A Journey to the Interior of the Earth
understood between horses and farriers, and immediately a tall and ugly hag appeared
from the hut. She must have been six feet at the least. I was in great alarm lest she should
treat me to the Icelandic kiss; but there was no occasion to fear, nor did she do the
honours at all too gracefully.
The visitors' room seemed to me the worst in the whole cabin. It was close, dirty, and evil
smelling. But we had to be content. The rector did not to go in for antique hospitality.
Very far from it. Before the day was over I saw that we had to do with a blacksmith, a
fisherman, a hunter, a joiner, but not at all with a minister of the Gospel. To be sure, it
was a week-day; perhaps on a Sunday he made amends.
I don't mean to say anything against these poor priests, who after all are very wretched.
They receive from the Danish Government a ridiculously small pittance, and they get
from the parish the fourth part of the tithe, which does not come to sixty marks a year
(about 4 pounds). Hence the necessity to work for their livelihood; but after fishing,
hunting, and shoeing horses for any length of time, one soon gets into the ways and
manners of fishermen, hunters, and farriers, and other rather rude and uncultivated
people; and that evening I found out that temperance was not among the virtues that
distinguished my host.
My uncle soon discovered what sort of a man he had to do with; instead of a good and
learned man he found a rude and coarse peasant. He therefore resolved to commence the
grand expedition at once, and to leave this inhospitable parsonage. He cared nothing
about fatigue, and resolved to spend some days upon the mountain.
The preparations for our departure were therefore made the very day after our arrival at
Stapi. Hans hired the services of three Icelanders to do the duty of the horses in the
transport of the burdens; but as soon as we had arrived at the crater these natives were to
turn back and leave us to our own devices. This was to be clearly understood.
My uncle now took the opportunity to explain to Hans that it was his intention to explore
the interior of the volcano to its farthest limits.
Hans merely nodded. There or elsewhere, down in the bowels of the earth, or anywhere
on the surface, all was alike to him. For my own part the incidents of the journey had
hitherto kept me amused, and made me forgetful of coming evils; but now my fears again
were beginning to get the better of me. But what could I do? The place to resist the
Professor would have been Hamburg, not the foot of Snaefell.
One thought, above all others, harassed and alarmed me; it was one calculated to shake
firmer nerves than mine.
Now, thought I, here we are, about to climb Snaefell. Very good. We will explore the
crater. Very good, too, others have done as much without dying for it. But that is not all.
If there is a way to penetrate into the very bowels of the island, if that ill-advised
Saknussemm has told a true tale, we shall lose our way amidst the deep subterranean