Topsy Turvy

Page 56

He was forced to listen to jeering remarks, even from the street gamins. “Ah,” they shouted, “here he is who wanted to change the axis of the earth, who wanted to discover coal mines around the North Pole, who even wanted to remove it.” In short, the Secretary of the Gun Club was compelled to return to the mansion of Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt, who used all her wealth of tenderness to console him. It was in vain, however. J.T. Maston could not be consoled, as his cannon had produced upon the earth’s sphere no more effect than a simple popgun would have done. A fortnight went by in this way, and the world resumed its daily routine and did not even think any longer of the projects of the N.P.P.A.

A fortnight and no news yet from President Barbicane and Capt. Nicholl. Had they perished by the discharge in the land of Wamasai? Had they sacrificed their lives in the most mysterious operation of modern times? No.

After the detonation both were overthrown along with the Sultan arid his court, and a thousand natives in one grand tumble, but they all got up after a little time strong and hearty.

“Did you succeed?” asked Bali-Bali, rubbing his shoulder.

“Do you doubt it?”

“Me doubt it?”

“But when will you know?”

“In a few days,” said Barbicane.

Did he appreciate that the operation had failed? Perhaps. But he never would have acknowledged it before the Sultan at Wamasai.

Forty-eight hours later the two partners had taken leave of Wamasai, not, however, before having paid an enormous sum for the damage done to the country. As this amount of money went into the private purse of the Sultan, and as his subjects did not receive one cent of it, he had no reason to complain of the operation.

Then the two associates, followed by their ten helpers, reached Zanzibar, where they found a vessel to take them to Suez. From there under false names the steamer Morris brought them to Marseilles; then they took the train to Paris, where they arrived without having had any collision or accident, and taking the railroad to Havre they arrived in time to go to America by the Bourgogne of the Transatlantic line. In twenty-two days they made the trip from Wamasai to New York, and on the 15th day of October the two knocked at the door of the mansion of New Park, at three minutes past noon. An instant afterwards they found themselves in the presence of Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt and J. T. Maston.

CHAPTER XX.

IN WHICH THIS STORY, AS TRUTHFUL AS IT IS IMPROBABLE, IS FINISHED.

“Barbicane!!! Nicholl!!”

“Maston.”

“You.”

“We.”

And in this plural pronoun, uttered simultaneously by the two associates in a single voice, might be heard a flood of irony and reproaches.

J.T. Maston pressed his iron hook on his forehead. Then, with a voice which seemed to stick in his throat, he said:

“Did your shaft at Kilimanjaro really have a diameter of twenty-seven metres?”

“Yes, sir.”

“Did your projectile really weigh 180,000,000 of kilograms?”

“Yes.”

“And was the shooting really done with 2.000 pounds of melimelonite?”

“Yes.”

This thrice-repeated “yes” fell on J. T. Maston like masses of stone on his head.

“Then I can only conclude”—said he.

“What?” asked President Barbicane.

“As follows,” said J. T. Maston. “As the operation did not succeed, the powder did not give to the projectile an initial velocity of 2,800 kilometres.”

“Really?” said Capt. Nicholl, with a tone of sarcasm.

“Yes, your melimelonite is good only to charge pistols of straw.”

Capt. Nicholl sprang up at this remark, which was an outrageous insult to him.

“Maston!” said he.

“Nicholl!”

“You ought to be blown up with the melimelonite.”

“No, gun cotton; that is more sure.”

Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt had to interfere and cool these two enraged gunners down.

“Gentlemen,” said she, between associates.

“And anyhow,” President Barbicane resumed, with a very calm expression, “what is the good of criminations? It is certain that the calculations of our friend, J. T. Maston, were correct, as it is certain that the explosive of our friend Nicholl had sufficient power.

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