebook, which was taken possession of by the police, had thirty pages covered with formulae and figures, including all the calculations of J.T. Maston. It was a work of the higher mathematics, which could only be appreciated by the highest mathematicians. The following formula,

[Equation 1]

which was also to be found in the calculation of From the Earth to the Moon, held a prominent place in these calculations. The majority of people could not understand anything of what was written in the notebook, but it would have given satisfaction to give out the results, which every one expected with so much curiosity. And so it was that all the newspapers, and the Inquiry Committee as well, tried to read the formulae of this celebrated calculator. In the work of Mr. Maston were found some problems correctly executed, others half solved, etc. The calculations had been made with great exactness and of course the Inquiry Committee supposed that they were absolutely correct. If the plan was carried out fully it was seen that without a doubt the earth’s axis would be greatly changed and that the terrible disasters which were predicted would take place with full force. The reports made by the Inquiry Committee to the different newspapers ran as follows:

“The idea followed by the Administrative Council of the N.P.P.A. and the object of which is to substitute a new axis for the old one is to be carried out by means of the recoil of a piece of ordnance fixed at a certain point of the earth. If the barrel of this device is immovably fixed to the ground it is not at all doubtful that it will communicate its shock over our whole planet. The engine adopted by the engineers of the Society is then nothing else but a monster cannon, the effect of shooting which would be absolutely nothing if it were pointed vertically. To produce its highest effect it is necessary to point it horizontally towards the north or south, and it is this last direction which has been chosen by Barbicane & Co. Under these conditions the recoil will produce a movement of the earth towards the north, a movement similar to that of one billiard ball touched very slightly by another.”

This was really just what the clever Alcide Pierdeux had predicted. As soon as the cannon has been fired off, the center line of the earth would be displaced in a parallel direction to that of the recoil. This would change the direction of the orbit somewhat, and consequently the duration of the year, but in such a mild way that it must be considered as absolutely free from bad results.

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