One of the best things about a theme party for me is enjoying all of the incidentals that go with it: the “staying in the mode” through the inspiration of the books, films, posters, TV shows, music, and whatever else is out there. The Travel Gear posts will showcase things which keep us inspired.
A Journey to the Center of the Earth
by Jules Verne
This is the closest I could find to the Scholastic Book Services Edition, October 1965, that was the copy my father owned and I read when I was a kid. I believe the text is nearly identical to the English Translation, Griffith Farran London, 1871. I compared the texts at this website and found few differences: http://jv.gilead.org.il/vt/c_earth/
I believe that since this is the 1871 text it is technically in the public domain, so for the convenience of our guests, I’m posting two chapters a week right here on the site. However, if you wish to own it or find it easier to read in either hard form or Kindle (which as far as I know is free)—and which I strongly recommend—here are the links:
First Lessons in Climbing
At Altona, a suburb ofHamburg, is the Chief Station of theKielrailway, which was to take us to the shores of the Belt. In twenty minutes from the moment of our departure we were inHolstein, and our carriage entered the station. Our heavy luggage was taken out, weighed, labeled, and placed in a huge van. We then took our tickets, and exactly at seven o’clock were seated opposite each other in a firstclass railway carriage.
My uncle said nothing. He was too busy examining his papers, among which of course was the famous parchment, and some letters of introduction from the Danish consul which were to pave the way to an introduction to the Governor of Iceland. My only amusement was looking out of the window. But as we passed through a flat though fertile country, this occupation was slightly monotonous. In three hours we reachedKiel, and our baggage was at once transferred to the steamer.
We had now a day before us, a delay of about ten hours. Which fact put my uncle in a towering passion. We had nothing to do but to walk about the pretty town and bay. At length, however, we went on board, and at half past ten were steaming down the Great Belt. It was a dark night, with a strong breeze and a rough sea, nothing being visible but the occasional fires on shore, with here and there a lighthouse. At seven in the morning we left Korsör, a little town on the western side of Seeland.
Here we took another railway, which in three hours brought us to the capital,Copenhagen, where, scarcely taking time for refreshment, my uncle hurried out to present one of his letters of introduction. It was to the director of theMuseumofAntiquities, who, having been informed that we were tourists bound forIceland, did all he could to assist us. One wretched hope sustained me now. Perhaps no vessel was bound for such distant parts.
Alas! a little Danish schooner, the Valkyrie, was to sail on the second of June forReykjavik. The captain, M. Bjarne, was on board, and was rather surprised at the energy and cordiality with which his future passenger shook him by the hand. To him a voyage toIceland was merely a matter of course. My uncle, on the other hand, considered the event of sublime importance. The honest sailor took advantage of the Professor’s enthusiasm to double the fare.
“On Tuesday morning at seven o’clock be on board,” said M. Bjarne, handing us our receipts.
“Excellent! Capital! Glorious!” remarked my uncle as we sat down to a late breakfast; “refresh yourself, my boy, and we will take a run through the town.”
Our meal concluded, we went to the Kongens-Nye-Torw; to the king’s magnificent palace; to the beautiful bridge over the canal near the Museum; to the immense cenotaph of Thorwaldsen with its hideous naval groups; to the castle of Rosenberg; and to all the other lions of the place—none of which my uncle even saw, so absorbed was he in his anticipated triumphs.
But one thing struck his fancy, and that was a certain singular steeple situated on theIslandofAmak, which is the southeast quarter of the city ofCopenhagen. My uncle at once ordered me to turn my steps that way, and accordingly we went on board the steam ferry boat which does duty on the canal, and very soon reached the noted dockyard quay.
In the first instance we crossed some narrow streets, where we met numerous groups of galley slaves, with particolored trousers, grey and yellow, working under the orders and the sticks of severe taskmasters, and finally reached the Vor-Frelser’s-Kirk.
This church exhibited nothing remarkable in itself; in fact, the worthy Professor had only been attracted to it by one circumstance, which was, that its rather elevated steeple started from a circular platform, after which there was an exterior staircase, which wound round to the very summit.
“Let us ascend,” said my uncle.
“But I never could climb church towers,” I cried, “I am subject to dizziness in my head.”
“The very reason why you should go up. I want to cure you of a bad habit.”
“But, my good sir—”
“I tell you to come. What is the use of wasting so much valuable time?”
It was impossible to dispute the dictatorial commands of my uncle. I yielded with a groan. On payment of a fee, a verger gave us the key. He, for one, was not partial to the ascent. My uncle at once showed me the way, running up the steps like a schoolboy. I followed as well as I could, though no sooner was I outside the tower, than my head began to swim. There was nothing of the eagle about me. The earth was enough for me, and no ambitious desire to soar ever entered my mind. Still things did not go badly until I had ascended 150 steps, and was near the platform, when I began to feel the rush of cold air. I could scarcely stand, when clutching the railings, I looked upwards. The railing was frail enough, but nothing to those which skirted the terrible winding staircase, that appeared, from where I stood, to ascend to the skies.
“Now then, Henry.”
“I can’t do it!” I cried, in accents of despair.
“Are you, after all, a coward, sir?” said my uncle in a pitiless tone. “Go up, I say!”
To this there was no reply possible. And yet the keen air acted violently on my nervous system; sky, earth, all seemed to swim round, while the steeple rocked like a ship. My legs gave way like those of a drunken man. I crawled upon my hands and knees; I hauled myself up slowly, crawling like a snake. Presently I closed my eyes, and allowed myself to be dragged upwards.
“Look around you,” said my uncle in a stern voice, “heaven knows what profound abysses you may have to look down. This is excellent practice.”
Slowly, and shivering all the while with cold, I opened my eyes. What then did I see? My first glance was upwards at the cold fleecy clouds, which as by some optical delusion appeared to stand still, while the steeple, the weathercock, and our two selves were carried swiftly along. Far away on one side could be seen the grassy plain, while on the other lay the sea bathed in translucent light. The Sund, or Sound as we call it, could be discovered beyond the point of Elsinore, crowded with white sails, which, at that distance looked like the wings of seagulls; while to the east could be made out the far-off coast of Sweden. The whole appeared a magic panorama.
But faint and bewildered as I was, there was no remedy for it. Rise and stand up I must. Despite my protestations my first lesson lasted quite an hour. When, nearly two hours later, I reached the bosom of mother earth, I was like a rheumatic old man bent double with pain.
“Enough for one day,” said my uncle, rubbing his hands, “we will begin again tomorrow.”
There was no remedy. My lessons lasted five days, and at the end of that period, I ascended blithely enough, and found myself able to look down into the depths below without even winking, and with some degree of pleasure.
Our Voyage to Iceland
The hour of departure came at last. The night before, the worthy Mr. Thompson brought us the most cordial letters of introduction for Baron Trampe, Governor of Iceland, for M. Pictursson, coadjutor to the bishop, and for M. Finsen, mayor of the town ofReykjavik. In return, my uncle nearly crushed his hands, so warmly did he shake them.
On the second of the month, at two in the morning, our precious cargo of luggage was taken on board the good ship Valkyrie. We followed, and were very politely introduced by the captain to a small cabin with two standing bed places, neither very well ventilated nor very comfortable. But in the cause of science men are expected to suffer.
“Well, and have we a fair wind?” cried my uncle, in his most mellifluous accents.
“An excellent wind!” replied Captain Bjarne; “we shall leave the Sound, going free with all sails set.”
A few minutes afterwards, the schooner started before the wind, under all the canvas she could carry, and entered the channel. An hour later, the capital ofDenmarkseemed to sink into the waves, and we were at no great distance from the coast ofElsinore. My uncle was delighted; for myself, moody and dissatisfied, I appeared almost to expect a glimpse of the ghost of Hamlet.
“Sublime madman,” thought I, “you doubtless would approve our proceedings. You might perhaps even follow us to the center of the earth, there to resolve your eternal doubts.”
But no ghost or anything else appeared upon the ancient walls. The fact is, the castle is much later than the time of the heroic prince ofDenmark. It is now the residence of the keeper of the Strait of the Sound, and through that Sound more than fifteen thousand vessels of all nations pass every year.
The castleof Kronborgsoon disappeared in the murky atmosphere, as well as the towerof Helsinborg, which raises its head on the Swedish Bank. And here the schooner began to feel in earnest the breezes of the Kattegat. The Valkyrie was swift enough, but with all sailing boats there is the same uncertainty. Her cargo was coal, furniture, pottery, woolen clothing, and a load of corn. As usual, the crew was small, five Danes doing the whole of the work.
“How long will the voyage last?” asked my uncle.
“Well, I should think about ten days,” replied the skipper, “unless, indeed, we meet with some northeast gales among theFaroe Islands.”
“At all events, there will be no very considerable delay,” cried the impatient Professor.
“No, Mr. Hardwigg,” said the captain, “no fear of that. At all events, we shall get there some day.”
Towards evening the schooner doubled CapeSkagen, the northernmost part of Denmark, crossed the Skagerrak during the night—skirted the extreme point of Norway through the gut of CapeLindesnes, and then reached the NorthernSeas. Two days later we were not far from the coast of Scotland, somewhere near what Danish sailors call Peterhead, and then the Valkyrie stretched out direct for theFaroe Islands, between Orkney and Shetland. Our vessel now felt the full force of the ocean waves, and the wind shifting, we with great difficulty made the Faroe Isles. On the eighth day, the captain made out Myganness, the westernmost of the isles, and from that moment headed direct forPortland, a cape on the southern shores of the singular island for which we were bound.
The voyage offered no incident worthy of record. I bore it very well, but my uncle to his great annoyance, and even shame, was remarkably seasick! This mal de mer troubled him the more that it prevented him from questioning Captain Bjarne as to the subject of Sneffels, as to the means of communication, and the facilities of transport. All these explanations he had to adjourn to the period of his arrival. His time, meanwhile, was spent lying in bed groaning, and dwelling anxiously on the hoped-for termination of the voyage. I didn’t pity him.
On the eleventh day we sighted CapePortland, over which towered Mount Myrdals Yokul, which, the weather being clear, we made out very readily. The cape itself is nothing but a huge mount of granite standing naked and alone to meet the Atlantic waves. The Valkyrie kept off the coast, steering to the westward. On all sides were to be seen whole “schools” of whales and sharks. After some hours we came in sight of a solitary rock in the ocean, forming a mighty vault, through which the foaming waves poured with intense fury. The islets of Westman appeared to leap from the ocean, being so low in the water as scarcely to be seen until you were right upon them. From that moment the schooner was steered to the westward in order to roundCapeReykjanes, the western point of Iceland.
My uncle, to his great disgust, was unable even to crawl on deck, so heavy a sea was on, and thus lost the first view of theLandofPromise. Forty-eight hours later, after a storm which drove us far to sea under bare poles, we came once more in sight of land, and were boarded by a pilot, who, after three hours of dangerous navigation, brought the schooner safely to an anchor in the bay of Faxa before Reykjavik.
My uncle came out of his cabin pale, haggard, thin, but full of enthusiasm, his eyes dilated with pleasure and satisfaction. Nearly the whole population of the town was on foot to see us land. The fact was, that scarcely any one of them but expected some goods by the periodical vessel.
Professor Hardwigg was in haste to leave his prison, or rather as he called it, his hospital; but before he attempted to do so, he caught hold of my hand, led me to the quarterdeck of the schooner, took my arm with his left hand, and pointed inland with his right, over the northern part of the bay, to where rose a high two-peaked mountain—a double cone covered with eternal snow.
“Behold he whispered in an awe-stricken voice, behold—Mount Sneffels!”
Then without further remark, he put his finger to his lips, frowned darkly, and descended into the small boat which awaited us. I followed, and in a few minutes we stood upon the soil of mysteriousIceland!
Scarcely were we fairly on shore when there appeared before us a man of excellent appearance, wearing the costume of a military officer. He was, however, but a civil servant, a magistrate, the governor of the island—Baron Trampe. The Professor knew whom he had to deal with. He therefore handed him the letters fromCopenhagen, and a brief conversation in Danish followed, to which I of course was a stranger, and for a very good reason, for I did not know the language in which they conversed. I afterwards heard, however, that Baron Trampe placed himself entirely at the beck and call of Professor Hardwigg.
My uncle was most graciously received by M. Finsen, the mayor, who as far as costume went, was quite as military as the governor, but also from character and occupation quite as pacific. As for his coadjutor, M. Pictursson, he was absent on an episcopal visit to the northern portion of the diocese. We were therefore compelled to defer the pleasure of being presented to him. His absence was, however, more than compensated by the presence of M. Fridriksson, professor of natural science in thecollegeofReykjavik, a man of invaluable ability. This modest scholar spoke no languages save Icelandic and Latin. When, therefore, he addressed himself to me in the language of Horace, we at once came to understand one another. He was, in fact, the only person that I did thoroughly understand during the whole period of my residence in this benighted island.
Out of three rooms of which his house was composed, two were placed at our service, and in a few hours we were installed with all our baggage, the amount of which rather astonished the simple inhabitants ofReykjavik.
“Now, Harry,” said my uncle, rubbing his hands, “an goes well, the worse difficulty is now over.”
“How the worse difficulty over?” I cried in fresh amazement.
“Doubtless. Here we are inIceland. Nothing more remains but to descend into the bowels of the earth.”
“Well, sir, to a certain extent you are right. We have only to go down—but, as far as I am concerned, that is not the question. I want to know how we are to get up again.”
“That is the least part of the business, and does not in any way trouble me. In the meantime, there is not an hour to lose. I am about to visit the public library. Very likely I may find there some manuscripts from the hand of Saknussemm. I shall be glad to consult them.”
“In the meanwhile,” I replied, “I will take a walk through the town. Will you not likewise do so?”
“I feel no interest in the subject,” said my uncle. “What for me is curious in this island, is not what is above the surface, but what is below.”
I bowed by way of reply, put on my hat and furred cloak, and went out.
It was not an easy matter to lose oneself in the two streets of Reykjavik; I had therefore no need to ask my way. The town lies on a flat and marshy plain, between two hills. A vast field of lava skirts it on one side, falling away in terraces towards the sea. On the other hand is the large bayof Faxa, bordered on the north by the enormous glacier of Sneffels, and in which bay the Valkyrie was then the only vessel at anchor. Generally there were one or two English or French gunboats, to watch and protect the fisheries in the offing. They were now, however, absent on duty.
The longest of the streets ofReykjavikruns parallel to the shore. In this street the merchants and traders live in wooden huts made with beams of wood, painted red—mere log huts, such as you find in the wilds ofAmerica. The other street, situated more to the west, runs toward a little lake between the residences of the bishop and the other personages not engaged in commerce.
I had soon seen all I wanted of these weary and dismal thoroughfares. Here and there was a strip of discolored turf, like an old worn-out bit of woolen carpet; and now and then a bit of kitchen garden, in which grew potatoes, cabbage, and lettuce, almost diminutive enough to suggest the idea of Lilliput.
In the center of the new commercial street, I found the public cemetery, enclosed by an earthen wall. Though not very large, it appeared not likely to be filled for centuries. From hence I went to the house of the Governor—a mere hut in comparison with the Mansion House of Hamburg—but a palace alongside the other Icelandic houses. Between the little lake and the town was the church, built in simple Protestant style, and composed of calcined stones, thrown up by volcanic action. I have not the slightest doubt that in high winds its red tiles were blown out, to the great annoyance of the pastor and congregation. Upon an eminence close at hand was the national school, in which were taught Hebrew, English, French, and Danish.
In three hours my tour was complete. The general impression upon my mind was sadness. No trees, no vegetation, so to speak—on all sides volcanic peaks—the huts of turf and earth—more like roofs than houses. Thanks to the heat of these residences, grass grows on the roof, which grass is carefully cut for hay. I saw but few inhabitants during my excursion, but I met a crowd on the beach, drying, salting and loading codfish, the principal article of exportation. The men appeared robust but heavy; fair-haired like Germans, but of pensive mien—exiles of a higher scale in the ladder of humanity than the Eskimos, but, I thought, much more unhappy, since with superior perceptions they are compelled to live within the limits of the Polar Circle.
Sometimes they gave vent to a convulsive laugh, but by no chance did they smile. Their costume consists of a coarse capote of black wool, known in Scandinavian countries as the “vadmel,” a broad-brimmed hat, trousers of red serge, and a piece of leather tied with strings for a shoe—a coarse kind of moccasin. The women, though sad-looking and mournful, had rather agreeable features, without much expression. They wear a bodice and petticoat of somber vadmel. When unmarried they wear a little brown knitted cap over a crown of plaited hair; but when married, they cover their heads with a colored handkerchief, over which they tie a white scarf.