Travel Gear: A Journey to the Center of the Earth, by Jules Verne: Chapters 43 & 44

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:

http://bit.ly/AJourneyBook

http://amzn.to/AJourneyKindle

Enjoy!

Chapter 43

Daylight at Last

When I opened my eyes I felt the hand of the guide clutching me firmly by the belt. With his other hand he supported my uncle. I was not grievously wounded, but bruised all over in the most remarkable manner.

After a moment I looked around, and found that I was lying down on the slope of a mountain not two yards from a yawning gulf into which I should have fallen had I made the slightest false step. Hans had saved me from death, while I rolled insensible on the flanks of the crater.

“Where are we?” dreamily asked my uncle, who literally appeared to be disgusted at having returned to earth.

The eider-down hunter simply shrugged his shoulders as a mark of total ignorance.

“InIceland?” said I, not positively but interrogatively.

Nej,” said Hans.

“How do you mean?” cried the Professor; “no—what are your reasons?”

“Hans is wrong,” said I, rising.

After all the innumerable surprises of this journey, a yet more singular one was reserved to us. I expected to see a cone covered by snow, by extensive and widespread glaciers, in the midst of the arid deserts of the extreme northern regions, beneath the full rays of a polar sky, beyond the highest latitudes.

But contrary to all our expectations, I, my uncle, and the Icelander, were cast upon the slope of a mountain calcined by the burning rays of a sun which was literally baking us with its fires.

I could not believe my eyes, but the actual heat which affected my body allowed me no chance of doubting. We came out of the crater half naked, and the radiant star from which we had asked nothing for two months, was good enough to be prodigal to us of light and warmth—a light and warmth we could easily have dispensed with.

When our eyes were accustomed to the light we had lost sight of so long, I used them to rectify the errors of my imagination. Whatever happened, we should have been atSpitsbergen, and I was in no humor to yield to anything but the most absolute proof.

After some delay, the Professor spoke.

“Hem!” he said, in a hesitating kind of way, “it really does not look likeIceland.”

“But supposing it were theislandofJan Mayen?” I ventured to observe.

“Not in the least, my boy. This is not one of the volcanoes of the north, with its hills of granite and its crown of snow.”

“Nevertheless—”

“Look, look, my boy,” said the Professor, as dogmatically as usual.

Right above our heads, at a great height, opened the crater of a volcano from which escaped, from one quarter of an hour to the other, with a very loud explosion, a lofty jet of flame mingled with pumice stone, cinders, and lava. I could feel the convulsions of nature in the mountain, which breathed like a huge whale, throwing up from time to time fire and air through its enormous vents.

Below, and floating along a slope of considerable angularity, the stream of eruptive matter spread away to a depth which did not give the volcano a height of three hundred fathoms.

Its base disappeared in a perfect forest of green trees, among which I perceived olives, fig trees, and vines loaded with rich grapes.

Certainly this was not the ordinary aspect of the arctic regions. About that there could not be the slightest doubt.

When the eye was satisfied at its glimpse of this verdant expanse, it fell upon the waters of a lovely sea or beautiful lake, which made of this enchanted land an island of not many leagues in extent.

On the side of the rising sun was to be seen a little port, crowded with houses, and near which the boats and vessels of peculiar build were floating upon azure waves.

Beyond, groups of islands rose above the liquid plain, so numerous and close together as to resemble a vast beehive.

Towards the setting sun, some distant shores were to be made out on the edge of the horizon. Some presented the appearance of blue mountains of harmonious conformation; upon others, much more distant, there appeared a prodigiously lofty cone, above the summit of which hung dark and heavy clouds.

Towards the north, an immense expanse of water sparkled beneath the solar rays, occasionally allowing the extremity of a mast or the convexity of a sail bellying to the wind, to be seen.

The unexpected character of such a scene added a hundredfold to its marvelous beauties.

“Where can we be?” I asked, speaking in a low and solemn voice.

Hans shut his eyes with an air of indifference, and my uncle looked on without clearly understanding.

“Whatever this mountain may be,” he said, at last, “I must confess it is rather warm. The explosions do not leave off, and I do not think it is worthwhile to have left the interior of a volcano and remain here to receive a huge piece of rock upon one’s head. Let us carefully descend the mountain and discover the real state of the case. To confess the truth, I am dying of hunger and thirst.”

Decidedly the Professor was no longer a truly reflective character. For myself, forgetting all my necessities, ignoring my fatigues and sufferings, I should have remained still for several hours longer—but it was necessary to follow my companions.

The slope of the volcano was very steep and slippery; we slid over piles of ashes, avoiding the streams of hot lava which glided about like fiery serpents. Still, while we were advancing, I spoke with extreme volubility, for my imagination was too full not to explode in words.

“We are inAsia!” I exclaimed; “we are on the coast ofIndia, in the great Malay islands, in the center ofOceania. We have crossed the one half of the globe to come out right at the antipodes ofEurope!”

“But the compass!” exclaimed my uncle; “explain that to me!”

“Yes—the compass,” I said with considerable hesitation. “I grant that is a difficulty. According to it, we have always been going northward.”

“Then it lied.”

“Hem—to say it lied is rather a harsh word,” was my answer.

“Then we are at the North Pole—”

“The Pole—no—well—well I give it up,” was my reply.

The plain truth was, that there was no explanation possible. I could make nothing of it.

And all the while we were approaching this beautiful verdure, hunger and thirst tormented me fearfully. Happily, after two long hours’ march, a beautiful country spread out before us, covered by olives, pomegranates, and vines, which appeared to belong to anybody and everybody. In any event, in the state of destitution into which we had fallen, we were not in a mood to ponder too scrupulously.

What delight it was to press these delicious fruits to our lips, and to bite at grapes and pomegranates fresh from the vine.

Not far off, near some fresh and mossy grass, under the delicious shade of some trees, I discovered a spring of fresh water, in which we voluptuously laved our faces, hands, and feet.

While we were all giving way to the delights of new-found pleasures, a little child appeared between two tufted olive trees.

“Ah,” cried I, “an inhabitant of this happy country.”

The little fellow was poorly dressed, weak, and suffering, and appeared terribly alarmed at our appearance. Half-naked, with tangled, matted and ragged beards, we did look supremely ill-favored; and unless the country was a bandit land, we were not likely to alarm the inhabitants!

Just as the boy was about to take to his heels, Hans ran after him, and brought him back, despite his cries and kicks.

My uncle tried to look as gentle as possible, and then spoke in German.

“What is the name of this mountain, my friend?”

The child made no reply.

“Good,” said my uncle, with a very positive air of conviction, “we are not inGermany.”

He then made the same demand in English, of which language he was an excellent scholar.

The child shook its head and made no reply. I began to be considerably puzzled.

“Is he dumb?” cried the Professor, who was rather proud of his polyglot knowledge of languages, and made the same demand in French.

The boy only stared in his face.

“I must perforce try him in Italian,” said my uncle, with a shrug.

Dove noi siamo?

“Yes, tell me where we are?” I added impatiently and eagerly.

Again the boy remained silent.

“My fine fellow, do you or do you not mean to speak?” cried my uncle, who began to get angry. He shook him, and spoke another dialect of the Italian language.

Come si noma questa isola?”—“What is the name of this island?”

“Stromboli,” replied the rickety little shepherd, dashing away from Hans and disappearing in the olive groves.

We thought little enough about him.

Stromboli! What effect on the imagination did these few words produce! We were in the center of theMediterranean, amidst the eastern archipelago of mythological memory, in the ancient Strongylos, where AEolus kept the wind and the tempest chained up. And those blue mountains, which rose towards the rising sun, were the mountains ofCalabria.

And that mighty volcano which rose on the southern horizon was Etna, the fierce and celebrated Etna!

“Stromboli!Stromboli!” I repeated to myself.

My uncle played a regular accompaniment to my gestures and words. We were singing together like an ancient chorus.

Ah—what a journey—what a marvelous and extraordinary journey! Here we had entered the earth by one volcano, and we had come out by another. And this other was situated more than twelve hundred leagues from Sneffels from that drear country ofIcelandcast away on the confines of the earth. The wondrous changes of this expedition had transported us to the most harmonious and beautiful of earthly lands. We had abandoned the region of eternal snows for that of infinite verdure, and had left over our heads the gray fog of the icy regions to come back to the azure sky ofSicily!

After a delicious repast of fruits and fresh water, we again continued our journey in order to reach theportofStromboli. To say how we had reached the island would scarcely have been prudent. The superstitious character of the Italians would have been at work, and we should have been called demons vomited from the infernal regions. It was therefore necessary to pass for humble and unfortunate shipwrecked travelers. It was certainly less striking and romantic, but it was decidedly safer.

As we advanced, I could hear my worthy uncle muttering to himself:

“But the compass. The compass most certainly marked north. This is a fact I cannot explain in any way.”

“Well, the fact is,” said I, with an air of disdain, “we must not explain anything. It will be much more easy.”

“I should like to see a professor of the Johanneum Institution who is unable to explain a cosmic phenomenon—it would indeed be strange.”

And speaking thus, my uncle, half-naked, his leathern purse round his loins, and his spectacles upon his nose, became once more the terrible Professor of Mineralogy.

An hour after leaving the wood of olives, we reached the fort of San Vicenza, where Hans demanded the price of his thirteenth week of service. My uncle paid him, with very many warm shakes of the hand.

At that moment, if he did not indeed quite share our natural emotion, he allowed his feelings so far to give way as to indulge in an extraordinary expression for him.

With the tips of two fingers he gently pressed our hands and smiled.

Chapter 44

The Journey Ended

This is the final conclusion of a narrative which will be probably disbelieved even by people who are astonished at nothing. I am, however, armed at all points against human incredulity.

We were kindly received by the Strombolite fishermen, who treated us as shipwrecked travelers. They gave us clothes and food. After a delay of forty-eight hours, on the 30th of September a little vessel took us toMessina, where a few days of delightful and complete repose restored us to ourselves.

On Friday, the 4th of October, we embarked in the Volturne, one of the postal packets of the Imperial Messageries of France; and three days later we landed atMarseilles, having no other care on our minds but that of our precious but erratic compass. This inexplicable circumstance tormented me terribly. On the 9th of October, in the evening, we reachedHamburg.

What was the astonishment of Martha, what the joy of Gretchen! I will not attempt to define it.

“Now then, Harry, that you really are a hero,” she said, “there is no reason why you should ever leave me again.”

I looked at her. She was weeping tears of joy.

I leave it to be imagined if the return of Professor Hardwigg made or did not make a sensation inHamburg. Thanks to the indiscretion of Martha, the news of his departure for the interior of the earth had been spread over the whole world.

No one would believe it—and when they saw him come back in safety they believed it all the less.

But the presence of Hans and many stray scraps of information by degrees modified public opinion.

Then my uncle became a great man and I the nephew of a great man, which, at all events, is something.Hamburggave a festival in our honor. A public meeting of the Johanneum Institution was held, at which the Professor related the whole story of his adventures, omitting only the facts in connection with the compass.

That same day he deposited in the archives of the town the document he had found written by Saknussemm, and he expressed his great regret that circumstances, stronger than his will, did not allow him to follow the Icelandic traveler’s track into the very center of the earth. He was modest in his glory, but his reputation only increased.

So much honor necessarily created for him many envious enemies. Of course they existed, and as his theories, supported by certain facts, contradicted the system of science upon the question of central heat, he maintained his own views both with pen and speech against the learned of every country. Although I still believe in the theory of central heat, I confess that certain circumstances, hitherto very ill defined, may modify the laws of such natural phenomena.

At the moment when these questions were being discussed with interest, my uncle received a rude shock-one that he felt very much. Hans, despite everything he could say to the contrary, quittedHamburg; the man to whom we owed so much would not allow us to pay our deep debt of gratitude. He was taken with nostalgia; a love for his Icelandic home.

Farval,” said he, one day, and with this one short word of adieu, he started forReykjavik, which he soon reached in safety.

We were deeply attached to our brave eider-duck hunter. His absence will never cause him to be forgotten by those whose lives he saved, and I hope, at some not distant day, to see him again.

To conclude, I may say that our journey into the interior of the earth created an enormous sensation throughout the civilized world. It was translated and printed in many languages. All the leading journals published extracts from it, which were commentated, discussed, attacked, and supported with equal animation by those who believed in its episodes, and by those who were utterly incredulous.

Wonderful! My uncle enjoyed during his lifetime all the glory he deserved; and he was even offered a large sum of money, by Mr. Barnum, to exhibit himself in theUnited States; while I am credibly informed by a traveler that he is to be seen in waxwork at Madame Tussaud’s!

But one care preyed upon his mind, a care which rendered him very unhappy. One fact remained inexplicable—that of the compass. For a learned man to be baffled by such an inexplicable phenomenon was very aggravating. But Heaven was merciful, and in the end my uncle was happy.

One day, while he put some minerals belonging to his collection in order, I fell upon the famous compass and examined it keenly.

For six months it had lain unnoticed and untouched.

I looked at it with curiosity, which soon became surprise. I gave a loud cry. The Professor, who was at hand, soon joined me.

“What is the matter?” he cried.

“The compass!”

“What then?”

“Why its needle points to the south and not to the north.”

“My dear boy, you must be dreaming.”

“I am not dreaming. See—the poles are changed.”

“Changed!”

My uncle put on his spectacles, examined the instrument, and leaped with joy, shaking the whole house.

A clear light fell upon our minds.

“Here it is!” he cried, as soon as he had recovered the use of his speech, “after we had once passedCapeSaknussemm, the needle of this compass pointed to the southward instead of the northward.”

“Evidently.”

“Our error is now easily explained. But to what phenomenon do we owe this alteration in the needle?”

“Nothing more simple.”

“Explain yourself, my boy. I am on thorns.”

“During the storm, upon theCentralSea, the ball of fire which made a magnet of the iron in our raft, turned our compass topsy-turvy.”

“Ah!” cried the Professor, with a loud and ringing laugh, “it was a trick of that inexplicable electricity.”

From that hour my uncle was the happiest of learned men, and I the happiest of ordinary mortals. For my pretty Virland girl, abdicating her position as ward, took her place in the house in the Königstrasse in the double quality of niece and wife.

We need scarcely mention that her uncle was the illustrious Professor Hardwigg, corresponding member of all the scientific, geographical, mineralogical, and geological societies of the five parts of the globe.

~The End of A Journey to the Center of the Earth by Jules Verne~


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