A Journey to the Interior of the Earth
"These two writings are not by the same hand," he said; "the cipher is of later date than
the book, an undoubted proof of which I see in a moment. The first letter is a double m, a
letter which is not to be found in Turlleson's book, and which was only added to the
alphabet in the fourteenth century. Therefore there are two hundred years between the
manuscript and the document."
I admitted that this was a strictly logical conclusion.
"I am therefore led to imagine," continued my uncle, "that some possessor of this book
wrote these mysterious letters. But who was that possessor? Is his name nowhere to be
found in the manuscript?"
My uncle raised his spectacles, took up a strong lens, and carefully examined the blank
pages of the book. On the front of the second, the title-page, he noticed a sort of stain
which looked like an ink blot. But in looking at it very closely he thought he could
distinguish some half-effaced letters. My uncle at once fastened upon this as the centre of
interest, and he laboured at that blot, until by the help of his microscope he ended by
making out the following Runic characters which he read without difficulty.
"Arne Saknussemm!" he cried in triumph. "Why that is the name of another Icelander, a
savant of the sixteenth century, a celebrated alchemist!"
I gazed at my uncle with satisfactory admiration.
"Those alchemists," he resumed, "Avicenna, Bacon, Lully, Paracelsus, were the real and
only savants of their time. They made discoveries at which we are astonished. Has not
this Saknussemm concealed under his cryptogram some surprising invention? It is so; it
must be so!"
The Professor's imagination took fire at this hypothesis.
"No doubt," I ventured to reply, "but what interest would he have in thus hiding so
marvellous a discovery?"
"Why? Why? How can I tell? Did not Galileo do the same by Saturn? We shall see. I will
get at the secret of this document, and I will neither sleep nor eat until I have found it
My comment on this was a half-suppressed "Oh!"
"Nor you either, Axel," he added.
"The deuce!" said I to myself; "then it is lucky I have eaten two dinners to-day!"
"First of all we must find out the key to this cipher; that cannot be difficult."