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A Journey to the Interior of the Earth

Geological Studies In Situ
Next day, Tuesday, June 30, at 6 a.m., the descent began again.
We were still following the gallery of lava, a real natural staircase, and as gently sloping
as those inclined planes which in some old houses are still found instead of flights of
steps. And so we went on until 12.17, the, precise moment when we overtook Hans, who
had stopped.
"Ah! here we are," exclaimed my uncle, "at the very end of the chimney."
I looked around me. We were standing at the intersection of two roads, both dark and
narrow. Which were we to take? This was a difficulty.
Still my uncle refused to admit an appearance of hesitation, either before me or the guide;
he pointed out the Eastern tunnel, and we were soon all three in it.
Besides there would have been interminable hesitation before this choice of roads; for
since there was no indication whatever to guide our choice, we were obliged to trust to
chance.
The slope of this gallery was scarcely perceptible, and its sections very unequal.
Sometimes we passed a series of arches succeeding each other like the majestic arcades
of a gothic cathedral. Here the architects of the middle ages might have found studies for
every form of the sacred art which sprang from the development of the pointed arch. A
mile farther we had to bow or heads under corniced elliptic arches in the romanesque
style; and massive pillars standing out from the wall bent under the spring of the vault
that rested heavily upon them. In other places this magnificence gave way to narrow
channels between low structures which looked like beaver's huts, and we had to creep
along through extremely narrow passages.
The heat was perfectly bearable. Involuntarily I began to think of its heat when the lava
thrown out by Snaefell was boiling and working through this now silent road. I imagined
the torrents of fire hurled back at every angle in the gallery, and the accumulation of
intensely heated vapours in the midst of this confined channel.
I only hope, thought I, that this so-called extinct volcano won't take a fancy in his old age
to begin his sports again!
I abstained from communicating these fears to Professor Liedenbrock. He would never
have understood them at all. He had but one idea-- forward! He walked, he slid, he
scrambled, he tumbled, with a persistency which one could not but admire.
By six in the evening, after a not very fatiguing walk, we had gone two leagues south, but
scarcely a quarter of a mile down.
 
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