Topsy Turvy

Page 54

The most powerful of modern pens would be helpless at the task. The people of Baltimore stood fearing that they would be swept off the surface of the earth by the terrible mass of water which would fall on their city. They expected to see the Bay of Chesapeake empty itself upon them. Then, besides, the city, even should the waters not come upon it, would be terribly shaken up by the shock which would be produced. The monuments would be destroyed; its best quarters swallowed up at the bottom of the abysses which would open through the surface of the ground. These fears ran through the different parts of the globe which were not scheduled for submersion by the upheaval of the oceans.

Every human being felt the marrow in his bones creep and shake at this fearful moment.

Yes, all trembled, all save one person, and that one was the engineer Alcide Pierdeux. As he had not had time to make known to the public the discoveries which he had made by means of his last calculations, he drank a bumper of champagne to the health of both worlds in the café of one of the best known hotels. Just as the twenty-fourth minute after 5 o’clock, corresponding with midnight at Kilimanjaro, was reached—

At Baltimore, nothing.

At London, Paris, Constantinople, Berlin, nothing, not the least shock.

Mr. John Milne, standing in his coal mine at Shamokui with a seismometer which he had arranged there, did not note the least abnormal movement in the earth’s shell in this part of the globe. In Baltimore the heavens were cloudy and it was impossible to note in the apparent movement of the stars any derangement which would have indicated the change in the earth’s axis.

What a night J.T. Maston passed in his place of safety which was unknown to all save Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt! He was beside himself, this visionary engineer. He could not rest in his place of hiding. He seemed to have grown old in one day and looked sharply out to see if the daily course of the sun was modified. This would have been a certain proof of the success of his work. This change could not be seen even on the morning of the 23d of September, because at this date the star invariably rises in the east for all points of the globe. The next day the sun travelled over the horizon the same as it had always done.

The European delegates had assembled on the platform of their hotel. They had by their side instruments of extreme precision which would enable them to note if the sun took a course in the direction of the equator.

Well, nothing changed. A few minutes after the rising of the sun the great disc inclined away towards the Australian hemisphere. Nothing was changed in its apparent course.

Major Donellan and his associates saluted the heavenly torch with enthusiastic hurrahs, and gave it a reception like a favorite star in the theatre. The heavens were in superb condition, the horizon free from the vapors of the night, never did the great sun-god present a more beautiful aspect in such splendid condition before the astonished public. “And precisely at the place marked by the laws of astronomy,” said Eric Baldenak.

“Yes by our old astronomy,” said Boris Karkof, “and these fools pretended to destroy it.”

“Well, they will have their expenses to pay and ridicule to endure besides,” added Jacques Jansen, by whose voice Holland seemed to speak all alone.

“And the Arctic regions will eternally stay under the ice as they have discovered,” said Prof. Jan Harald.

“Hurrah for the sun,” said Major Donellan. “Such as it is, it has been and always will be sufficient for our earth.”

“Hurrah, hurrah,” repeated in single voice the representatives of old Europe. At this moment Dean Toodrink, who had not said anything so far, made this very cautious remark:

But perhaps they did not shoot yet.

“Not shoot yet,” said the Major. “Heaven grant that they have fired off the cannon twice rather than once.”

And that was exactly what J. T. Maston and Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt were saying.

The wise and the ignorant were united this time by the logic of the situation.

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