A Journey to the Interior of the Earth
volcanic energy underneath. This seemed to justify my fears: But I fell from the height of
my new-born hopes when my uncle said:
"You see all these volumes of steam, Axel; well, they demonstrate that we have nothing
to fear from the fury of a volcanic eruption."
"Am I to believe that?" I cried.
"Understand this clearly," added the Professor. "At the approach of an eruption these jets
would redouble their activity, but disappear altogether during the period of the eruption.
For the elastic fluids, being no longer under pressure, go off by way of the crater instead
of escaping by their usual passages through the fissures in the soil. Therefore, if these
vapours remain in their usual condition, if they display no augmentation of force, and if
you add to this the observation that the wind and rain are not ceasing and being replaced
by a still and heavy atmosphere, then you may affirm that no eruption is preparing."
'No more; that is sufficient. When science has uttered her voice, let babblers hold their
I returned to the parsonage, very crestfallen. My uncle had beaten me with the weapons
of science. Still I had one hope left, and this was, that when we had reached the bottom of
the crater it would be impossible, for want of a passage, to go deeper, in spite of all the
Saknussemm's in Iceland.
I spent that whole night in one constant nightmare; in the heart of a volcano, and from the
deepest depths of the earth I saw myself tossed up amongst the interplanetary spaces
under the form of an eruptive rock.
The next day, June 23, Hans was awaiting us with his companions carrying provisions,
tools, and instruments; two iron pointed sticks, two rifles, and two shot belts were for my
uncle and myself. Hans, as a cautious man, had added to our luggage a leathern bottle full
of water, which, with that in our flasks, would ensure us a supply of water for eight days.
It was nine in the morning. The priest and his tall Megaera were awaiting us at the door.
We supposed they were standing there to bid us a kind farewell. But the farewell was put
in the unexpected form of a heavy bill, in which everything was charged, even to the very
air we breathed in the pastoral house, infected as it was. This worthy couple were
fleecing us just as a Swiss innkeeper might have done, and estimated their imperfect
hospitality at the highest price.
My uncle paid without a remark: a man who is starting for the centre of the earth need not
be particular about a few rix dollars.
This point being settled, Hans gave the signal, and we soon left Stapi behind us.