A Journey to the Center of the Earth – Day 75 of 94

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A fresh noise is heard! Surely it is the sea breaking upon the rocks! But then . . . .

Chapter XXXVI: Calm Philosophic Discussions

Here I end what I may call my log, happily saved from the wreck, and I resume my narrative as before.

What happened when the raft was dashed upon the rocks is more than I can tell. I felt myself hurled into the waves; and if I escaped from death, and if my body was not torn over the sharp edges of the rocks, it was because the powerful arm of Hans came to my rescue.

The brave Icelander carried me out of the reach of the waves, over a burning sand where I found myself by the side of my uncle.

Then he returned to the rocks, against which the furious waves were beating, to save what he could. I was unable to speak. I was shattered with fatigue and excitement; I wanted a whole hour to recover even a little.

But a deluge of rain was still falling, though with that violence which generally denotes the near cessation of a storm. A few overhanging rocks afforded us some shelter from the storm. Hans prepared some food, which I could not touch; and each of us, exhausted with three sleepless nights, fell into a broken and painful sleep.

The next day the weather was splendid. The sky and the sea had sunk into sudden repose. Every trace of the awful storm had disappeared. The exhilarating voice of the Professor fell upon my ears as I awoke; he was ominously cheerful.

“Well, my boy,” he cried, “have you slept well?”

Would not any one have thought that we were still in our cheerful little house on the Königstrasse and that I was only just coming down to breakfast, and that I was to be married to Gräuben that day?

Alas! if the tempest had but sent the raft a little more east, we should have passed under Germany, under my beloved town of Hamburg, under the very street where dwelt all that I loved most in the world. Then only forty leagues would have separated us! But they were forty leagues perpendicular of solid granite wall, and in reality we were a thousand leagues asunder!

All these painful reflections rapidly crossed my mind before I could answer my uncle’s question.

“Well, now,” he repeated, “won’t you tell me how you have slept?”

“Oh, very well,” I said. “I am only a little knocked up, but I shall soon be better.”

“Oh,” says my uncle, “that’s nothing to signify. You are only a little bit tired.”

“But you, uncle, you seem in very good spirits this morning.”

“Delighted, my boy, delighted. We have got there.”

“To our journey’s end?”

“No; but we have got to the end of that endless sea. Now we shall go by land, and really begin to go down! down! down!”

“But, my dear uncle, do let me ask you one question.”

“Of course, Axel.”

“How about returning?”

“Returning? Why, you are talking about the return before the arrival.”

“No, I only want to know how that is to be managed.”

“In the simplest way possible. When we have reached the centre of the globe, either we shall find some new way to get back, or we shall come back like decent folks the way we came. I feel pleased at the thought that it is sure not to be shut against us.”

“But then we shall have to refit the raft.”

“Of course.”

“Then, as to provisions, have we enough to last?”

“Yes; to be sure we have. Hans is a clever fellow, and I am sure he must have saved a large part of our cargo. But still let us go and make sure.”

We left this grotto which lay open to every wind. At the same time I cherished a trembling hope which was a fear as well. It seemed to me impossible that the terrible wreck of the raft should not have destroyed everything on board. On my arrival on the shore I found Hans surrounded by an assemblage of articles all arranged in good order. My uncle shook hands with him with a lively gratitude. This man, with almost superhuman devotion, had been at work all the while that we were asleep, and had saved the most precious of the articles at the risk of his life.

Not that we had suffered no losses. For instance, our firearms; but we might do without them. Our stock of powder had remained uninjured after having risked blowing up during the storm.

“Well,” cried the Professor, “as we have no guns we cannot hunt, that’s all.”

“Yes, but how about the instruments?”

“Here is the aneroid, the most useful of all, and for which I would have given all the others. By means of it I can calculate the depth and know when we have reached the centre; without it we might very likely go beyond, and come out at the antipodes!”

Such high spirits as these were rather too strong.

“But where is the compass? I asked.

“Here it is, upon this rock, in perfect condition, as well as the thermometers and the chronometer. The hunter is a splendid fellow.”

There was no denying it. We had all our instruments. As for tools and appliances, there they all lay on the ground — ladders, ropes, picks, spades, etc.

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