A Journey to the Center of the Earth – Day 7 of 94

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 wonder:

     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 sentence.

“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.

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