Full Text Archive logoFull Text Archive — Free Classic E-books

A Journey to the Interior of the Earth by Jules Verne

Part 1 out of 5

Adobe PDF icon
Download A Journey to the Interior of the Earth pdf
File size: 0.5 MB
What's this? light bulb idea Many people prefer to read off-line or to print out text and read from the real printed page. Others want to carry documents around with them on their mobile phones and read while they are on the move. We have created .pdf files of all out documents to accommodate all these groups of people. We recommend that you download .pdfs onto your mobile phone when it is connected to a WiFi connection for reading off-line.

Produced by Norman M. Wolcott.

A Journey into the Interior of the Earth

by Jules Verne

[Redactor's Note: The following version of Jules Verne's "Journey
into the Interior of the Earth" was published by Ward, Lock, &Co.,
Ltd., London, in 1877. This version is believed to be the most
faithful rendition into English of this classic currently in the
public domain. The few notes of the translator are located near the
point where they are referenced. The Runic characters in Chapter III
are visible in the HTML version of the text. The character set is
ISO-8891-1, mainly the Windows character set. The translation is by
Frederick Amadeus Malleson.

While the translation is fairly literal, and Malleson (a clergyman)
has taken pains with the scientific portions of the work and added
the chapter headings, he has made some unfortunate emendations mainly
concerning biblical references, and has added a few 'improvements' of
his own, which are detailed below:

III. "_pertubata seu inordinata,_ " as Euclid has it."

XXX. cry, "Thalatta! thalatta!" the sea! the sea! The deeply indented
shore was lined with a breadth of fine shining sand, softly

XXXII. hippopotamus. {as if the creator, pressed for time in the
first hours of the world, had assembled several animals into one.}
The colossal mastodon

XXXII. I return to the scriptural periods or ages of the world,
conventionally called 'days,' long before the appearance of man when
the unfinished world was as yet unfitted for his support. {I return
to the biblical epochs of the creation, well in advance of the birth
of man, when the incomplete earth was not yet sufficient for him.}

XXXVIII. (footnote) , and which is illustrated in the negro
countenance and in the lowest savages.

XXXIX. of the geologic period . {antediluvian}

(These corrections have kindly been pointed out by Christian Sánchez
of the Jules Verne Forum.)]






Jules Verne



THE "Voyages Extraordinaires" of M. Jules Verne deserve to be made
widely known in English-speaking countries by means of carefully
prepared translations. Witty and ingenious adaptations of the
researches and discoveries of modern science to the popular taste,
which demands that these should be presented to ordinary readers in
the lighter form of cleverly mingled truth and fiction, these books
will assuredly be read with profit and delight, especially by English
youth. Certainly no writer before M. Jules Verne has been so happy in
weaving together in judicious combination severe scientific truth
with a charming exercise of playful imagination.

Iceland, the starting point of the marvellous underground journey
imagined in this volume, is invested at the present time with. a
painful interest in consequence of the disastrous eruptions last
Easter Day, which covered with lava and ashes the poor and scanty
vegetation upon which four thousand persons were partly dependent for
the means of subsistence. For a long time to come the natives of that
interesting island, who cleave to their desert home with all that
_amor patriae_ which is so much more easily understood than
explained, will look, and look not in vain, for the help of those on
whom fall the smiles of a kindlier sun in regions not torn by
earthquakes nor blasted and ravaged by volcanic fires. Will the
readers of this little book, who, are gifted with the means of
indulging in the luxury of extended beneficence, remember the
distress of their brethren in the far north, whom distance has not
barred from the claim of being counted our "neighbours"? And whatever
their humane feelings may prompt them to bestow will be gladly added
to the Mansion-House Iceland Relief Fund.

In his desire to ascertain how far the picture of Iceland, drawn in
the work of Jules Verne is a correct one, the translator hopes in the
course of a mail or two to receive a communication from a leading man
of science in the island, which may furnish matter for additional
information in a future edition.

The scientific portion of the French original is not without a few
errors, which the translator, with the kind assistance of Mr. Cameron
of H. M. Geological Survey, has ventured to point out and correct. It
is scarcely to be expected in a work in which the element of
amusement is intended to enter more largely than that of scientific
instruction, that any great degree of accuracy should be arrived at.
Yet the translator hopes that what trifling deviations from the text
or corrections in foot notes he is responsible for, will have done a
little towards the increased usefulness of the work.

F. A. M.

The Vicarage,









On the 24th of May, 1863, my uncle, Professor Liedenbrock, rushed
into his little house, No. 19 Königstrasse, one of the oldest streets
in the oldest portion of the city of Hamburg.

Martha must have concluded that she was very much behindhand, for the
dinner had only just been put into the oven.

"Well, now," said I to myself, "if that most impatient of men is
hungry, what a disturbance he will make!"

"M. Liedenbrock so soon!" cried poor Martha in great alarm, half
opening the dining-room door.

"Yes, Martha; but very likely the dinner is not half cooked, for it
is not two yet. Saint Michael's clock has only just struck half-past

"Then why has the master come home so soon?"

"Perhaps he will tell us that himself."

"Here he is, Monsieur Axel; I will run and hide myself while you
argue with him."

And Martha retreated in safety into her own dominions.

I was left alone. But how was it possible for a man of my undecided
turn of mind to argue successfully with so irascible a person as the
Professor? With this persuasion I was hurrying away to my own little
retreat upstairs, when the street door creaked upon its hinges; heavy
feet made the whole flight of stairs to shake; and the master of the
house, passing rapidly through the dining-room, threw himself in
haste into his own sanctum.

But on his rapid way he had found time to fling his hazel stick into
a corner, his rough broadbrim upon the table, and these few emphatic
words at his nephew:

"Axel, follow me!"

I had scarcely had time to move when the Professor was again shouting
after me:

"What! not come yet?"

And I rushed into my redoubtable master's study.

Otto Liedenbrock had no mischief in him, I willingly allow that; but
unless he very considerably changes as he grows older, at the end he
will be a most original character.

He was professor at the Johannæum, and was delivering a series of
lectures on mineralogy, in the course of every one of which he broke
into a passion once or twice at least. Not at all that he was
over-anxious about the improvement of his class, or about the degree
of attention with which they listened to him, or the success which
might eventually crown his labours. Such little matters of detail
never troubled him much. His teaching was as the German philosophy
calls it, 'subjective'; it was to benefit himself, not others. He was
a learned egotist. He was a well of science, and the pulleys worked
uneasily when you wanted to draw anything out of it. In a word, he
was a learned miser.

Germany has not a few professors of this sort.

To his misfortune, my uncle was not gifted with a sufficiently rapid
utterance; not, to be sure, when he was talking at home, but
certainly in his public delivery; this is a want much to be deplored
in a speaker. The fact is, that during the course of his lectures at
the Johannæum, the Professor often came to a complete standstill; he
fought with wilful words that refused to pass his struggling lips,
such words as resist and distend the cheeks, and at last break out
into the unasked-for shape of a round and most unscientific oath:
then his fury would gradually abate.

Now in mineralogy there are many half-Greek and half-Latin terms,
very hard to articulate, and which would be most trying to a poet's
measures. I don't wish to say a word against so respectable a
science, far be that from me. True, in the august presence of
rhombohedral crystals, retinasphaltic resins, gehlenites, Fassaites,
molybdenites, tungstates of manganese, and titanite of zirconium,
why, the most facile of tongues may make a slip now and then.

It therefore happened that this venial fault of my uncle's came to be
pretty well understood in time, and an unfair advantage was taken of
it; the students laid wait for him in dangerous places, and when he
began to stumble, loud was the laughter, which is not in good taste,
not even in Germans. And if there was always a full audience to
honour the Liedenbrock courses, I should be sorry to conjecture how
many came to make merry at my uncle's expense.

Nevertheless my good uncle was a man of deep learning - a fact I am
most anxious to assert and reassert. Sometimes he might irretrievably
injure a specimen by his too great ardour in handling it; but still
he united the genius of a true geologist with the keen eye of the
mineralogist. Armed with his hammer, his steel pointer, his magnetic
needles, his blowpipe, and his bottle of nitric acid, he was a
powerful man of science. He would refer any mineral to its proper
place among the six hundred [l] elementary substances now enumerated,
by its fracture, its appearance, its hardness, its fusibility, its
sonorousness, its smell, and its taste.

The name of Liedenbrock was honourably mentioned in colleges and
learned societies. Humphry Davy, [2] Humboldt, Captain Sir John
Franklin, General Sabine, never failed to call upon him on their way
through Hamburg. Becquerel, Ebelman, Brewster, Dumas, Milne-Edwards,
Saint-Claire-Deville frequently consulted him upon the most difficult
problems in chemistry, a science which was indebted to him for
considerable discoveries, for in 1853 there had appeared at Leipzig
an imposing folio by Otto Liedenbrock, entitled, "A Treatise upon
Transcendental Chemistry," with plates; a work, however, which failed
to cover its expenses.

To all these titles to honour let me add that my uncle was the
curator of the museum of mineralogy formed by M. Struve, the Russian
ambassador; a most valuable collection, the fame of which is European.

Such was the gentleman who addressed me in that impetuous manner.
Fancy a tall, spare man, of an iron constitution, and with a fair
complexion which took off a good ten years from the fifty he must own
to. His restless eyes were in incessant motion behind his full-sized
spectacles. His long, thin nose was like a knife blade. Boys have
been heard to remark that that organ was magnetised and attracted
iron filings. But this was merely a mischievous report; it had no
attraction except for snuff, which it seemed to draw to itself in
great quantities.

When I have added, to complete my portrait, that my uncle walked by
mathematical strides of a yard and a half, and that in walking he
kept his fists firmly closed, a sure sign of an irritable
temperament, I think I shall have said enough to disenchant any one
who should by mistake have coveted much of his company.

He lived in his own little house in Königstrasse, a structure half
brick and half wood, with a gable cut into steps; it looked upon one
of those winding canals which intersect each other in the middle of
the ancient quarter of Hamburg, and which the great fire of 1842 had
fortunately spared.

[1] Sixty-three. (Tr.)

[2] As Sir Humphry Davy died in 1829, the translator must be pardoned
for pointing out here an anachronism, unless we are to assume that
the learned Professor's celebrity dawned in his earliest years. (Tr.)

It is true that the old house stood slightly off the perpendicular,
and bulged out a little towards the street; its roof sloped a little
to one side, like the cap over the left ear of a Tugendbund student;
its lines wanted accuracy; but after all, it stood firm, thanks to an
old elm which buttressed it in front, and which often in spring sent
its young sprays through the window panes.

My uncle was tolerably well off for a German professor. The house was
his own, and everything in it. The living contents were his
god-daughter Gräuben, a young Virlandaise of seventeen, Martha, and
myself. As his nephew and an orphan, I became his laboratory

I freely confess that I was exceedingly fond of geology and all its
kindred sciences; the blood of a mineralogist was in my veins, and in
the midst of my specimens I was always happy.

In a word, a man might live happily enough in the little old house in
the Königstrasse, in spite of the restless impatience of its master,
for although he was a little too excitable - he was very fond of me.
But the man had no notion how to wait; nature herself was too slow
for him. In April, after a had planted in the terra-cotta pots
outside his window seedling plants of mignonette and convolvulus, he
would go and give them a little pull by their leaves to make them
grow faster. In dealing with such a strange individual there was
nothing for it but prompt obedience. I therefore rushed after him.



That study of his was a museum, and nothing else. Specimens of
everything known in mineralogy lay there in their places in perfect
order, and correctly named, divided into inflammable, metallic, and
lithoid minerals.

How well I knew all these bits of science! Many a time, instead of
enjoying the company of lads of my own age, I had preferred dusting
these graphites, anthracites, coals, lignites, and peats! And there
were bitumens, resins, organic salts, to be protected from the least
grain of dust; and metals, from iron to gold, metals whose current
value altogether disappeared in the presence of the republican
equality of scientific specimens; and stones too, enough to rebuild
entirely the house in Königstrasse, even with a handsome additional
room, which would have suited me admirably.

But on entering this study now I thought of none of all these
wonders; my uncle alone filled my thoughts. He had thrown himself
into a velvet easy-chair, and was grasping between his hands a book
over which he bent, pondering with intense admiration.

"Here's a remarkable book! What a wonderful book!" he was exclaiming.

These ejaculations brought to my mind the fact that my uncle was
liable to occasional fits of bibliomania; but no old book had any
value in his eyes unless it had the virtue of being nowhere else to
be found, or, at any rate, of being illegible.

"Well, now; don't you see it yet? Why I have got a priceless
treasure, that I found his morning, in rummaging in old Hevelius's
shop, the Jew."

"Magnificent!" I replied, with a good imitation of enthusiasm.

What was the good of all this fuss about an old quarto, bound in
rough calf, a yellow, faded volume, with a ragged seal depending from

But for all that there was no lull yet in the admiring exclamations
of the Professor.

"See," he went on, both asking the questions and supplying the
answers. "Isn't it a beauty? Yes; splendid! Did you ever see such a
binding? Doesn't the book open easily? Yes; it stops open anywhere.
But does it shut equally well? Yes; for the binding and the leaves
are flush, all in a straight line, and no gaps or openings anywhere.
And look at its back, after seven hundred years. Why, Bozerian,
Closs, or Purgold might have been proud of such a binding!"

While rapidly making these comments my uncle kept opening and
shutting the old tome. I really could do no less than ask a question
about its contents, although I did not feel the slightest interest.

"And what is the title of this marvellous work?" I asked with an
affected eagerness which he must have been very blind not to see

"This work," replied my uncle, firing up with renewed enthusiasm,
"this work is the Heims Kringla of Snorre Turlleson, the most famous
Icelandic author of the twelfth century! It is the chronicle of the
Norwegian princes who ruled in Iceland."

"Indeed;" I cried, keeping up wonderfully, "of course it is a German

"What!" sharply replied the Professor, "a translation! What should I
do with a translation? This _is_ the Icelandic original, in the
magnificent idiomatic vernacular, which is both rich and simple, and
admits of an infinite variety of grammatical combinations and verbal

"Like German." I happily ventured.

"Yes." replied my uncle, shrugging his shoulders; "but, in addition
to all this, the Icelandic has three numbers like the Greek, and
irregular declensions of nouns proper like the Latin."

"Ah!" said I, a little moved out of my indifference; "and is the type

"Type! What do you mean by talking of type, wretched Axel? Type! Do
you take it for a printed book, you ignorant fool? It is a
manuscript, a Runic manuscript."


"Yes. Do you want me to explain what that is?"

"Of course not," I replied in the tone of an injured man. But my
uncle persevered, and told me, against my will, of many things I
cared nothing about.

"Runic characters were in use in Iceland in former ages. They were
invented, it is said, by Odin himself. Look there, and wonder,
impious young man, and admire these letters, the invention of the
Scandinavian god!"

Well, well! not knowing what to say, I was going to prostrate myself
before this wonderful book, a way of answering equally pleasing to
gods and kings, and which has the advantage of never giving them any
embarrassment, when a little incident happened to divert conversation
into another channel.

This was the appearance of a dirty slip of parchment, which slipped
out of the volume and fell upon the floor.

My uncle pounced upon this shred with incredible avidity. An old
document, enclosed an immemorial time within the folds of this old
book, had for him an immeasurable value.

"What's this?" he cried.

And he laid out upon the table a piece of parchment, five inches by
three, and along which were traced certain mysterious characters.

Here is the exact facsimile. I think it important to let these
strange signs be publicly known, for they were the means of drawing
on Professor Liedenbrock and his nephew to undertake the most
wonderful expedition of the nineteenth century.

[Runic glyphs occur here]

The Professor mused a few moments over this series of characters;
then raising his spectacles he pronounced:

"These are Runic letters; they are exactly like those of the
manuscript of Snorre Turlleson. But, what on earth is their meaning?"

Runic letters appearing to my mind to be an invention of the learned
to mystify this poor world, I was not sorry to see my uncle suffering
the pangs of mystification. At least, so it seemed to me, judging
from his fingers, which were beginning to work with terrible energy.

"It is certainly old Icelandic," he muttered between his teeth.

And Professor Liedenbrock must have known, for he was acknowledged to
be quite a polyglot. Not that he could speak fluently in the two
thousand languages and twelve thousand dialects which are spoken on
the earth, but he knew at least his share of them.

So he was going, in the presence of this difficulty, to give way to
all the impetuosity of his character, and I was preparing for a
violent outbreak, when two o'clock struck by the little timepiece
over the fireplace.

At that moment our good housekeeper Martha opened the study door,

"Dinner is ready!"

I am afraid he sent that soup to where it would boil away to nothing,
and Martha took to her heels for safety. I followed her, and hardly
knowing how I got there I found myself seated in my usual place.

I waited a few minutes. No Professor came. Never within my
remembrance had he missed the important ceremonial of dinner. And yet
what a good dinner it was! There was parsley soup, an omelette of ham
garnished with spiced sorrel, a fillet of veal with compote of
prunes; for dessert, crystallised fruit; the whole washed down with
sweet Moselle.

All this my uncle was going to sacrifice to a bit of old parchment.
As an affectionate and attentive nephew I considered it my duty to
eat for him as well as for myself, which I did conscientiously.

"I have never known such a thing," said Martha. "M. Liedenbrock is
not at table!"

"Who could have believed it?" I said, with my mouth full.

"Something serious is going to happen," said the servant, shaking her

My opinion was, that nothing more serious would happen than an awful
scene when my uncle should have discovered that his dinner was
devoured. I had come to the last of the fruit when a very loud voice
tore me away from the pleasures of my dessert. With one spring I
bounded out of the dining-room into the study.



"Undoubtedly it is Runic," said the Professor, bending his brows;
"but there is a secret in it, and I mean to discover the key."

A violent gesture finished the sentence.

"Sit there," he added, holding out his fist towards the table. "Sit
there, and write."

I was seated in a trice.

"Now I will dictate to you every letter of our alphabet which
corresponds with each of these Icelandic characters. We will see what
that will give us. But, by St. Michael, if you should dare to deceive
me -"

The dictation commenced. I did my best. Every letter was given me one
after the other, with the following remarkable result:

mm.rnlls esrevel seecIde
sgtssmf vnteief niedrke
kt,samn atrateS saodrrn
emtnaeI nvaect rrilSa
Atsaar .nvcrc ieaabs
ccrmi eevtVl frAntv
dt,iac oseibo KediiI

[Redactor: In the original version the initial letter is an 'm' with
a superscore over it. It is my supposition that this is the
translator's way of writing 'mm' and I have replaced it accordingly,
since our typography does not allow such a character.]

When this work was ended my uncle tore the paper from me and examined
it attentively for a long time.

"What does it all mean?" he kept repeating mechanically.

Upon my honour I could not have enlightened him. Besides he did not
ask me, and he went on talking to himself.

"This is what is called a cryptogram, or cipher," he said, "in which
letters are purposely thrown in confusion, which if properly arranged
would reveal their sense. Only think that under this jargon there may
lie concealed the clue to some great discovery!"

As for me, I was of opinion that there was nothing at all, in it;
though, of course, I took care not to say so.

Then the Professor took the book and the parchment, and diligently
compared them together.

"These two writings are not by the same hand," he said; "the cipher
is of later date than the book, an undoubted proof of which I see in
a moment. The first letter is a double m, a letter which is not to be
found in Turlleson's book, and which was only added to the alphabet
in the fourteenth century. Therefore there are two hundred years
between the manuscript and the document."

I admitted that this was a strictly logical conclusion.

"I am therefore led to imagine," continued my uncle, "that some
possessor of this book wrote these mysterious letters. But who was
that possessor? Is his name nowhere to be found in the manuscript?"

My uncle raised his spectacles, took up a strong lens, and carefully
examined the blank pages of the book. On the front of the second, the
title-page, he noticed a sort of stain which looked like an ink blot.
But in looking at it very closely he thought he could distinguish
some half-effaced letters. My uncle at once fastened upon this as the
centre of interest, and he laboured at that blot, until by the help
of his microscope he ended by making out the following Runic
characters which he read without difficulty.

"Arne Saknussemm!" he cried in triumph. "Why that is the name of
another Icelander, a savant of the sixteenth century, a celebrated

I gazed at my uncle with satisfactory admiration.

"Those alchemists," he resumed, "Avicenna, Bacon, Lully, Paracelsus,
were the real and only savants of their time. They made discoveries
at which we are astonished. Has not this Saknussemm concealed under
his cryptogram some surprising invention? It is so; it must be so!"

The Professor's imagination took fire at this hypothesis.

"No doubt," I ventured to reply, "but what interest would he have in
thus hiding so marvellous a discovery?"

"Why? Why? How can I tell? Did not Galileo do the same by Saturn? We
shall see. I will get at the secret of this document, and I will
neither sleep nor eat until I have found it out."

My comment on this was a half-suppressed "Oh!"

"Nor you either, Axel," he added.

"The deuce!" said I to myself; "then it is lucky I have eaten two
dinners to-day!"

"First of all we must find out the key to this cipher; that cannot be

At these words I quickly raised my head; but my uncle went on

"There's nothing easier. In this document there are a hundred and
thirty-two letters, viz., seventy-seven consonants and fifty-five
vowels. This is the proportion found in southern languages, whilst
northern tongues are much richer in consonants; therefore this is in
a southern language."

These were very fair conclusions, I thought.

"But what language is it?"

Here I looked for a display of learning, but I met instead with
profound analysis.

"This Saknussemm," he went on, "was a very well-informed man; now
since he was not writing in his own mother tongue, he would naturally
select that which was currently adopted by the choice spirits of the
sixteenth century; I mean Latin. If I am mistaken, I can but try
Spanish, French, Italian, Greek, or Hebrew. But the savants of the
sixteenth century generally wrote in Latin. I am therefore entitled
to pronounce this, à priori, to be Latin. It is Latin."

I jumped up in my chair. My Latin memories rose in revolt against the
notion that these barbarous words could belong to the sweet language
of Virgil.

"Yes, it is Latin," my uncle went on; "but it is Latin confused and
in disorder; "_pertubata seu inordinata,_" as Euclid has it."

"Very well," thought I, "if you can bring order out of that
confusion, my dear uncle, you are a clever man."

"Let us examine carefully," said he again, taking up the leaf upon
which I had written. "Here is a series of one hundred and thirty-two
letters in apparent disorder. There are words consisting of
consonants only, as _nrrlls;_ others, on the other hand, in which
vowels predominate, as for instance the fifth, _uneeief,_ or the last
but one, _oseibo_. Now this arrangement has evidently not been
premeditated; it has arisen mathematically in obedience to the
unknown law which has ruled in the succession of these letters. It
appears to me a certainty that the original sentence was written in a
proper manner, and afterwards distorted by a law which we have yet to
discover. Whoever possesses the key of this cipher will read it with
fluency. What is that key? Axel, have you got it?"

I answered not a word, and for a very good reason. My eyes had fallen
upon a charming picture, suspended against the wall, the portrait of
Gräuben. My uncle's ward was at that time at Altona, staying with a
relation, and in her absence I was very downhearted; for I may
confess it to you now, the pretty Virlandaise and the professor's
nephew loved each other with a patience and a calmness entirely
German. We had become engaged unknown to my uncle, who was too much
taken up with geology to be able to enter into such feelings as ours.
Gräuben was a lovely blue-eyed blonde, rather given to gravity and
seriousness; but that did not prevent her from loving me very
sincerely. As for me, I adored her, if there is such a word in the
German language. Thus it happened that the picture of my pretty
Virlandaise threw me in a moment out of the world of realities into
that of memory and fancy.

There looked down upon me the faithful companion of my labours and my
recreations. Every day she helped me to arrange my uncle's precious
specimens; she and I labelled them together. Mademoiselle Gräuben was
an accomplished mineralogist; she could have taught a few things to a
savant. She was fond of investigating abstruse scientific questions.
What pleasant hours we have spent in study; and how often I envied
the very stones which she handled with her charming fingers.

Then, when our leisure hours came, we used to go out together and
turn into the shady avenues by the Alster, and went happily side by
side up to the old windmill, which forms such an improvement to the
landscape at the head of the lake. On the road we chatted hand in
hand; I told her amusing tales at which she laughed heartilv. Then we
reached the banks of the Elbe, and after having bid good-bye to the
swan, sailing gracefully amidst the white water lilies, we returned
to the quay by the steamer.

That is just where I was in my dream, when my uncle with a vehement
thump on the table dragged me back to the realities of life.

"Come," said he, "the very first idea which would come into any one's
head to confuse the letters of a sentence would be to write the words
vertically instead of horizontally."

"Indeed!" said I.

"Now we must see what would be the effect of that, Axel; put down
upon this paper any sentence you like, only instead of arranging the
letters in the usual way, one after the other, place them in
succession in vertical columns, so as to group them together in five
or six vertical lines."

I caught his meaning, and immediately produced the following literary

I y l o a u
l o l w r b
o u , n G e
v w m d r n
e e y e a !

"Good," said the professor, without reading them, "now set down those
words in a horizontal line."

I obeyed, and with this result:

Iyloau lolwrb ou,nGe vwmdrn eeyea!

"Excellent!" said my uncle, taking the paper hastily out of my hands.
"This begins to look just like an ancient document: the vowels and
the consonants are grouped together in equal disorder; there are even
capitals in the middle of words, and commas too, just as in
Saknussemm's parchment."

I considered these remarks very clever.

"Now," said my uncle, looking straight at me, "to read the sentence
which you have just written, and with which I am wholly unacquainted,
I shall only have to take the first letter of each word, then the
second, the third, and so forth."

And my uncle, to his great astonishment, and my much greater, read:

"I love you well, my own dear Gräuben!"

"Hallo!" cried the Professor.

Yes, indeed, without knowing what I was about, like an awkward and
unlucky lover, I had compromised myself by writing this unfortunate

"Aha! you are in love with Gräuben?" he said, with the right look for
a guardian.

"Yes; no!" I stammered.

"You love Gräuben," he went on once or twice dreamily. "Well, let us
apply the process I have suggested to the document in question."

My uncle, falling back into his absorbing contemplations, had already
forgotten my imprudent words. I merely say imprudent, for the great
mind of so learned a man of course had no place for love affairs, and
happily the grand business of the document gained me the victory.

Just as the moment of the supreme experiment arrived the Professor's
eyes flashed right through his spectacles. There was a quivering in
his fingers as he grasped the old parchment. He was deeply moved. At
last he gave a preliminary cough, and with profound gravity, naming
in succession the first, then the second letter of each word, he
dictated me the following:


I confess I felt considerably excited in coming to the end; these
letters named, one at a time, had carried no sense to my mind; I
therefore waited for the Professor with great pomp to unfold the
magnificent but hidden Latin of this mysterious phrase.

But who could have foretold the result? A violent thump made the
furniture rattle, and spilt some ink, and my pen dropped from between
my fingers.

"That's not it," cried my uncle, "there's no sense in it."

Then darting out like a shot, bowling down stairs like an avalanche,
he rushed into the Königstrasse and fled.



"He is gone!" cried Martha, running out of her kitchen at the noise
of the violent slamming of doors.

"Yes," I replied, "completely gone."

"Well; and how about his dinner?" said the old servant.

"He won't have any."

"And his supper?"

"He won't have any."

"What?" cried Martha, with clasped hands.

"No, my dear Martha, he will eat no more. No one in the house is to
eat anything at all. Uncle Liedenbrock is going to make us all fast
until he has succeeded in deciphering an undecipherable scrawl."

"Oh, my dear! must we then all die of hunger?"

I hardly dared to confess that, with so absolute a ruler as my uncle,
this fate was inevitable.

The old servant, visibly moved, returned to the kitchen, moaning

When I was alone, I thought I would go and tell Gräuben all about it.
But how should I be able to escape from the house? The Professor
might return at any moment. And suppose he called me? And suppose he
tackled me again with this logomachy, which might vainly have been
set before ancient Oedipus. And if I did not obey his call, who could
answer for what might happen?

The wisest course was to remain where I was. A mineralogist at
Besançon had just sent us a collection of siliceous nodules, which I
had to classify: so I set to work; I sorted, labelled, and arranged
in their own glass case all these hollow specimens, in the cavity of
each of which was a nest of little crystals.

But this work did not succeed in absorbing all my attention. That old
document kept working in my brain. My head throbbed with excitement,
and I felt an undefined uneasiness. I was possessed with a
presentiment of coming evil.

In an hour my nodules were all arranged upon successive shelves. Then
I dropped down into the old velvet arm-chair, my head thrown back and
my hands joined over it. I lighted my long crooked pipe, with a
painting on it of an idle-looking naiad; then I amused myself
watching the process of the conversion of the tobacco into carbon,
which was by slow degrees making my naiad into a negress. Now and
then I listened to hear whether a well-known step was on the stairs.
No. Where could my uncle be at that moment? I fancied him running
under the noble trees which line the road to Altona, gesticulating,
making shots with his cane, thrashing the long grass, cutting the
heads off the thistles, and disturbing the contemplative storks in
their peaceful solitude.

Would he return in triumph or in discouragement? Which would get the
upper hand, he or the secret? I was thus asking myself questions, and
mechanically taking between my fingers the sheet of paper
mysteriously disfigured with the incomprehensible succession of
letters I had written down; and I repeated to myself "What does it
all mean?"

I sought to group the letters so as to form words. Quite impossible!
When I put them together by twos, threes, fives or sixes, nothing
came of it but nonsense. To be sure the fourteenth, fifteenth and
sixteenth letters made the English word 'ice'; the eighty-third and
two following made 'sir'; and in the midst of the document, in the
second and third lines, I observed the words, "rots," "mutabile,"
"ira," "net," "atra."

"Come now," I thought, "these words seem to justify my uncle's view
about the language of the document. In the fourth line appeared the
word "luco", which means a sacred wood. It is true that in the third
line was the word "tabiled", which looked like Hebrew, and in the
last the purely French words "mer", "arc", "mere." "

All this was enough to drive a poor fellow crazy. Four different
languages in this ridiculous sentence! What connection could there
possibly be between such words as ice, sir, anger, cruel, sacred
wood, changeable, mother, bow, and sea? The first and the last might
have something to do with each other; it was not at all surprising
that in a document written in Iceland there should be mention of a
sea of ice; but it was quite another thing to get to the end of this
cryptogram with so small a clue. So I was struggling with an
insurmountable difficulty; my brain got heated, my eyes watered over
that sheet of paper; its hundred and thirty-two letters seemed to
flutter and fly around me like those motes of mingled light and
darkness which float in the air around the head when the blood is
rushing upwards with undue violence. I was a prey to a kind of
hallucination; I was stifling; I wanted air. Unconsciously I fanned
myself with the bit of paper, the back and front of which
successively came before my eyes. What was my surprise when, in one
of those rapid revolutions, at the moment when the back was turned to
me I thought I caught sight of the Latin words "craterem,"
"terrestre," and others.

A sudden light burst in upon me; these hints alone gave me the first
glimpse of the truth; I had discovered the key to the cipher. To read
the document, it would not even be necessary to read it through the
paper. Such as it was, just such as it had been dictated to me, so it
might be spelt out with ease. All those ingenious professorial
combinations were coming right. He was right as to the arrangement of
the letters; he was right as to the language. He had been within a
hair's breadth of reading this Latin document from end to end; but
that hair's breadth, chance had given it to me!

You may be sure I felt stirred up. My eyes were dim, I could scarcely
see. I had laid the paper upon the table. At a glance I could tell
the whole secret.

At last I became more calm. I made a wise resolve to walk twice round
the room quietly and settle my nerves, and then I returned into the
deep gulf of the huge armchair.

"Now I'll read it," I cried, after having well distended my lungs
with air.

I leaned over the table; I laid my finger successively upon every
letter; and without a pause, without one moment's hesitation, I read
off the whole sentence aloud.

Stupefaction! terror! I sat overwhelmed as if with a sudden deadly
blow. What! that which I read had actually, really been done! A
mortal man had had the audacity to penetrate! . . .

"Ah!" I cried, springing up. "But no! no! My uncle shall never know
it. He would insist upon doing it too. He would want to know all
about it. Ropes could not hold him, such a determined geologist as he
is! He would start, he would, in spite of everything and everybody,
and he would take me with him, and we should never get back. No,
never! never!"

My over-excitement was beyond all description.

"No! no! it shall not be," I declared energetically; "and as it is in
my power to prevent the knowledge of it coming into the mind of my
tyrant, I will do it. By dint of turning this document round and
round, he too might discover the key. I will destroy it."

There was a little fire left on the hearth. I seized not only the
paper but Saknussemm's parchment; with a feverish hand I was about to
fling it all upon the coals and utterly destroy and abolish this
dangerous secret, when the, study door opened, and my uncle appeared.



I had only just time to replace the unfortunate document upon the

Professor Liedenbrock seemed to be greatly abstracted.

The ruling thought gave him no rest. Evidently he had gone deeply
into the matter, analytically and with profound scrutiny. He had
brought all the resources of his mind to bear upon it during his
walk, and he had come back to apply some new combination.

He sat in his armchair, and pen in hand he began what looked very
much like algebraic formula: I followed with my eyes his trembling
hands, I took count of every movement. Might not some unhoped-for
result come of it? I trembled, too, very unnecessarily, since the
true key was in my hands, and no other would open the secret.

For three long hours my uncle worked on without a word, without
lifting his head; rubbing out, beginning again, then rubbing out
again, and so on a hundred times.

I knew very well that if he succeeded in setting down these letters
in every possible relative position, the sentence would come out. But
I knew also that twenty letters alone could form two quintillions,
four hundred and thirty-two quadrillions, nine hundred and two
trillions, eight billions, a hundred and seventy-six millions, six
hundred and forty thousand combinations. Now, here were a hundred and
thirty-two letters in this sentence, and these hundred and thirty-two
letters would give a number of different sentences, each made up of
at least a hundred and thirty-three figures, a number which passed
far beyond all calculation or conception.

So I felt reassured as far as regarded this heroic method of solving
the difficulty.

But time was passing away; night came on; the street noises ceased;
my uncle, bending over his task, noticed nothing, not even Martha
half opening the door; he heard not a sound, not even that excellent
woman saying:

"Will not monsieur take any supper to-night?"

And poor Martha had to go away unanswered. As for me, after long
resistance, I was overcome by sleep, and fell off at the end of the
sofa, while uncle Liedenbrock went on calculating and rubbing out his

When I awoke next morning that indefatigable worker was still at his
post. His red eyes, his pale complexion, his hair tangled between his
feverish fingers, the red spots on his cheeks, revealed his desperate
struggle with impossibilities, and the weariness of spirit, the
mental wrestlings he must have undergone all through that unhappy

To tell the plain truth, I pitied him. In spite of the reproaches
which I considered I had a right to lay upon him, a certain feeling
of compassion was beginning to gain upon me. The poor man was so
entirely taken up with his one idea that he had even forgotten how to
get angry. All the strength of his feelings was concentrated upon one
point alone; and as their usual vent was closed, it was to be feared
lest extreme tension should give rise to an explosion sooner or later.

I might with a word have loosened the screw of the steel vice that
was crushing his brain; but that word I would not speak.

Yet I was not an ill-natured fellow. Why was I dumb at such a crisis?
Why so insensible to my uncle's interests?

"No, no," I repeated, "I shall not speak. He would insist upon going;
nothing on earth could stop him. His imagination is a volcano, and to
do that which other geologists have never done he would risk his
life. I will preserve silence. I will keep the secret which mere
chance has revealed to me. To discover it, would be to kill Professor
Liedenbrock! Let him find it out himself if he can. I will never have
it laid to my door that I led him to his destruction."

Having formed this resolution, I folded my arms and waited. But I had
not reckoned upon one little incident which turned up a few hours

When our good Martha wanted to go to Market, she found the door
locked. The big key was gone. Who could have taken it out? Assuredly,
it was my uncle, when he returned the night before from his hurried

Was this done on purpose? Or was it a mistake? Did he want to reduce
us by famine? This seemed like going rather too far! What! should
Martha and I be victims of a position of things in which we had not
the smallest interest? It was a fact that a few years before this,
whilst my uncle was working at his great classification of minerals,
he was forty-eight hours without eating, and all his household were
obliged to share in this scientific fast. As for me, what I remember
is, that I got severe cramps in my stomach, which hardly suited the
constitution of a hungry, growing lad.

Now it appeared to me as if breakfast was going to be wanting, just
as supper had been the night before. Yet I resolved to be a hero, and
not to be conquered by the pangs of hunger. Martha took it very
seriously, and, poor woman, was very much distressed. As for me, the
impossibility of leaving the house distressed me a good deal more,
and for a very good reason. A caged lover's feelings may easily be

My uncle went on working, his imagination went off rambling into the
ideal world of combinations; he was far away from earth, and really
far away from earthly wants.

About noon hunger began to stimulate me severely. Martha had, without
thinking any harm, cleared out the larder the night before, so that
now there was nothing left in the house. Still I held out; I made it
a point of honour.

Two o'clock struck. This was becoming ridiculous; worse than that,
unbearable. I began to say to myself that I was exaggerating the
importance of the document; that my uncle would surely not believe in
it, that he would set it down as a mere puzzle; that if it came to
the worst, we should lay violent hands on him and keep him at home if
he thought on venturing on the expedition that, after all, he might
himself discover the key of the cipher, and that then I should be
clear at the mere expense of my involuntary abstinence.

These reasons seemed excellent to me, though on the night before I
should have rejected them with indignation; I even went so far as to
condemn myself for my absurdity in having waited so long, and I
finally resolved to let it all out.

I was therefore meditating a proper introduction to the matter, so as
not to seem too abrupt, when the Professor jumped up, clapped on his
hat, and prepared to go out.

Surely he was not going out, to shut us in again! no, never!

"Uncle!" I cried.

He seemed not to hear me.

"Uncle Liedenbrock!" I cried, lifting up my voice.

"Ay," he answered like a man suddenly waking.

"Uncle, that key!"

"What key? The door key?"

"No, no!" I cried. "The key of the document."

The Professor stared at me over his spectacles; no doubt he saw
something unusual in the expression of my countenance; for he laid
hold of my arm, and speechlessly questioned me with his eyes. Yes,
never was a question more forcibly put.

I nodded my head up and down.

He shook his pityingly, as if he was dealing with a lunatic. I gave a
more affirmative gesture.

His eyes glistened and sparkled with live fire, his hand was shaken

This mute conversation at such a momentous crisis would have riveted
the attention of the most indifferent. And the fact really was that I
dared not speak now, so intense was the excitement for fear lest my
uncle should smother me in his first joyful embraces. But he became
so urgent that I was at last compelled to answer.

"Yes, that key, chance -"

"What is that you are saying?" he shouted with indescribable emotion.

"There, read that!" I said, presenting a sheet of paper on which I
had written.

"But there is nothing in this," he answered, crumpling up the paper.

"No, nothing until you proceed to read from the end to the beginning."

I had not finished my sentence when the Professor broke out into a
cry, nay, a roar. A new revelation burst in upon him. He was

"Aha, clever Saknussemm!" he cried. "You had first written out your
sentence the wrong way."

And darting upon the paper, with eyes bedimmed, and voice choked with
emotion, he read the whole document from the last letter to the first.

It was conceived in the following terms:

In Sneffels Joculis craterem quem delibat
Umbra Scartaris Julii intra calendas descende,
Audax viator, et terrestre centrum attinges.
Quod feci, Arne Saknussemm. [1]

Which bad Latin may be translated thus:

"Descend, bold traveller, into the crater of the jokul of Sneffels,
which the shadow of Scartaris touches before the kalends of July, and
you will attain the centre of the earth; which I have done, Arne

In reading this, my uncle gave a spring as if he had touched a Leyden
jar. His audacity, his joy, and his convictions were magnificent to
behold. He came and he went; he seized his head between both his
hands; he pushed the chairs out of their places, he piled up his
books; incredible as it may seem, he rattled his precious nodules of
flints together; he sent a kick here, a thump there. At last his
nerves calmed down, and like a man exhausted by too lavish an
expenditure of vital power, he sank back exhausted into his armchair.

"What o'clock is it?" he asked after a few moments of silence.

"Three o'clock," I replied.

"Is it really? The dinner-hour is past, and I did not know it. I am
half dead with hunger. Come on, and after dinner -"

[1] In the cipher, _audax_ is written _avdas,_ and _quod_ and _quem,_
_hod_ and _ken_. (Tr.)


"After dinner, pack up my trunk."

"What?" I cried.

"And yours!" replied the indefatigable Professor, entering the



At these words a cold shiver ran through me. Yet I controlled myself;
I even resolved to put a good face upon it. Scientific arguments
alone could have any weight with Professor Liedenbrock. Now there
were good ones against the practicability of such a journey.
Penetrate to the centre of the earth! What nonsense! But I kept my
dialectic battery in reserve for a suitable opportunity, and I
interested myself in the prospect of my dinner, which was not yet

It is no use to tell of the rage and imprecations of my uncle before
the empty table. Explanations were given, Martha was set at liberty,
ran off to the market, and did her part so well that in an hour
afterwards my hunger was appeased, and I was able to return to the
contemplation of the gravity of the situation.

During all dinner time my uncle was almost merry; he indulged in some
of those learned jokes which never do anybody any harm. Dessert over,
he beckoned me into his study.

I obeyed; he sat at one end of his table, I at the other.

"Axel," said he very mildly; "you are a very ingenious young man, you
have done me a splendid service, at a moment when, wearied out with
the struggle, I was going to abandon the contest. Where should I have
lost myself? None can tell. Never, my lad, shall I forget it; and you
shall have your share in the glory to which your discovery will lead."

"Oh, come!" thought I, "he is in a good way. Now is the time for
discussing that same glory."

"Before all things," my uncle resumed, "I enjoin you to preserve the
most inviolable secrecy: you understand? There are not a few in the
scientific world who envy my success, and many would be ready to
undertake this enterprise, to whom our return should be the first
news of it."

"Do you really think there are many people bold enough?" said I.

"Certainly; who would hesitate to acquire such renown? If that
document were divulged, a whole army of geologists would be ready to
rush into the footsteps of Arne Saknussemm."

"I don't feel so very sure of that, uncle," I replied; "for we have
no proof of the authenticity of this document."

"What! not of the book, inside which we have discovered it?"

"Granted. I admit that Saknussemm may have written these lines. But
does it follow that he has really accomplished such a journey? And
may it not be that this old parchment is intended to mislead?"

I almost regretted having uttered this last word, which dropped from
me in an unguarded moment. The Professor bent his shaggy brows, and I
feared I had seriously compromised my own safety. Happily no great
harm came of it. A smile flitted across the lip of my severe
companion, and he answered:

"That is what we shall see."

"Ah!" said I, rather put out. "But do let me exhaust all the possible
objections against this document."

"Speak, my boy, don't be afraid. You are quite at liberty to express
your opinions. You are no longer my nephew only, but my colleague.
Pray go on."

"Well, in the first place, I wish to ask what are this Jokul, this
Sneffels, and this Scartaris, names which I have never heard before?"

"Nothing easier. I received not long ago a map from my friend,
Augustus Petermann, at Liepzig. Nothing could be more apropos. Take
down the third atlas in the second shelf in the large bookcase,
series Z, plate 4."

I rose, and with the help of such precise instructions could not fail
to find the required atlas. My uncle opened it and said:

"Here is one of the best maps of Iceland, that of Handersen, and I
believe this will solve the worst of our difficulties."

I bent over the map.

"You see this volcanic island," said the Professor; "observe that all
the volcanoes are called jokuls, a word which means glacier in
Icelandic, and under the high latitude of Iceland nearly all the
active volcanoes discharge through beds of ice. Hence this term of
jokul is applied to all the eruptive mountains in Iceland."

"Very good," said I; "but what of Sneffels?"

I was hoping that this question would be unanswerable; but I was
mistaken. My uncle replied:

"Follow my finger along the west coast of Iceland. Do you see
Rejkiavik, the capital? You do. Well; ascend the innumerable fiords
that indent those sea-beaten shores, and stop at the sixty-fifth
degree of latitude. What do you see there?"

"I see a peninsula looking like a thigh bone with the knee bone at
the end of it."

"A very fair comparison, my lad. Now do you see anything upon that
knee bone?"

"Yes; a mountain rising out of the sea."

"Right. That is Snæfell."

"That Snæfell?"

"It is. It is a mountain five thousand feet high, one of the most
remarkable in the world, if its crater leads down to the centre of
the earth."

"But that is impossible," I said shrugging my shoulders, and
disgusted at such a ridiculous supposition.

"Impossible?" said the Professor severely; "and why, pray?"

"Because this crater is evidently filled with lava and burning rocks,
and therefore -"

"But suppose it is an extinct volcano?"


"Yes; the number of active volcanoes on the surface of the globe is
at the present time only about three hundred. But there is a very
much larger number of extinct ones. Now, Snæfell is one of these.
Since historic times there has been but one eruption of this
mountain, that of 1219; from that time it has quieted down more and.
more, and now it is no longer reckoned among active volcanoes."

To such positive statements I could make no reply. I therefore took
refuge in other dark passages of the document.

"What is the meaning of this word Scartaris, and what have the
kalends of July to do with it?"

My uncle took a few minutes to consider. For one short moment I felt
a ray of hope, speedily to be extinguished. For he soon answered thus:

"What is darkness to you is light to me. This proves the ingenious
care with which Saknussemm guarded and defined his discovery.
Sneffels, or Snæfell, has several craters. It was therefore necessary
to point out which of these leads to the centre of the globe. What
did the Icelandic sage do? He observed that at the approach of the
kalends of July, that is to say in the last days of June, one of the
peaks, called Scartaris, flung its shadow down the mouth of that
particular crater, and he committed that fact to his document. Could
there possibly have been a more exact guide? As soon as we have
arrived at the summit of Snæfell we shall have no hesitation as to
the proper road to take."

Decidedly, my uncle had answered every one of my objections. I saw
that his position on the old parchment was impregnable. I therefore
ceased to press him upon that part of the subject, and as above all
things he must be convinced, I passed on to scientific objections,
which in my opinion were far more serious.

"Well, then," I said, "I am forced to admit that Saknussemm's
sentence is clear, and leaves no room for doubt. I will even allow
that the document bears every mark and evidence of authenticity. That
learned philosopher did get to the bottom of Sneffels, he has seen
the shadow of Scartaris touch the edge of the crater before the
kalends of July; he may even have heard the legendary stories told in
his day about that crater reaching to the centre of the world; but as
for reaching it himself, as for performing the journey, and
returning, if he ever went, I say no - he never, never did that."

"Now for your reason?" said my uncle ironically.

"All the theories of science demonstrate such a feat to be

"The theories say that, do they?" replied the Professor in the tone
of a meek disciple. "Oh! unpleasant theories! How the theories will
hinder. us, won't they?"

I saw that he was only laughing at me; but I went on all the same.

"Yes; it is perfectly well known that the internal temperature rises
one degree for every 70 feet in depth; now, admitting this proportion
to be constant, and the radius of the earth being fifteen hundred
leagues, there must be a temperature of 360,032 degrees at the centre
of the earth. Therefore, all the substances that compose the body of
this earth must exist there in a state of incandescent gas; for the
metals that most resist the action of heat, gold, and platinum, and
the hardest rocks, can never be either solid or liquid under such a
temperature. I have therefore good reason for asking if it is
possible to penetrate through such a medium."

"So, Axel, it is the heat that troubles you?"

"Of course it is. Were we to reach a depth of thirty miles we should
have arrived at the limit of the terrestrial crust, for there the
temperature will be more than 2372 degrees."

"Are you afraid of being put into a state of fusion?"

"I will leave you to decide that question," I answered rather
sullenly. "This is my decision," replied Professor Liedenbrock,
putting on one of his grandest airs. "Neither you nor anybody else
knows with any certainty what is going on in the interior of this
globe, since not the twelve thousandth part of its radius is known;
science is eminently perfectible; and every new theory is soon routed
by a newer. Was it not always believed until Fourier that the
temperature of the interplanetary spaces decreased perpetually? and
is it not known at the present time that the greatest cold of the
ethereal regions is never lower than 40 degrees below zero Fahr.? Why
should it not be the same with the internal heat? Why should it not,
at a certain depth, attain an impassable limit, instead of rising to
such a point as to fuse the most infusible metals?"

As my uncle was now taking his stand upon hypotheses, of course,
there was nothing to be said.

"Well, I will tell you that true savants, amongst them Poisson, have
demonstrated that if a heat of 360,000 degrees [1] existed in the
interior of the globe, the fiery gases arising from the fused matter
would acquire an elastic force which the crust of the earth would be
unable to resist, and that it would explode like the plates of a
bursting boiler."

"That is Poisson's opinion, my uncle, nothing more."

"Granted. But it is likewise the creed adopted by other distinguished
geologists, that the interior of the globe is neither gas nor water,
nor any of the heaviest minerals known, for in none of these cases
would the earth weigh what it does."

"Oh, with figures you may prove anything!"

"But is it the same with facts! Is it not known that the number of
volcanoes has diminished since the first days of creation? and if
there is central heat may we not thence conclude that it is in
process of diminution?"

"My good uncle, if you will enter into the legion of speculation, I
can discuss the matter no longer."

"But I have to tell you that the highest names have come to the
support of my views. Do you remember a visit paid to me by the
celebrated chemist, Humphry Davy, in 1825?"

"Not at all, for I was not born until nineteen years afterwards."

"Well, Humphry Davy did call upon me on his way through Hamburg. We
were long engaged in discussing, amongst other problems, the
hypothesis of the liquid structure of the terrestrial nucleus. We
were agreed that it could not be in a liquid state, for a reason
which science has never been able to confute."

[1] The degrees of temperature are given by Jules Verne according to
the centigrade system, for which we will in each case substitute the
Fahrenheit measurement. (Tr.)

"What is that reason?" I said, rather astonished.

"Because this liquid mass would be subject, like the ocean, to the
lunar attraction, and therefore twice every day there would be
internal tides, which, upheaving the terrestrial crust, would cause
periodical earthquakes!"

"Yet it is evident that the surface of the globe has been subject to
the action of fire," I replied, "and it is quite reasonable to
suppose that the external crust cooled down first, whilst the heat
took refuge down to the centre."

"Quite a mistake," my uncle answered. "The earth has been heated by
combustion on its surface, that is all. Its surface was composed of a
great number of metals, such as potassium and sodium, which have the
peculiar property of igniting at the mere contact with air and water;
these metals kindled when the atmospheric vapours fell in rain upon
the soil; and by and by, when the waters penetrated into the fissures
of the crust of the earth, they broke out into fresh combustion with
explosions and eruptions. Such was the cause of the numerous
volcanoes at the origin of the earth."

"Upon my word, this is a very clever hypothesis," I exclaimed, in
spite rather of myself.

"And which Humphry Davy demonstrated to me by a simple experiment. He
formed a small ball of the metals which I have named, and which was a
very fair representation of our globe; whenever he caused a fine dew
of rain to fall upon its surface, it heaved up into little
monticules, it became oxydized and formed miniature mountains; a
crater broke open at one of its summits; the eruption took place, and
communicated to the whole of the ball such a heat that it could not
be held in the hand."

In truth, I was beginning to be shaken by the Professor's arguments,
besides which he gave additional weight to them by his usual ardour
and fervent enthusiasm.

"You see, Axel," he added, "the condition of the terrestrial nucleus
has given rise to various hypotheses among geologists; there is no
proof at all for this internal heat; my opinion is that there is no
such thing, it cannot be; besides we shall see for ourselves, and,
like Arne Saknussemm, we shall know exactly what to hold as truth
concerning this grand question."

"Very well, we shall see," I replied, feeling myself carried off by
his contagious enthusiasm. "Yes, we shall see; that is, if it is
possible to see anything there."

"And why not? May we not depend upon electric phenomena to give us
light? May we not even expect light from the atmosphere, the pressure
of which may render it luminous as we approach the centre?"

"Yes, yes," said I; "that is possible, too."

"It is certain," exclaimed my uncle in a tone of triumph. "But
silence, do you hear me? silence upon the whole subject; and let no
one get before us in this design of discovering the centre of the



Thus ended this memorable seance. That conversation threw me into a
fever. I came out of my uncle's study as if I had been stunned, and
as if there was not air enough in all the streets of Hamburg to put
me right again. I therefore made for the banks of the Elbe, where the
steamer lands her passengers, which forms the communication between
the city and the Hamburg railway.

Was I convinced of the truth of what I had heard? Had I not bent
under the iron rule of the Professor Liedenbrock? Was I to believe
him in earnest in his intention to penetrate to the centre of this
massive globe? Had I been listening to the mad speculations of a
lunatic, or to the scientific conclusions of a lofty genius? Where
did truth stop? Where did error begin?

I was all adrift amongst a thousand contradictory hypotheses, but I
could not lay hold of one.

Yet I remembered that I had been convinced, although now my
enthusiasm was beginning to cool down; but I felt a desire to start
at once, and not to lose time and courage by calm reflection. I had
at that moment quite courage enough to strap my knapsack to my
shoulders and start.

But I must confess that in another hour this unnatural excitement
abated, my nerves became unstrung, and from the depths of the abysses
of this earth I ascended to its surface again.

"It is quite absurd!" I cried, "there is no sense about it. No
sensible young man should for a moment entertain such a proposal. The
whole thing is non-existent. I have had a bad night, I have been
dreaming of horrors."

But I had followed the banks of the Elbe and passed the town. After
passing the port too, I had reached the Altona road. I was led by a
presentiment, soon to be realised; for shortly I espied my little
Gräuben bravely returning with her light step to Hamburg.

"Gräuben!" I cried from afar off.

The young girl stopped, rather frightened perhaps to hear her name
called after her on the high road. Ten yards more, and I had joined

"Axel!" she cried surprised. "What! have you come to meet me? Is this
why you are here, sir?"

But when she had looked upon me, Gräuben could not fail to see the
uneasiness and distress of my mind.

"What is the matter?" she said, holding out her hand.

"What is the matter, Gräuben?" I cried.

In a couple of minutes my pretty Virlandaise was fully informed of
the position of affairs. For a time she was silent. Did her heart
palpitate as mine did? I don't know about that, but I know that her
hand did not tremble in mine. We went on a hundred yards without

At last she said, "Axel!"

"My dear Gräuben."

"That will be a splendid journey!"

I gave a bound at these words.

"Yes, Axel, a journey worthy of the nephew of a savant; it is a good
thing for a man to be distinguished by some great enterprise."

"What, Gräuben, won't you dissuade me from such an undertaking?"

"No, my dear Axel, and I would willingly go with you, but that a poor
girl would only be in your way."

"Is that quite true?"

"It is true."

Ah! women and young girls, how incomprehensible are your feminine
hearts! When you are not the timidest, you are the bravest of
creatures. Reason has nothing to do with your actions. What! did this
child encourage me in such an expedition! Would she not be afraid to
join it herself? And she was driving me to it, one whom she loved!

I was disconcerted, and, if I must tell the whole truth, I was

"Gräuben, we will see whether you will say the same thing tomorrow."

"To-morrow, dear Axel, I will say what I say to-day."

Gräuben and I, hand in hand, but in silence, pursued our way. The
emotions of that day were breaking my heart.

After all, I thought, the kalends of July are a long way off, and
between this and then many things may take place which will cure my
uncle of his desire to travel underground.

It was night when we arrived at the house in Königstrasse. I expected
to find all quiet there, my uncle in bed as was his custom, and
Martha giving her last touches with the feather brush.

But I had not taken into account the Professor's impatience. I found
him shouting- and working himself up amidst a crowd of porters and
messengers who were all depositing various loads in the passage. Our
old servant was at her wits' end.

"Come, Axel, come, you miserable wretch," my uncle cried from as far
off as he could see me. "Your boxes are not packed, and my papers are
not arranged; where's the key of my carpet bag? and what have you
done with my gaiters?"

I stood thunderstruck. My voice failed. Scarcely could my lips utter
the words:

"Are we really going?"

"Of course, you unhappy boy! Could I have dreamed that yon would have
gone out for a walk instead of hurrying your preparations forward?"

"Are we to go?" I asked again, with sinking hopes.

"Yes; the day after to-morrow, early."

I could hear no more. I fled for refuge into my own little room.

All hope was now at an end. My uncle had been all the morning making
purchases of a part of the tools and apparatus required for this
desperate undertaking. The passage was encumbered with rope ladders,
knotted cords, torches, flasks, grappling irons, alpenstocks,
pickaxes, iron shod sticks, enough to load ten men.

I spent an awful night. Next morning I was called early. I had quite
decided I would not open the door. But how was I to resist the sweet
voice which was always music to my ears, saying, "My dear Axel?"

I came out of my room. I thought my pale countenance and my red and
sleepless eyes would work upon Gräuben's sympathies and change her

"Ah! my dear Axel," she said. "I see you are better. A night's rest
has done you good."

"Done me good!" I exclaimed.

I rushed to the glass. Well, in fact I did look better than I had
expected. I could hardly believe my own eyes.

"Axel," she said, "I have had a long talk with my guardian. He is a
bold philosopher, a man of immense courage, and you must remember
that his blood flows in your veins. He has confided to me his plans,
his hopes, and why and how he hopes to attain his object. He will no
doubt succeed. My dear Axel, it is a grand thing to devote yourself
to science! What honour will fall upon Herr Liedenbrock, and so be
reflected upon his companion! When you return, Axel, you will be a
man, his equal, free to speak and to act independently, and free to

The dear girl only finished this sentence by blushing. Her words
revived me. Yet I refused to believe we should start. I drew Gräuben
into the Professor's study.

"Uncle, is it true that we are to go?"

"Why do you doubt?"

"Well, I don't doubt," I said, not to vex him; "but, I ask, what need
is there to hurry?"

"Time, time, flying with irreparable rapidity."

"But it is only the 16th May, and until the end of June --"

"What, you monument of ignorance! do you think you can get to Iceland
in a couple of days? If you had not deserted me like a fool I should
have taken you to the Copenhagen office, to Liffender & Co., and you
would have learned then that there is only one trip every month from
Copenhagen to Rejkiavik, on the 22nd."


"Well, if we waited for the 22nd June we should be too late to see
the shadow of Scartaris touch the crater of Sneffels. Therefore we
must get to Copenhagen as fast as we can to secure our passage. Go
and pack up."

There was no reply to this. I went up to my room. Gräuben followed
me. She undertook to pack up all things necessary for my voyage. She
was no more moved than if I had been starting for a little trip to
Lübeck or Heligoland. Her little hands moved without haste. She
talked quietly. She supplied me with sensible reasons for our
expedition. She delighted me, and yet I was angry with her. Now and
then I felt I ought to break out into a passion, but she took no
notice and went on her way as methodically as ever.

Finally the last strap was buckled; I came downstairs. All that day
the philosophical instrument makers and the electricians kept coming
and going. Martha was distracted.

"Is master mad?" she asked.

I nodded my head.

"And is he going to take you with him?"

I nodded again.

"Where to?"

I pointed with my finger downward.

"Down into the cellar?" cried the old servant.

"No," I said. "Lower down than that."

Night came. But I knew nothing about the lapse of time.

"To-morrow morning at six precisely," my uncle decreed "we start."

At ten o'clock I fell upon my bed, a dead lump of inert matter. All
through the night terror had hold of me. I spent it dreaming of
abysses. I was a prey to delirium. I felt myself grasped by the
Professor's sinewy hand, dragged along, hurled down, shattered into
little bits. I dropped down unfathomable precipices with the
accelerating velocity of bodies falling through space. My life had
become an endless fall. I awoke at five with shattered nerves,
trembling and weary. I came downstairs. My uncle was at table,
devouring his breakfast. I stared at him with horror and disgust. But
dear Gräuben was there; so I said nothing, and could eat nothing.

At half-past five there was a rattle of wheels outside. A large
carriage was there to take us to the Altona railway station. It was
soon piled up with my uncle's multifarious preparations.

"Where's your box?" he cried.

"It is ready," I replied, with faltering voice.

"Then make haste down, or we shall lose the train."

It was now manifestly impossible to maintain the struggle against
destiny. I went up again to my room, and rolling my portmanteaus
downstairs I darted after him.

At that moment my uncle was solemnly investing Gräuben with the reins
of government. My pretty Virlandaise was as calm and collected as was
her wont. She kissed her guardian; but could not restrain a tear in
touching my cheek with her gentle lips.

"Gräuben!" I murmured.

"Go, my dear Axel, go! I am now your betrothed; and when you come
back I will be your wife."

I pressed her in my arms and took my place in the carriage. Martha
and the young girl, standing at the door, waved their last farewell.
Then the horses, roused by the driver's whistling, darted off at a
gallop on the road to Altona.



Altona, which is but a suburb of Hamburg, is the terminus of the Kiel
railway, which was to carry us to the Belts. In twenty minutes we
were in Holstein.

At half-past six the carriage stopped at the station; my uncle's
numerous packages, his voluminous _impedimenta,_ were unloaded,
removed, labelled, weighed, put into the luggage vans, and at seven
we were seated face to face in our compartment. The whistle sounded,
the engine started, we were off.

Was I resigned? No, not yet. Yet the cool morning air and the scenes
on the road, rapidly changed by the swiftness of the train, drew me
away somewhat from my sad reflections.

As for the Professor's reflections, they went far in advance of the
swiftest express. We were alone in the carriage, but we sat in
silence. My uncle examined all his pockets and his travelling bag
with the minutest care. I saw that he had not forgotten the smallest
matter of detail.

Amongst other documents, a sheet of paper, carefully folded, bore the
heading of the Danish consulate with the signature of W.
Christiensen, consul at Hamburg and the Professor's friend. With this
we possessed the proper introductions to the Governor of Iceland.

I also observed the famous document most carefully laid up in a
secret pocket in his portfolio. I bestowed a malediction upon it, and
then proceeded to examine the country.

It was a very long succession of uninteresting loamy and fertile
flats, a very easy country for the construction of railways, and
propitious for the laying-down of these direct level lines so dear to
railway companies.

I had no time to get tired of the monotony; for in three hours we
stopped at Kiel, close to the sea.

The luggage being labelled for Copenhagen, we had no occasion to look
after it. Yet the Professor watched every article with jealous
vigilance, until all were safe on board. There they disappeared in
the hold.

My uncle, notwithstanding his hurry, had so well calculated the
relations between the train and the steamer that we had a whole day
to spare. The steamer _Ellenora,_ did not start until night. Thence
sprang a feverish state of excitement in which the impatient
irascible traveller devoted to perdition the railway directors and
the steamboat companies and the governments which allowed such
intolerable slowness. I was obliged to act chorus to him when he
attacked the captain of the _Ellenora_ upon this subject. The captain
disposed of us summarily.

At Kiel, as elsewhere, we must do something to while away the time.
What with walking on the verdant shores of the bay within which
nestles the little town, exploring the thick woods which make it look
like a nest embowered amongst thick foliage, admiring the villas,
each provided with a little bathing house, and moving about and
grumbling, at last ten o'clock came.

The heavy coils of smoke from the _Ellenora's_ funnel unrolled in the
sky, the bridge shook with the quivering of the struggling steam; we
were on board, and owners for the time of two berths, one over the
other, in the only saloon cabin on board.

At a quarter past the moorings were loosed and the throbbing steamer
pursued her way over the dark waters of the Great Belt.

The night was dark; there was a sharp breeze and a rough sea, a few
lights appeared on shore through the thick darkness; later on, I
cannot tell when, a dazzling light from some lighthouse threw a
bright stream of fire along the waves; and this is all I can remember
of this first portion of our sail.

At seven in the morning we landed at Korsor, a small town on the west
coast of Zealand. There we were transferred from the boat to another
line of railway, which took us by just as flat a country as the plain
of Holstein.

Three hours' travelling brought us to the capital of Denmark. My
uncle had not shut his eyes all night. In his impatience I believe he
was trying to accelerate the train with his feet.

At last he discerned a stretch of sea.

"The Sound!" he cried.

At our left was a huge building that looked like a hospital.

"That's a lunatic asylum," said one of or travelling companions.

Very good! thought I, just the place we want to end our days in; and
great as it is, that asylum is not big enough to contain all
Professor Liedenbrock's madness!

At ten in the morning, at last, we set our feet in Copenhagen; the
luggage was put upon a carriage and taken with ourselves to the
Phoenix Hotel in Breda Gate. This took half an hour, for the station
is out of the town. Then my uncle, after a hasty toilet, dragged me
after him. The porter at the hotel could speak German and English;
but the Professor, as a polyglot, questioned him in good Danish, and
it was in the same language that that personage directed him to the
Museum of Northern Antiquities.

The curator of this curious establishment, in which wonders are
gathered together out of which the ancient history of the country
might be reconstructed by means of its stone weapons, its cups and
its jewels, was a learned savant, the friend of the Danish consul at
Hamburg, Professor Thomsen.

My uncle had a cordial letter of introduction to him. As a general
rule one savant greets another with coolness. But here the case was
different. M. Thomsen, like a good friend, gave the Professor
Liedenbrock a cordial greeting, and he even vouchsafed the same
kindness to his nephew. It is hardly necessary to say the secret was
sacredly kept from the excellent curator; we were simply
disinterested travellers visiting Iceland out of harmless curiosity.

M. Thomsen placed his services at our disposal, and we visited the

Facebook Google Reddit Twitter Pinterest