Topsy Turvy

Page 58

A flood of telegrams and letters arrived from all parts of the world congratulating J.T. Maston on his mistake of three naughts. J.T. Maston, more downhearted and crushed than ever, would not listen to the hurrahs which the world now uttered for him. President Barbicane, Capt. Nicholl, Tom Hunter, with wooden legs; Col. Bloomsberry, the gay Bilsby, and his associates would never pardon him. But Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt she could not be angry with him, most excellent lady.

J.T. Maston had begun to do his calculations over again, refusing to admit that he was wrong at that point.

He was, however; the Engineer Alcide Pierdeux had not made a mistake. Having learnt his error at the last moment, when he had no time to make it known, he had remained perfectly composed among all the fright and terror of those about him. That was why he proposed a toast in champagne at the moment when the shooting was taking place in the Old World. Yes, indeed, three naughts had been forgotten in the circumference of the earth. Suddenly J.T. Maston remembered the whole matter.

It was at the beginning of his work when he had shut himself up in the “Ballistic Cottage,” and written the number 40,000, 000 on his blackboard. At that moment the electric bell began to ring with great force. J.T. Maston went to the phone. He exchanged a few words with Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt. Suddenly a terrible stroke of lightning from the storm through the telephone knocked over his blackboard and himself. He got up, commenced to write over again the numbers which had been half rubbed out on his blackboard. He had just written the numbers 40,000 when the telephone rang for the second time. He went again to listen to Mme. Scorbitt, and when he did begin his work he forgot to put on the last three naughts of the earth’s circumference.

It was the fault of Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt. If she had not interrupted him he would not have been thrown on the floor by the shock from the telephone. He would not have noticed anything of lightning and thunder, and all his mass of figures and calculations would not have ended in a mistake.

What a terrible blow it was to this unhappy lady when J.T. Maston was compelled to tell her the circumstances which had produced the mistake! Yes, she was the cause of the disaster. It was on her account that J.T. Maston found himself dishonored through the long years which he bad yet to live, as nearly every member of the Gun Club usually lived to the age of a hundred years.

After this conversation at New Park, J. T. Maston had gone away from the mansion. He went back to his Ballistic Cottage and walked into his study muttering to himself: “Well, now I am not good for anything any more in this world.”

“Not even good enough to get married,” said a broken voice at his elbow.

It was that of Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt. Absolutely crushed and heart-broken, she had followed him.

“Dear Maston”—she began.

“Well, yes,” said he, “but only under one condition—that I shall never make any mathematical calculations.”

“My dear friend, I have a horror of them,” answered the excellent widow.

Thus it happened that the Secretary of the Gun Club made Mrs. Evangelina Scorbitt Mrs. J. T. Maston.

In regard to the article of Alcide Pierdeux, we might say that it brought him into great celebrity and reputation.

It was translated into all languages, printed in every paper, and thus his name became known all over the world. The father of his old sweetheart had refused him his daughter’s hand, after telling him that he could not give him his daughter, as he was too smart. But now, after having read this article and being unable to understand it without any help, he began to feel sorry and know better. He sent him an invitation to dine with him and his daughter.

CHAPTER XXI.

VERY SHORT, SINCE ENOUGH HAS BEEN SAID TO MAKE THE WORLD’S POPULATION FEEL PERFECTLY SURE AGAIN.

And now the inhabitants of the world could again be perfectly easy. President Barbicane and Capt. Nicholl will not again begin that enterprise so woefully miscarried, J.T.

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Topsy Turvy

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Jules Verne

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