Topsy Turvy

Page 37

It was well known that Barbicane and Nicholl had left Baltimore and America. They had gone away two months ago. Where were they? Most certainly at that unknown point of the globe where the operations were under way for their grand object. It was evident that this place was indicated on the last page of the notebook of J.T. Maston. On this point there was no doubt. But this last page had been torn out and eaten up by the accomplice of Impey Barbicane, and Maston sat imprisoned in the Baltimore City Prison and absolutely refused to speak. This was the condition of affairs. If the President succeeded in making this monster cannon and its projectile—in a word, if the operation was carried out under the above stated conditions—it would modify the earth’s axis, and within six months the earth would be subject to the consequences of this audacious attempt of Barbicane & Co. This would come on the 22d day of September, twelve hours after the passage of the sun over the meridian of the place “x.”

The facts that were known were: 1st. That the shooting would be done with a cannon a million times larger than the cannon of 27 centimetres. 2d. That the cannon would be loaded with a projectile of 180,000 tons. 3d. That the projectile would be animated with a velocity of 2,800 kilometres. 4th. That the shooting would take place on the 22d of September, twelve hours after the passage of the sun over the meridian of the place “x.” Was it possible to deduce, under these facts, where was the spot “x,” where the operation was to take place? Evidently not, said the Inquiry Committee. There was nothing by which to calculate where the point “x” was, as nothing in the calculations of Mr. Maston indicated through which point of the globe the new axis was to pass, or, in other words, on which part of the present earth the new poles would be situated. Therefore, it would be impossible to know which would be the elevated and submerged countries, due to the changed surface of the ocean, or which parts of the earth would be transformed into water, and where water would be transformed into land. It was evident that the maximum change in the ocean surface would be 8.415 metres, and that in certain points of the globe various areas would be lowered and raised to this amount. All, however, depended upon the location of the point “x,” or where the shooting was to take place. In other words, “x” was the secret of the promoter of this uncertain affair. “We have,” said the Committee, “only to mention again that the inhabitants of the world, no matter in what part of it they are living, are directly interested in knowing this secret, as they are all directly t[h]reatened by the actions of Barbicane & Co. Therefore all the inhabitants of Europe, Africa, Asia, America, and Australia are advised to watch all gun foundries, powder factories, etc., which are situated in their territory and to note the presence of all strangers whose arrival may appear suspicious, and to advise the Inquiry Committee at Baltimore by wire immediately. Heaven grant that this news may arrive before the 22d of September of the present year, as that date threatens to disturb the order established since the creation in our earthly system.

CHAPTER XII.

IN WHICH J.T. MASTON HEROICALLY CONTINUES TO BE SILENT.

According to a former story a gun was to be employed to throw the projectile from the earth to the moon; now the gun was to be employed to change the earth’s axis. The cannon, always the cannon; these gunners of the Gun Club had nothing else in their heads but the cannon. They had a real craze for the cannon. Was this brutal engine again threatening the universe? Yes, we are sorry to confess it, it was a cannon which was uppermost in the mind of President Barbicane and his associates. After the Columbiad of Florida, they had gone on to the monster cannon of the place “x.” We may almost hear them shout with a loud voice: “Take aim at the moon.” First act, “Fire.” “Change the axis of the earth.” Second act, “Fire.” And the wish which the whole world had for them was, “To hell.” Third act, “Fire.” And really their scheme justified the popular opinion.

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Topsy Turvy Page 38

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Jules Verne

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