Topsy Turvy

Page 43

Perhaps at this last attempt the influence of this excellent lady would succeed and bring the hoped-for result. There was nothing to be left undone. All means possible were to be used to make this last attempt successful. If it was not—well, we will see. “Yes, we will see.” What we would see is the hanging of this brute Maston, said the people, and the event would have come off in all its horror if the people could have it their way. So it happened that at 11 o’clock J.T. Maston was ushered into the presence of Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt and John Prestice, President of the Inquiry Committee.

The opening was a very simple one. The conversation consisted of the following questions and answers, very rapid on one side and very quiet on the other. And even under these circumstances the calm, quiet speaker was J.T. Maston.

“For the last time will you answer?” asked John Prestice.

“Answer what?” ironically observed the Secretary of the Gun Club.

“Answer the question, where is the place in which your associate, Barbicane, is at present.”

“I have told it to you a hundred times.”

“Repeat it for the one hundred and first time.”

“He is where the shooting will take place.”

“Where will the shooting take place?”

“Where my associate, Barbicane, is.”

“Have a care, J.T. Maston.”

“For what?”

“For the consequences of your refusal to answer, the result of which will be—”

“To prevent you from learning that which you should not know.”

“What we have the right to know.”

“That is not my opinion.”

“We will bring you before the court.”

“Go ahead.”

“And the jury will condemn you.”

“What care I.”

“And as soon as judgment is rendered it will be executed.”

“All right.”

“Dear Maston,” ventured Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt, whose heart nearly broke on account of these terrible threats.

“What! You, madam?” said J.T. Maston.

She hung her head and was silent.

“And do you want to know what this judgment will be?”

“If you wish to tell it,” said J.T. Maston.

“That you will suffer capital punishment, as you deserve.”


“That you will be hanged as sure, sir, as two and two make four.”

“Then, sir, I have yet a chance,” said J.T. Maston, reflectingly. “If you were a little better mathematician you would not say that two and two are four. You simply prove that all mathematicians have been fools until to-day in affirming that the sum of two numbers is equal to one of their parts; that is, two and two are exactly four.”

“Sir!” cried the President, absolutely puzzled.

“Well,” said J.T. Maston, “if you would say, as sure as one and one are two, all right. That is absolutely evident, because that is no longer a theorem; this is a definition.”

After this lesson in simple arithmetic the President of the Committee went out, followed by Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt, who had so much admiration for the calculator that she did not venture to look at him.



Very luckily for J.T. Maston, the Federal Government received the following telegram sent by the American Consul stationed at Zanzibar:

“To John S. Wright, Minister of State, Washington, U.S.A.: Zanzibar, Sept. 13, 5 A.M. (local time).—Great works are being executed in the Wamasai, south of the chain of Kilimanjaro. For eight months President Barbicane and Capt. Nicholl have been established there with a great number of black help under the authority of Sultan Bali-Bali. This is brought to the knowledge of the Government by its devoted “RICHARD W. TRUST, Consul” And this was how the secret of J.T. Maston became known. And therefore, were the Secretary of the Gun Club still in prison, he could not have been hanged.

But, after all, who knows whether he would not rather have been glad to meet with death in the full glory of his life than to live on with all the chances of disappointment.



Finally the Government of Washington had found out the place where Barbicane & Co.

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