Topsy Turvy

Page 42

Soon these terrible hypotheses were taken up and discussed by the newspapers. The confusion which would be the result of the scheme of Barbicane & Co. could only result in terrible accidents. And so it happened that the nearer the day came the greater the fright which took possession of the bravest people. It was the same as it was in the year 1000, when all living people supposed that they would be thrown suddenly into the jaws of death. It maybe recalled what happened at this period. According to the Apocalypse the people were led to believe that the judgment day had come. In the last year of the 10th century, says H. Martin, everything was interrupted—pleasures, business, interest, all, even the public works of the country. Thinking only of the eternity which was to begin on the morrow, provision was made only for the most necessary articles for one or two days. All possessions, real estate, castles, were bequeathed to the Church, so as to acquire protection in that kingdom of heaven where all were so soon to enter. Many donations to the churches were made with these words: “As the end of the world has come, and its ruin is imminent.” When this fatal time came, all the people ran to the churches and places set apart for religious meetings, and waited to hear the seven trumpets of the seven angels of the judgment day sound and call from heaven. We know that the first day of 1,000 came and went, and nothing was changed. But this time it was not the question of a disturbance simply based upon some verse of the Bible. It was the question of removing the axis of the earth, and this was founded on very reliable calculations, and was very probable.

Under these conditions the situation of J.T. Maston became each day more and more critical. Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt trembled lest he would become the victim of a universal cry for vengeance. Perhaps she even had in her mind the idea of making him give up the information which he so heroically held to himself. But she did not dare to mention it to him and she did well. It would have been unwise for her to expose herself to the volley of rebukes he would have given her. As we may well understand, fright had taken a strong foothold in the city of Baltimore and the inhabitants became nearly unmanageable. The excitement was increased by articles appearing in the daily papers. In any case, if J.T. Maston had been found among the crowd of people, his fate would have been soon settled. He would have been given to the wild beast. But he was content and said: “I am ready for it.” No matter what happened, J.T. Maston refused to make known the situation of the “x,” knowing very well that if he should unveil the secret President Barbicane and Capt. Nicholl would be unable to finish their work. It was an interesting struggle—this fight of one man against the whole world. It only made J.T. Maston a grander and better man in the eyes of Evangelina Scorbitt, and also in the opinion of his associates of the Gun Club. The Secretary of the Gun Club became such a celebrated person that he began to receive letters, as all criminals do, from people who wished to have a few lines from the hand which was going to turn the world over. But even if this was all very nice it became every day more and more dangerous for our Secretary. The population hung day and night around the prison, with great noise and great tumult. The enraged crowd wanted to lynch J.T. Maston. The police saw the moment would come when they would be unable to defend the prison and the prisoner J.T. Maston. Being desirous of giving satisfaction and information to the American people, as well as to the people of other countries, the Government at Washington decided to put J.T. Maston before a court of justice. “What other people have not been able to accomplish the Judges will not,” said Alcide Pierdeux, who had after all a kind of a friendly feeling for the unhappy calculator.

On the morning of the 5th September the President of the Commission went personally to the cell of the prisoner. Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt, at her own request, had been allowed to accompany him.

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