A Journey to the Interior of the Earth
This grave, phlegmatic, and silent individual was called Hans Bjelke; and he came
recommended by M. Fridrikssen. He was our future guide. His manners were a singular
contrast with my uncle's.
Nevertheless, they soon came to understand each other. Neither looked at the amount of
the payment: the one was ready to accept whatever was offered; the other was ready to
give whatever was demanded. Never was bargain more readily concluded.
The result of the treaty was, that Hans engaged on his part to conduct us to the village of
Stapi, on the south shore of the Snaefell peninsula, at the very foot of the volcano. By
land this would be about twenty-two miles, to be done, said my uncle, in two days.
But when he learnt that the Danish mile was 24,000 feet long, he was obliged to modify
his calculations and allow seven or eight days for the march.
Four horses were to be placed at our disposal--two to carry him and me, two for the
baggage. Hams, as was his custom, would go on foot. He knew all that part of the coast
perfectly, and promised to take us the shortest way.
His engagement was not to terminate with our arrival at Stapi; he was to continue in my
uncle's service for the whole period of his scientific researches, for the remuneration of
three rixdales a week (about twelve shillings), but it was an express article of the
covenant that his wages should be counted out to him every Saturday at six o'clock in the
evening, which, according to him, was one indispensable part of the engagement.
The start was fixed for the 16th of June. My uncle wanted to pay the hunter a portion in
advance, but he refused with one word:
"EFTER," said he.
"After," said the Professor for my edification.
The treaty concluded, Hans silently withdrew.
"A famous fellow," cried my uncle; "but he little thinks of the marvellous part he has to
play in the future."
"So he is to go with us as far as--"
"As far as the centre of the earth, Axel."
Forty-eight hours were left before our departure; to my great regret I had to employ them
in preparations; for all our ingenuity was required to pack every article to the best
advantage; instruments here, arms there, tools in this package, provisions in that: four sets
of packages in all.