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Home -> Jules Verne -> A Journey to the Center of the Earth -> Chapter 2

A Journey to the Center of the Earth - Chapter 2

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



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 Konigstrasse, 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.

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