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Home -> Jules Verne -> A Journey to the Center of the Earth -> Chapter 10

A Journey to the Center of the Earth - Chapter 10

1. Preface

2. Chapter 1

3. Chapter 2

4. Chapter 3

5. Chapter 4

6. Chapter 5

7. Chapter 6

8. Chapter 7

9. Chapter 8

10. Chapter 9

11. Chapter 10

12. Chapter 11

13. Chapter 12

14. Chapter 13

15. Chapter 14

16. Chapter 15

17. Chapter 16

18. Chapter 17

19. Chapter 18

20. Chapter 19

21. Chapter 20

22. Chapter 21

23. Chapter 22

24. Chapter 23

25. Chapter 24

26. Chapter 25

27. Chapter 26

28. Chapter 27

29. Chapter 28

30. Chapter 29

31. Chapter 30

32. Chapter 31

33. Chapter 32

34. Chapter 33

35. Chapter 34

36. Chapter 35

37. Chapter 36

38. Chapter 37

39. Chapter 38

40. Chapter 39

41. Chapter 40

42. Chapter 41

43. Chapter 42

44. Chapter 43

45. Chapter 44

46. Chapter 45



Dinner was ready. Professor Liedenbrock devoured his portion
voraciously, for his compulsory fast on board had converted his
stomach into a vast unfathomable gulf. There was nothing remarkable
in the meal itself; but the hospitality of our host, more Danish than
Icelandic, reminded me of the heroes of old. It was evident that we
were more at home than he was himself.

The conversation was carried on in the vernacular tongue, which my
uncle mixed with German and M. Fridrikssen with Latin for my benefit.
It turned upon scientific questions as befits philosophers; but
Professor Liedenbrock was excessively reserved, and at every sentence
spoke to me with his eyes, enjoining the most absolute silence upon
our plans.

In the first place M. Fridrikssen wanted to know what success my
uncle had had at the library.

"Your library! why there is nothing but a few tattered books upon
almost deserted shelves."

"Indeed!" replied M. Fridrikssen, "why we possess eight thousand
volumes, many of them valuable and scarce, works in the old
Scandinavian language, and we have all the novelties that Copenhagen
sends us every year."

"Where do you keep your eight thousand volumes? For my part--"

"Oh, M. Liedenbrock, they are all over the country. In this icy
region we are fond of study. There is not a farmer nor a fisherman
that cannot read and does not read. Our principle is, that books,
instead of growing mouldy behind an iron grating, should be worn out
under the eyes of many readers. Therefore, these volumes are passed
from one to another, read over and over, referred to again and again;
and it often happens that they find their way back to their shelves
only after an absence of a year or two."

"And in the meantime," said my uncle rather spitefully, "strangers--"

"Well, what would you have? Foreigners have their libraries at home,
and the first essential for labouring people is that they should be
educated. I repeat to you the love of reading runs in Icelandic
blood. In 1816 we founded a prosperous literary society; learned
strangers think themselves honoured in becoming members of it. It
publishes books which educate our fellow-countrymen, and do the
country great service. If you will consent to be a corresponding
member, Herr Liedenbrock, you will be giving us great pleasure."

My uncle, who had already joined about a hundred learned societies,
accepted with a grace which evidently touched M. Fridrikssen.

"Now," said he, "will you be kind enough to tell me what books you
hoped to find in our library and I may perhaps enable you to consult

My uncle's eyes and mine met. He hesitated. This direct question went
to the root of the matter. But after a moment's reflection he decided
on speaking.

"Monsieur Fridrikssen, I wished to know if amongst your ancient books
you possessed any of the works of Arne Saknussemm?"

"Arne Saknussemm!" replied the Rejkiavik professor. "You mean that
learned sixteenth century savant, a naturalist, a chemist, and a

"Just so!"

"One of the glories of Icelandic literature and science?"

"That's the man."

"An illustrious man anywhere!"

"Quite so."

"And whose courage was equal to his genius!"

"I see that you know him well."

My uncle was bathed in delight at hearing his hero thus described. He
feasted his eyes upon M. Fridrikssen's face.

"Well," he cried, "where are his works?"

"His works, we have them not."

"What--not in Iceland?"

"They are neither in Iceland nor anywhere else."

"Why is that?"

"Because Arne Saknussemm was persecuted for heresy, and in 1573 his
books were burned by the hands of the common hangman."

"Very good! Excellent!" cried my uncle, to the great scandal of the
professor of natural history.

"What!" he cried.

"Yes, yes; now it is all clear, now it is all unravelled; and I see
why Saknussemm, put into the Index Expurgatorius, and compelled to
hide the discoveries made by his genius, was obliged to bury in an
incomprehensible cryptogram the secret--"

"What secret?" asked M. Fridrikssen, starting.

"Oh, just a secret which--" my uncle stammered.

"Have you some private document in your possession?" asked our host.

"No; I was only supposing a case."

"Oh, very well," answered M. Fridrikssen, who was kind enough not to
pursue the subject when he had noticed the embarrassment of his
friend. "I hope you will not leave our island until you have seen
some of its mineralogical wealth."

"Certainly," replied my uncle; "but I am rather late; or have not
others been here before me?"

"Yes, Herr Liedenbrock; the labours of MM. Olafsen and Povelsen,
pursued by order of the king, the researches of Troil the scientific
mission of MM. Gaimard and Robert on the French corvette LA
RECHERCHE, [1] and lately the observations of scientific men who
came in the REINE HORTENSE, have added materially to our knowledge
of Iceland. But I assure you there is plenty left."

"Do you think so?" said my uncle, pretending to look very modest, and
trying to hide the curiosity was flashing out of his eyes.

"Oh, yes; how many mountains, glaciers, and volcanoes there are to
study, which are as yet but imperfectly known! Then, without going
any further, that mountain in the horizon. That is Snaefell."

"Ah!" said my uncle, as coolly as he was able, "is that Snaefell?"

"Yes; one of the most curious volcanoes, and the crater of which has
scarcely ever been visited."

"Is it extinct?"

"Oh, yes; more than five hundred years."

"Well," replied my uncle, who was frantically locking his legs
together to keep himself from jumping up in the air, "that is where I
mean to begin my geological studies, there on that Seffel--Fessel--
what do you call it?"

"Snaefell," replied the excellent M. Fridrikssen.

This part of the conversation was in Latin; I had understood every
word of it, and I could hardly conceal my amusement at seeing my
uncle trying to keep down the excitement and satisfaction which were
brimming over in every limb and every feature. He tried hard to put
on an innocent little expression of simplicity; but it looked like a
diabolical grin.

[1] RECHERCHE was sent out in 1835 by Admiral Duperre to learn the
fate of the lost expedition of M. de Blosseville in the LILLOISE
which has never been heard of.

"Yes," said he, "your words decide me. We will try to scale that
Snaefell; perhaps even we may pursue our studies in its crater!"

"I am very sorry," said M. Fridrikssen, "that my engagements will not
allow me to absent myself, or I would have accompanied you myself
with both pleasure and profit."

"Oh, no, no!" replied my uncle with great animation, "we would not
disturb any one for the world, M. Fridrikssen. Still, I thank you
with all my heart: the company of such a talented man would have been
very serviceable, but the duties of your profession--"

I am glad to think that our host, in the innocence of his Icelandic
soul, was blind to the transparent artifices of my uncle.

"I very much approve of your beginning with that volcano, M.
Liedenbrock. You will gather a harvest of interesting observations.
But, tell me, how do you expect to get to the peninsula of Snaefell?"

"By sea, crossing the bay. That's the most direct way."

"No doubt; but it is impossible."

"Why? "

"Because we don't possess a single boat at Rejkiavik."

"You don't mean to say so?"

"You will have to go by land, following the shore. It will be longer,
but more interesting."

"Very well, then; and now I shall have to see about a guide."

"I have one to offer you."

"A safe, intelligent man."

"Yes; an inhabitant of that peninsula He is an eiderdown hunter, and
very clever. He speaks Danish perfectly."

"When can I see him?"

"To-morrow, if you like."

"Why not to-day?"

"Because he won't be here till to-morrow."

"To-morrow, then," added my uncle with a sigh.

This momentous conversation ended in a few minutes with warm
acknowledgments paid by the German to the Icelandic Professor. At
this dinner my uncle had just elicited important facts, amongst
others, the history of Saknussemm, the reason of the mysterious
document, that his host would not accompany him in his expedition,
and that the very next day a guide would be waiting upon him.

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