home | authors | books | about

Home -> Jules Verne -> A Journey to the Center of the Earth -> Chapter 39

A Journey to the Center of the Earth - Chapter 39

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



For another half hour we trod upon a pavement of bones. We pushed on,
impelled by our burning curiosity. What other marvels did this cavern
contain? What new treasures lay here for science to unfold? I was
prepared for any surprise, my imagination was ready for any
astonishment however astounding.

We had long lost sight of the sea shore behind the hills of bones.
The rash Professor, careless of losing his way, hurried me forward.
We advanced in silence, bathed in luminous electric fluid. By some
phenomenon which I am unable to explain, it lighted up all sides of
every object equally. Such was its diffusiveness, there being no
central point from which the light emanated, that shadows no longer
existed. You might have thought yourself under the rays of a vertical
sun in a tropical region at noonday and the height of summer. No
vapour was visible. The rocks, the distant mountains, a few isolated
clumps of forest trees in the distance, presented a weird and
wonderful aspect under these totally new conditions of a universal
diffusion of light. We were like Hoffmann's shadowless man.

After walking a mile we reached the outskirts of a vast forest, but
not one of those forests of fungi which bordered Port Grauben.

Here was the vegetation of the tertiary period in its fullest blaze
of magnificence. Tall palms, belonging to species no longer living,
splendid palmacites, firs, yews, cypress trees, thujas,
representatives of the conifers. were linked together by a tangled
network of long climbing plants. A soft carpet of moss and hepaticas
luxuriously clothed the soil. A few sparkling streams ran almost in
silence under what would have been the shade of the trees, but that
there was no shadow. On their banks grew tree-ferns similar to those
we grow in hothouses. But a remarkable feature was the total absence
of colour in all those trees, shrubs, and plants, growing without the
life-giving heat and light of the sun. Everything seemed mixed-up and
confounded in one uniform silver grey or light brown tint like that
of fading and faded leaves. Not a green leaf anywhere, and the
flowers--which were abundant enough in the tertiary period, which
first gave birth to flowers--looked like brown-paper flowers,
without colour or scent.

My uncle Liedenbrock ventured to penetrate under this colossal grove.
I followed him, not without fear. Since nature had here provided
vegetable nourishment, why should not the terrible mammals be there
too? I perceived in the broad clearings left by fallen trees, decayed
with age, leguminose plants, acerineae, rubiceae and many other eatable
shrubs, dear to ruminant animals at every period. Then I observed,
mingled together in confusion, trees of countries far apart on the
surface of the globe. The oak and the palm were growing side by side,
the Australian eucalyptus leaned against the Norwegian pine, the
birch-tree of the north mingled its foliage with New Zealand kauris.
It was enough to distract the most ingenious classifier of
terrestrial botany.

Suddenly I halted. I drew back my uncle.

The diffused light revealed the smallest object in the dense and
distant thickets. I had thought I saw--no! I did see, with my own
eyes, vast colossal forms moving amongst the trees. They were
gigantic animals; it was a herd of mastodons--not fossil remains,
but living and resembling those the bones of which were found in the
marshes of Ohio in 1801. I saw those huge elephants whose long,
flexible trunks were grouting and turning up the soil under the trees
like a legion of serpents. I could hear the crashing noise of their
long ivory tusks boring into the old decaying trunks. The boughs
cracked, and the leaves torn away by cartloads went down the
cavernous throats of the vast brutes.

So, then, the dream in which I had had a vision of the prehistoric
world, of the tertiary and post-tertiary periods, was now realised.
And there we were alone, in the bowels of the earth, at the mercy of
its wild inhabitants!

My uncle was gazing with intense and eager interest.

"Come on!" said he, seizing my arm. "Forward! forward!"

"No, I will not!" I cried. "We have no firearms. What could we do in
the midst of a herd of these four-footed giants? Come away, uncle--
come! No human being may with safety dare the anger of these
monstrous beasts."

"No human creature?" replied my uncle in a lower voice. "You are
wrong, Axel. Look, look down there! I fancy I see a living creature
similar to ourselves: it is a man!"

I looked, shaking my head incredulously. But though at first I was
unbelieving I had to yield to the evidence of my senses.

In fact, at a distance of a quarter of a mile, leaning against the
trunk of a gigantic kauri, stood a human being, the Proteus of those
subterranean regions, a new son of Neptune, watching this countless
herd of mastodons.

Immanis pecoris custos, immanior ipse. [1]

[1] "The shepherd of gigantic herds, and huger still himself."

Yes, truly, huger still himself. It was no longer a fossil being like
him whose dried remains we had easily lifted up in the field of
bones; it was a giant, able to control those monsters. In stature he
was at least twelve feet high. His head, huge and unshapely as a
buffalo's, was half hidden in the thick and tangled growth of his
unkempt hair. It most resembled the mane of the primitive elephant.
In his hand he wielded with ease an enormous bough, a staff worthy of
this shepherd of the geologic period.

We stood petrified and speechless with amazement. But he might see
us! We must fly!

"Come, do come!" I said to my uncle, who for once allowed himself to
be persuaded.

In another quarter of an hour our nimble heels had carried us beyond
the reach of this horrible monster.

And yet, now that I can reflect quietly, now that my spirit has grown
calm again, now that months have slipped by since this strange and
supernatural meeting, what am I to think? what am I to believe? I
must conclude that it was impossible that our senses had been
deceived, that our eyes did not see what we supposed they saw. No
human being lives in this subterranean world; no generation of men
dwells in those inferior caverns of the globe, unknown to and
unconnected with the inhabitants of its surface. It is absurd to
believe it!

I had rather admit that it may have been some animal whose structure
resembled the human, some ape or baboon of the early geological ages,
some protopitheca, or some mesopitheca, some early or middle ape like
that discovered by Mr. Lartet in the bone cave of Sansau. But this
creature surpassed in stature all the measurements known in modern
palaeontology. But that a man, a living man, and therefore whole
generations doubtless besides, should be buried there in the bowels
of the earth, is impossible.

However, we had left behind us the luminous forest, dumb with
astonishment, overwhelmed and struck down with a terror which
amounted to stupefaction. We kept running on for fear the horrible
monster might be on our track. It was a flight, a fall, like that
fearful pulling and dragging which is peculiar to nightmare.
Instinctively we got back to the Liedenbrock sea, and I cannot say
into what vagaries my mind would not have carried me but for a
circumstance which brought me back to practical matters.

Although I was certain that we were now treading upon a soil not
hitherto touched by our feet, I often perceived groups of rocks which
reminded me of those about Port Grauben. Besides, this seemed to
confirm the indications of the needle, and to show that we had
against our will returned to the north of the Liedenbrock sea.
Occasionally we felt quite convinced. Brooks and waterfalls were
tumbling everywhere from the projections in the rocks. I thought I
recognised the bed of surturbrand, our faithful Hansbach, and the
grotto in which I had recovered life and consciousness. Then a few
paces farther on, the arrangement of the cliffs, the appearance of an
unrecognised stream, or the strange outline of a rock, carne to throw
me again into doubt.

I communicated my doubts to my uncle. Like myself, he hesitated; he
could recognise nothing again amidst this monotonous scene.

"Evidently," said I, "we have not landed again at our original
starting point, but the storm has carried us a little higher, and if
we follow the shore we shall find Port Grauben."

"If that is the case it will be useless to continue our exploration,
and we had better return to our raft. But, Axel, are you not

"It is difficult to speak decidedly, uncle, for all these rocks are
so very much alike. Yet I think I recognise the promontory at the
foot of which Hans constructed our launch. We must be very near the
little port, if indeed this is not it," I added, examining a creek
which I thought I recognised.

"No, Axel, we should at least find our own traces and I see nothing--"

"But I do see," I cried, darting upon an object lying on the sand.

And I showed my uncle a rusty dagger which I had just picked up.

"Come," said he, "had you this weapon with you?"

"I! No, certainly! But you, perhaps--"

"Not that I am aware," said the Professor. "I have never had this
object in my possession."

"Well, this is strange!"

"No, Axel, it is very simple. The Icelanders often wear arms of this
kind. This must have belonged to Hans, and he has lost it."

I shook my head. Hans had never had an object like this in his

"Did it not belong to some preadamite warrior?" I cried, "to some
living man, contemporary with the huge cattle-driver? But no. This is
not a relic of the stone age. It is not even of the iron age. This
blade is steel--"

My uncle stopped me abruptly on my way to a dissertation which would
have taken me a long way, and said coolly:

"Be calm, Axel, and reasonable. This dagger belongs to the sixteenth
century; it is a poniard, such as gentlemen carried in their belts to
give the coup DE GRACE. Its origin is Spanish. It was never either
yours, or mine, or the hunter's, nor did it belong to any of those
human beings who may or may not inhabit this inner world. See, it was
never jagged like this by cutting men's throats; its blade is coated
with a rust neither a day, nor a year, nor a hundred years old."

The Professor was getting excited according to his wont, and was
allowing his imagination to run away with him.

"Axel, we are on the way towards the grand discovery. This blade has
been left on the strand for from one to three hundred years, and has
blunted its edge upon the rocks that fringe this subterranean sea!"

"But it has not come alone. It has not twisted itself out of shape;
some one has been here before us!

"Yes--a man has."

"And who was that man?"

"A man who has engraved his name somewhere with that dagger. That man
wanted once more to mark the way to the centre of the earth. Let us
look about: look about!"

And, wonderfully interested, we peered all along the high wall,
peeping into every fissure which might open out into a gallery.

And so we arrived at a place where the shore was much narrowed. Here
the sea came to lap the foot of the steep cliff, leaving a passage no
wider than a couple of yards. Between two boldly projecting rocks
appeared the mouth of a dark tunnel.

There, upon a granite slab, appeared two mysterious graven letters,
half eaten away by time. They were the initials of the bold and
daring traveller:

[Runic initials appear here]

"A. S.," shouted my uncle. "Arne Saknussemm! Arne Saknussemm

© Art Branch Inc. | English Dictionary