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:
Conversation and Discovery
When I returned, dinner was ready. This meal was devoured by my worthy relative with avidity and voracity. His shipboard diet had turned his interior into a perfect gulf. The repast, which was more Danish than Icelandic, was in itself nothing, but the excessive hospitality of our host made us enjoy it doubly.
The conversation turned upon scientific matters, and M. Fridriksson asked my uncle what he thought of the public library.
“Library, sir?” cried my uncle; “it appears to me a collection of useless odd volumes, and a beggarly amount of empty shelves.”
“What!” cried M. Fridriksson; “why, we have eight thousand volumes of most rare and valuable works—some in the Scandinavian language, besides all the new publications fromCopenhagen.”
“Eight thousand volumes, my dear sir—why, where are they?” cried my uncle.
“Scattered over the country, Professor Hardwigg. We are very studious, my dear sir, though we do live inIceland. Every farmer, every laborer, every fisherman can both read and write—and we think that books instead of being locked up in cupboards, far from the sight of students, should be distributed as widely as possible. The books of our library are therefore passed from hand to hand without returning to the library shelves perhaps for years.”
“Then when foreigners visit you, there is nothing for them to see?”
“Well, sir, foreigners have their own libraries, and our first consideration is, that our humbler classes should be highly educated. Fortunately, the love of study is innate in the Icelandic people. In 1816 we founded a Literary Society and Mechanics’ Institute; many foreign scholars of eminence are honorary members; we publish books destined to educate our people, and these books have rendered valuable services to our country. Allow me to have the honor, Professor Hardwigg, to enroll you as an honorary member?”
My uncle, who already belonged to nearly every literary and scientific institution inEurope, immediately yielded to the amiable wishes of good M. Fridriksson.
“And now,” he said, after many expressions of gratitude and good will, “if you will tell me what books you expected to find, perhaps I may be of some assistance to you.”
I watched my uncle keenly. For a minute or two he hesitated, as if unwilling to speak; to speak openly was, perhaps, to unveil his projects. Nevertheless, after some reflection, he made up his mind.
“Well, M. Fridriksson,” he said in an easy, unconcerned kind of way, “I was desirous of ascertaining, if among other valuable works, you had any of the learned Arne Saknussemm.”
“Arne Saknussemm!” cried the Professor of Reykjavik; “you speak of one of the most distinguished scholars of the sixteenth century, of the great naturalist, the great alchemist, the great traveler.”
“One of the most distinguished men connected with Icelandic science and literature.”
“As you say, sir—”
“A man illustrious above all.”
“Yes, sir, all this is true, but his works?”
“We have none of them.”
“There are none inIcelandor elsewhere,” answered the other, sadly.
“Because Arne Saknussemm was persecuted for heresy, and in 1573 his works were publicly burnt atCopenhagen, by the hands of the common hangman.”
“Very good! capital!” murmured my uncle, to the great astonishment of the worthy Icelander.
“You said, sir—”
“Yes, yes, all is clear, I see the link in the chain; everything is explained, and I now understand why Arne Saknussemm, put out of court, forced to hide his magnificent discoveries, was compelled to conceal beneath the veil of an incomprehensible cryptograph, the secret—”
“A secret—which,” stammered my uncle.
“Have you discovered some wonderful manuscript?” cried M. Fridriksson.
“No! no, I was carried away by my enthusiasm. A mere supposition.”
“Very good, sir. But, really, to turn to another subject, I hope you will not leave our island without examining into its mineralogical riches.”
“Well, the fact is, I am rather late. So many learned men have been here before me.”
“Yes, yes, but there is still much to be done,” cried M. Fridriksson.
“You think so,” said my uncle, his eyes twinkling with hidden satisfaction.
“Yes, you have no idea how many unknown mountains, glaciers, volcanoes there are which remain to be studied. Without moving from where we sit, I can show you one. Yonder on the edge of the horizon, you see Sneffels.”
“Oh yes, Sneffels,” said my uncle.
“One of the most curious volcanoes in existence, the crater of which has been rarely visited.”
“Extinct, any time these five hundred years,” was the ready reply.
“Well,” said my uncle, who dug his nails into his flesh, and pressed his knees tightly together to prevent himself leaping up with joy. “I have a great mind to begin my studies with an examination of the geological mysteries of thisMountSeffel—Feisel—what do you call it?”
“Sneffels, my dear sir.”
This portion of the conversation took place in Latin, and I therefore understood all that had been said. I could scarcely keep my countenance when I found my uncle so cunningly concealing his delight and satisfaction. I must confess that his artful grimaces, put on to conceal his happiness, made him look like a new Mephistopheles.
“Yes, yes,” he continued, “your proposition delights me. I will endeavor to climb to the summit of Sneffels, and, if possible, will descend into its crater.”
“I very much regret,” continued M. Fridriksson, “that my occupation will entirely preclude the possibility of my accompanying you. It would have been both pleasurable and profitable if I could have spared the time.”
“No, no, a thousand times no,” cried my uncle. “I do not wish to disturb the serenity of any man. I thank you, however, with all my heart. The presence of one so learned as yourself, would no doubt have been most useful, but the duties of your office and profession before everything.”
In the innocence of his simple heart, our host did not perceive the irony of these remarks.
“I entirely approve your project,” continued the Icelander after some further remarks. “It is a good idea to begin by examining this volcano. You will make a harvest of curious observations. In the first place, how do you propose to get to Sneffels?”
“By sea. I shall cross the bay. Of course that is the most rapid route.”
“Of course. But still it cannot be done.”
“We have not an available boat in allReykjavik,” replied the other.
“What is to be done?”
“You must go by land along the coast. It is longer, but much more interesting.”
“Then I must have a guide.”
“Of course; and I have your very man.”
“Somebody on whom I can depend.”
“Yes, an inhabitant of the peninsula on which Sneffels is situated. He is a very shrewd and worthy man, with whom you will be pleased. He speaks Danish like a Dane.”
“When can I see him—today?”
“No, tomorrow; he will not be here before.”
“Tomorrow be it,” replied my uncle, with a deep sigh.
The conversation ended by compliments on both sides. During the dinner my uncle had learned much as to the history of Arne Saknussemm, the reasons for his mysterious and hieroglyphical document. He also became aware that his host would not accompany him on his adventurous expedition, and that next day we should have a guide.
Off at Last
That evening I took a brief walk on the shore nearReykjavik, after which I returned to an early sleep on my bed of coarse planks, where I slept the sleep of the just. When I awoke I heard my uncle speaking loudly in the next room. I rose hastily and joined him. He was talking in Danish with a man of tall stature, and of perfectly Herculean build. This man appeared to be possessed of very great strength. His eyes, which started rather prominently from a very large head, the face belonging to which was simple and naive, appeared very quick and intelligent. Very long hair, which even inEnglandwould have been accounted exceedingly red, fell over his athletic shoulders. This native ofIcelandwas active and supple in appearance, though he scarcely moved his arms, being in fact one of those men who despise the habit of gesticulation common to southern people.
Everything in this man’s manner revealed a calm and phlegmatic temperament. There was nothing indolent about him, but his appearance spoke of tranquillity. He was one of those who never seemed to expect anything from anybody, who liked to work when he thought proper, and whose philosophy nothing could astonish or trouble.
I began to comprehend his character, simply from the way in which he listened to the wild and impassioned verbiage of my worthy uncle. While the excellent Professor spoke sentence after sentence, he stood with folded arms, utterly still, motionless to all my uncle’s gesticulations. When he wanted to say No he moved his head from left to right; when he acquiesced he nodded, so slightly that you could scarcely see the undulation of his head. This economy of motion was carried to the length of avarice.
Judging from his appearance I should have been a long time before I had suspected him to be what he was, a mighty hunter. Certainly his manner was not likely to frighten the game. How, then, did he contrive to get at his prey?
My surprise was slightly modified when I knew that this tranquil and solemn personage was only a hunter of the eider duck, the down of which is, after all, the greatest source of the Icelanders’ wealth.
In the early days of summer, the female of the eider, a pretty sort of duck, builds its nest amid the rocks of the fjords—the name given to all narrow gulfs in Scandinavian countries—with which every part of the island is indented. No sooner has the eider duck made her nest than she lines the inside of it with the softest down from her breast. Then comes the hunter or trader, taking away the nest, the poor bereaved female begins her task over again, and this continues as long as any eider-down is to be found.
When she can find no more the male bird sets to work to see what he can do. As, however, his down is not so soft, and has therefore no commercial value, the hunter does not take the trouble to rob him of his nest lining. The nest is accordingly finished, the eggs are laid, the little ones are born, and next year the harvest of eider-down is again collected.
Now, as the eider duck never selects steep rocks or aspects to build its nest, but rather sloping and low cliffs near to the sea, the Icelandic hunter can carry on his trade operations without much difficulty. He is like a farmer who has neither to plow, to sow, nor to harrow, only to collect his harvest.
This grave, sententious, silent person, as phlegmatic as an Englishman on the French stage, was named Hans Bjelke. He had called upon us in consequence of the recommendation of M. Fridriksson. He was, in fact, our future guide. It struck me that had I sought the world over, I could not have found a greater contradiction to my impulsive uncle.
They, however, readily understood one another. Neither of them had any thought about money; one was ready to take all that was offered him, the other ready to offer anything that was asked. It may readily be conceived, then, that an understanding was soon come to between them.
Now, the understanding was, that he was to take us to thevillageofStapi, situated on the southern slope of thepeninsulaofSneffels, at the very foot of the volcano. Hans, the guide, told us the distance was about twenty-two miles, a journey which my uncle supposed would take about two days.
But when my uncle came to understand that they were Danish miles, of eight thousand yards each, he was obliged to be more moderate in his ideas, and, considering the horrible roads we had to follow, to allow eight or ten days for the journey.
Four horses were prepared for us, two to carry the baggage, and two to bear the important weight of myself and uncle. Hans declared that nothing ever would make him climb on the back of any animal. He knew every inch of that part of the coast, and promised to take us the very shortest way.
His engagement with my uncle was by no means to cease with our arrival at Stapi; he was further to remain in his service during the whole time required for the completion of his scientific investigations, at the fixed salary of three rix-dollars a week, being exactly fourteen shillings and twopence, minus one farthing, English currency. One stipulation, however, was made by the guide—the money was to be paid to him every Saturday night, failing which, his engagement was at an end.
The day of our departure was fixed. My uncle wished to hand the eider-down hunter an advance, but he refused in one emphatic word—
Which being translated from Icelandic into plain English means—“After.”
The treaty concluded, our worthy guide retired without another word.
“A splendid fellow,” said my uncle; “only he little suspects the marvelous part he is about to play in the history of the world.”
“You mean, then,” I cried in amazement, “that he should accompany us?”
“To the interior of the earth, yes,” replied my uncle. “Why not?”
There were yet forty-eight hours to elapse before we made our final start. To my great regret, our whole time was taken up in making preparations for our journey. All our industry and ability were devoted to packing every object in the most advantageous manner—the instruments on one side, the arms on the other, the tools here and the provisions there. There were, in fact, four distinct groups.
The instruments were of course of the best manufacture:
1. A centigrade thermometer of Eigel, counting up to 150 degrees, which to me did not appear half enough—or too much. Too hot by half, if the degree of heat was to ascend so high—in which case we should certainly be cooked—not enough, if we wanted to ascertain the exact temperature of springs or metal in a state of fusion.
2. A manometer worked by compressed air, an instrument used to ascertain the upper atmospheric pressure on the level of the ocean. Perhaps a common barometer would not have done as well, the atmospheric pressure being likely to increase in proportion as we descended below the surface of the earth.
3. A first-class chronometer made by Boissonnas, of Geneva, set at the meridian of Hamburg, from which Germans calculate, as the English do from Greenwich, and the French from Paris.
4. Two compasses, one for horizontal guidance, the other to ascertain the dip.
5. A night glass.
6. Two Ruhmkorff coils, which, by means of a current of electricity, would ensure us a very excellent, easily carried, and certain means of obtaining light.
7. A voltaic battery on the newest principle.
Our arms consisted of two rifles, with two revolving six-shooters. Why these arms were provided it was impossible for me to say. I had every reason to believe that we had neither wild beasts nor savage natives to fear. My uncle, on the other hand, was quite as devoted to his arsenal as to his collection of instruments, and above all was very careful with his provision of fulminating or gun cotton, warranted to keep in any climate, and of which the expansive force was known to be greater than that of ordinary gunpowder.
Our tools consisted of two pickaxes, two crowbars, a silken ladder, three iron-shod Alpine poles, a hatchet, a hammer, a dozen wedges, some pointed pieces of iron, and a quantity of strong rope. You may conceive that the whole made a tolerable parcel, especially when I mention that the ladder itself was three hundred feet long!
Then there came the important question of provisions. The hamper was not very large but tolerably satisfactory, for I knew that in concentrated essence of meat and biscuit there was enough to last six months. The only liquid provided by my uncle wasSchiedam. Of water, not a drop. We had, however, an ample supply of gourds, and my uncle counted on finding water, and enough to fill them, as soon as we commenced our downward journey. My remarks as to the temperature, the quality, and even as to the possibility of none being found, remained wholly without effect.
To make up the exact list of our traveling gear—for the guidance of future travelers—add, that we carried a medicine and surgical chest with all apparatus necessary for wounds, fractures and blows; lint, scissors, lancets—in fact, a perfect collection of horrible looking instruments; a number of vials containing ammonia, alcohol, ether, Goulard water, aromatic vinegar, in fact, every possible and impossible drug—finally, all the materials for working the Ruhmkorff coil!
My uncle had also been careful to lay in a goodly supply of tobacco, several flasks of very fine gunpowder, boxes of tinder, besides a large belt crammed full of notes and gold. Good boots rendered watertight were to be found to the number of six in the tool box.
“My boy, with such clothing, with such boots, and such general equipment,” said my uncle, in a state of rapturous delight, “we may hope to travel far.”
It took a whole day to put all these matters in order. In the evening we dined with Baron Trampe, in company with the Mayor of Reykjavik, and Doctor Hyaltalin, the great medical man ofIceland. M. Fridriksson was not present, and I was afterwards sorry to hear that he and the governor did not agree on some matters connected with the administration of the island. Unfortunately, the consequence was, that I did not understand a word that was said at dinner—a kind of semiofficial reception. One thing I can say, my uncle never left off speaking.
The next day our labor came to an end. Our worthy host delighted my uncle, Professor Hardwigg, by giving him a good map ofIceland, a most important and precious document for a mineralogist.
Our last evening was spent in a long conversation with M. Fridriksson, whom I liked very much—the more that I never expected to see him or anyone else again. After this agreeable way of spending an hour or so, I tried to sleep. In vain; with the exception of a few dozes, my night was miserable.
At five o’clock in the morning I was awakened from the only real half hour’s sleep of the night by the loud neighing of horses under my window. I hastily dressed myself and went down into the street. Hans was engaged in putting the finishing stroke to our baggage, which he did in a silent, quiet way that won my admiration, and yet he did it admirably well. My uncle wasted a great deal of breath in giving him directions, but worthy Hans took not the slightest notice of his words.
At six o’clock all our preparations were completed, and M. Fridriksson shook hands heartily with us. My uncle thanked him warmly, in the Icelandic language, for his kind hospitality, speaking truly from the heart.
As for myself I put together a few of my best Latin phrases and paid him the highest compliments I could. This fraternal and friendly duty performed, we sallied forth and mounted our horses.
As soon as we were quite ready, M. Fridriksson advanced, and by way of farewell, called after me in the words of Virgil—words which appeared to have been made for us, travelers starting for an uncertain destination:
“Et quacunque viam dederit fortuna sequamur.”
(“And whichsoever way thou goest, may fortune follow!”)