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A Journey to the Interior of the Earth

The Worst Peril Of All
It must be confessed that hitherto things had not gone on so badly, and that I had small
reason to complain. If our difficulties became no worse, we might hope to reach our end.
And to what a height of scientific glory we should then attain! I had become quite a
Liedenbrock in my reasonings; seriously I had. But would this state of things last in the
strange place we had come to? Perhaps it might.
For several days steeper inclines, some even frightfully near to the perpendicular, brought
us deeper and deeper into the mass of the interior of the earth. Some days we advanced
nearer to the centre by a league and a half, or nearly two leagues. These were perilous
descents, in which the skill and marvellous coolness of Hans were invaluable to us. That
unimpassioned Icelander devoted himself with incomprehensible deliberation; and,
thanks to him, we crossed many a dangerous spot which we should never have cleared
alone.
But his habit of silence gained upon him day by day, and was infecting us. External
objects produce decided effects upon the brain. A man shut up between four walls soon
loses the power to associate words and ideas together. How many prisoners in solitary
confinement become idiots, if not mad, for want of exercise for the thinking faculty!
During the fortnight following our last conversation, no incident occurred worthy of
being recorded. But I have good reason for remembering one very serious event which
took place at this time, and of which I could scarcely now forget the smallest details.
By the 7th of August our successive descents had brought us to a depth of thirty leagues;
that is, that for a space of thirty leagues there were over our heads solid beds of rock,
ocean, continents, and towns. We must have been two hundred leagues from Iceland.
On that day the tunnel went down a gentle slope. I was ahead of the others. My uncle was
carrying one of Ruhmkorff's lamps and I the. other. I was examining the beds of granite.
Suddenly turning round I observed that I was alone.
Well, well, I thought; I have been going too fast, or Hans and my uncle have stopped on
the way. Come, this won't do; I must join them. Fortunately there is not much of an
ascent.
I retraced my steps. I walked for a quarter of an hour. I gazed into the darkness. I shouted.
No reply: my voice was lost in the midst of the cavernous echoes which alone replied to
my call.
I began to feel uneasy. A shudder ran through me.
 
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