The members of the Inquiry Committee urged him daily to speak, and visited him daily, but they could obtain nothing. It was about this time that John Prestice had the idea of using an influence which might possibly succeed, and this was the aid of Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt. Every one knew what feelings the generous widow entertained for Mr. Maston, how devoted she was to him, and what unlimited interest she had in this celebrated calculator. Therefore, after deliberation of the Committee, Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt was authorized to come and go, visiting the prisoner as much as she liked.
Was she not threatened just as well as any other person on this earth by the recoil of this monster cannon? Would her palace at New Park be spared any more than the smallest hut of the Indian? Was not her very existence just as much in doubt as that of the savage living on the furthest isle of the Pacific Ocean? That is what the President of the Inquiry Committee gave her to understand, and for this reason she was begged to use her influence with the mathematician. If he would consent to speak, and would say at what place President Barbicane and Capt. Nicholl were, and how many people they had with them to accomplish their ends, it would yet be time to go and stop them and put an end to their project, and thus save humanity from this most dangerous catastrophe which threatened the world.
Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt was therefore admitted to the prison whenever she wished it. She was most desirous of seeing J.T. Maston again after he had been taken from his comfortable study at Ballistic Cottage by those rough police agents. If any impolite person had on the 9th of April put his ear at the door of his cell the first time when Mrs. Scorbitt entered he would have heard the following conversation:
“Ah, at last, my dear Maston, I see you again.”
“You, Mrs. Scorbitt!”
“Yes, my dear friend, after four weeks—four long weeks of separation.”
“Exactly twenty-eight days, five hours and forty-five minutes,” answered J.T. Maston, after having consulted his watch.
“Finally we are reunited.”
“But how did it happen that they allowed you to penetrate as far as this cell to see me, dear Mrs. Scorbitt?”
“Under the condition of using all my influence over you, thanks to my affection for you, in advising you to disclose the secret of the whereabouts of President Barbicane.”
“What, Evangelina!” cried Mr. Maston, “and you have consented to give me such advice. You have entertained the thought that I could betray my associates.”
“Me, dear Maston! Do you consider me so bad? Me! To sacrifice your security for your honor. Me! To persuade you to an act which would shame a life consecrated entirely to the highest speculations of pure mathematics.”
“Bravo, Mrs. Scorbitt! I see in you once more the generous patron of our Society. No, I have never doubted your great heart.”
“Thank you, Mr. Maston.”
“In regard to myself,” continued Maston, “allow me to say, before telling the point of the earth where our great shooting will take place—sell, so to speak, the secret which I have been able to keep so well, to allow these barbarians to fly and pursue our friends, to interrupt their works, which will make our profit and glory, I would rather die.”
“Splendid, Mr. Maston!” cried Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt.
And these two beings, united by the same enthusiasm, crazed by it if you will, one as well as the other, were well matched in understanding each other perfectly.
“No, they will never know the name of the country which my calculations have designated, and the reputation of which will become immortal,” said J.T. Maston. “They can silence me if they like, but they will never have the secret from me.”
“And they can kill me with you,” said Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt; “I will also be mute.”
“It is lucky, dear Evangelina, that they are ignorant of your knowledge of the place.”
“Do you believe that I would be capable of betraying it, because I am only a woman? Betray my associates and you! No, my friend, no. If they should raise the whole city and country against you—if the whole world would come to the door of this cell to take you away, I shall be there, too, and we will at least have one consolation—we will die together.”
As if there could be any greater consolation and Mr.