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Thus the memorable session ended. This discussion had thrown me into a fever. I left my uncle’s study dazed; I felt there was not enough air to breath in all the streets of Hamburg put together. So I decided to walk made to the banks of the Elbe.
Was I really convinced of the truth or did I just bend under the rule of Professor Lidenbrock’s? However, I must confess that I did remember being convinced, although my enthusiasm was now beginning to fade “This is all very absurd!’ I exclaimed. “No sensible man should ever entertain such a proposal. I must have had a bad dream.”
I walked along the banks of the Elbe and working my way along the port I reached the Altona road where I saw Gräuben walking gracefully back to Hamburg.
“Gräuben!” I shouted from a distance.
“Axel!” she was rather surprised to see me there. She looked at me and noticed the distress and uneasy look on face.
“What is the matter ?” she asked.
And in a few seconds she was fully informed about the position of affairs.
She listened attentively and remained silent for a few seconds.
“Axel,” she said at last. “It’ll be a wonderful journey.”
“Gräuben, are you not going to stop me from going on such an expedition?”
“No, Axel, and I would have loved to go with but this poor girl will only be in your way”
She was not afraid to join in herself and persuaded me to take part in such an expedition!
Night had fallen by the time we got home to Königstrasse. I expected to find the house quiet, but I had forgotten about the professor’s impatience. I found him shouting and rushing round amongst a crowd of porters who were busy laoding boxes in the passage.
“ Axel, where have you been ?” he shouted. “Your boxes are not packed “
“Are we really leaving?” I asked as I stood there motionless.
“Of couse, we are!”
“Day after tomorrow, crack of dawn.”
I could hear no more and I took refuge in my little room.
I could barely catch a wink that night and was called early the next morning. I decided not to open the door. But could resist the sweet voice saying of Gräuben calling me . I came out and dragged Gräuben into the professor’s study.
“Uncle, it is only the 16th of May and we have time until the end of June. What is the need to hurry?” I asked.
“If we waited until 22 June, we would arrive too late to see the shadow of Scartaris playing along the crater of Snaefells! We have to get to Copenhagen as quickly as possible and try to find some means of transport there. Go and pack your trunk.”
There was nothing more I could say. I went back up to my room.
Gräuben came with me. She immediately took charge, carefully packing into a small suitcase the things needed for my journey. Finally the last strap had been tightened round the trunk. I went downstairs again.
Throughout the day, more and more suppliers of scientific instruments, firearms, and electrical apparatus arrived. Martha was in a terrible tizzy.
Evening came. I was no longer aware of the passing of time.
“See you tomorrow morning” said my uncle. “We will depart at six sharp.”
I woke at five the next morning. My uncle was at table gobbling his breakfast. I couldn’t eat.
At half past five, there was a rattling of wheels in the street. A large
carriage arrived to take us to Altona station. It was soon piled up with our trunks.
Meanwhile my uncle was solemnly putting the reins of the house in Gräuben’s hands.
She kissed us goodbye.
“Go, dear Axel.” You are leaving a fiancée but you will come back to a wife.”
I held her briefly in my arms, then got into the carriage. She and Martha waved us a last goodbye from the front door and the two horses, galloped off towards Altona.
We had crossed the border into Holstein Province. Altona, a suburb of Hamburg, is the terminus of Kiel railway, which was to carry us to Belts.
Soon the carriage pulled up in front of the station. My uncle’s numerous packages and bulky trunks were offloaded and loaded into the luggage van. At seven o’clock, the steam-whistle blew, we were sitting opposite each other in our compartment and the locomotive moved off. We were off.
We were alone in the carriage, but did not speak. My uncle checked his pockets and travelling-bag, I noticed that that not forgotten a single item needed for this project.
Amongst other papers, there was a note addressed to the Danish consulate, signed by Mr Christiensen, who was the consul-general in Hamburg and a good friend of the professor’s, this was to pave the way to an introduction to the Governor of Iceland. I also noticed the famous document, which was carefully hidden away in a secret compartment of his portfolio.
A little later the train reached Kiel, a stone’s throw from the sea and our luaggage was transferred on to the steamship.
The streamer, Ellenora was not due to leave until after nightfall. We had nine hours to kill and so we set off to explore the town.
At half past ten the smoke rose from the Ellenora into the sky and the steamer moved rapidly over the dark waters of the Great Belt.
It was a dark night; there was a strong breeze and a the sea was very rough sea, we could see nothing except some occasional fires on shore and a lighthouse. At seven in
the morning reached Korsor, a little town in the west coast of New Zealand. We were then transferred to another train. It took three hours to reach the capital of Denmark. My unclehadn’t shut his eyes all night. Finally we reached Copenhagen at Ten in the morning. We then took a cab to the Phoenix Hotel in Breda Gate.
As soon as we reached the hotel, my uncle dragged me out of my room to go to the Museum of Northern Antiquities. He wanted to hand over the letter of recommendation to the director of this establishment, a friend of the Danish consul in Hamburg. The director had been informed that we were tourists bound for Iceland, and he did all he could to assist us.
We visited the quays with the object of looking for a next ship to sail. A little Danish schooner, the Valkyrie, was due to sail for Reykjavik on 2 June. The captain, a Mr Bjarne, was on board. He told us to be on board by 7 a.m. on Tuesday. We then thanked Mr. Thomson for all his help and returned to the Phoenix.
“Now let’s eat some breakfast and and then we can visit the town.”
We first went to Kongens-nye-Torw, then we had a scrumptous breakfast at a french restaurant run by a French chef called Vincent.
Then I took a childish pleasure in exploring the town, with my uncle. But he took notice of nothing ,not even the Royal Palace, nor the pretty seventeenth-century bridge across the canal in front of the museum. Except when we arrived at the Vor Frelsers Kirke. There was not special about the church but its spire had attracted Professor’s attention.
“Let us go up there,” he said.
“But I may feel dizzy,” I said
‘All the more reason: we have to get used to it.’
I had no choice but to obey him. A caretaker who lived across the on the street gave us the key, and our ascent began. My uncle went first, and I followed him slowly for I was sure to feel dizzy.
At first everything went well. But after 150 spiral steps the air suddenly hit me in the face: we had arrived on the platform. This was where the open-air staircase began, protected only by a thin rail, the steps were now getting narrower, and seemed to up into infinity space.
I started feeling dizzy. “ I can’t do this,” I cried
‘Of course you can! You are not a coward? Start climbing!’ my uncle said in a very stern voice.
The open air made my head turn. My legs began to give way. Soon I was crawling on my knees, then on my stomach. I closed my eyes and at last we reached the apex.
“Open your eyes, Alex,” he shouted. “You need take a lesson in abysses”
I opened my eyes. Above my head the clouds drifted past. I could see greenery on one side and the sparkling sea on the other side.
My first lesson in dizziness lasted an hour. When at last I was allowed to come down and set foot again on the firm pavements of the streets, I was aching all over.
“We shall do this again tomorrow,” said the Professor.
And thus I was forced to undergo this anti-vertigo exercise for five days in succession!
The day for our departure had arrived. The day before we left, Mr. Thomson visited us and gave us letters of recommendation for Count Trampe, the governor of Iceland, Mr Petursson, the bishop’s suffragan, and Mr Finsen, the mayor of Reykjavik.
On 2nd at six in the evening we boarded the Valkyrie. And soon the schooner made full sail through the straits.
“Is the wind favorable?” enquired my uncle.
“Perfect,” replied Captain Bjarne.
“How long will the journey take?” enquired my uncle.
“Roughly about ten days, if we don’t have too many nor’wester passing the Faroes.’
The crossing did not involve any special incident.But my uncle was ill all thought the voyage. As a result, he was unable to converse with the Captian about the subject of Snaefell. He had to put off all his questions until he arrived, and spent all his time lying in the cabin. A few days later the Valkyrie finally dropped its anchor in Faxa Bay, a little before Reykjavik.The professor finally came out of his cabin, a little weak, but still enthusiastic and with a gleam of satisfaction in his eye.
As soon as the schooner was anchored, my uncle rushed out. But before leaving the deck, he dragged me forward; pointing his finger at a distant mountain with two points on top, a double cone covered with perpetual snows.
“Snaefell,” he shounted with joy and made a gesture indicating total secrecy, and then climbed down into the waiting boat. Soon we were treading the soil of Iceland itself.
The first we met was the governor of the island, Baron Trampe himself. The professor presented the governor with the letters from Copenhagen and
launched into a short conversation in Danish.
My uncle also received a warm welcome from the mayor, Mr Finsen and Mr Fridriksson.
Mr Fridriksson was a good natured gentleman who taught natural scienecs at Reykjavik School. This humble scholar spoke only Icelandic and Latin and was in fact the only person I could converse with during my entire stay in Iceland.
He even offered us two rooms in his house to stay in.
“Axel,” said my uncle, “there is no time to lose, I am going to the library to look for some manuscript of Saknussemm.
“Okay, I will explore the town while you explore the library’” I said stepped out to roam the streets of Rejkiavik.
After a good walk I returned to Mr Fridriksson’s house: my uncle was
already there, together with his host at the dinner table. He devoured his portion voraciously.
Mr Fridriksson asked him if he has any success at the library.
“Your library is deserted and has nothing but a few tattered books” my uncle replied.
“If you will tell me what books you are looking for, perhaps I may be of some assistance to you.”
My uncle hesitated at first and then decided to speak.
“ Monsieur Fridrikssen, I wish to know if you have any works of of a certain Arne Saknussemm.”
“Arne Saknussemm! Are you referring to that scholar of the sixteenth
Century, the great alchemist,” asked Mr. Fridrikssen.
“Yes, I am!“ replied my uncle.
“His works do not exist, in Iceland or anywhere else,” he cried.
“What, why is that?” my uncle asked in astonishment.
Arne Saknussemm was persecuted for heresy, and his works were burned in 1573 by the hand of the executioner in Copenhagen.”
“Yes, this explains everything,” said my uncle. “ Now I understand why Saknussemm had to conceal the secret in an incomprehensible word-puzzle”
“What secret?” asked Mr Fridriksson keenly
My uncle stammered: “No, nothing.”
Mr Fridriksson, was kind enough not to pursue the topic any more.
“I hope that you will not leave our island without exploring its mineral riches?” he told my uncle.
“There are many mountains, glaciers, volcanoes there are to be studied, and explored! Look at that mountain on the horizon. It is called Snaefell.”
“It is an unusual volcano, whose crater is rarely visited. It is extinct for the last five hundred years,” he continued.
‘Well!’ replied my uncle, frantically tapping his legs and trying really hard so as not to jump into the air. “I will begin my geological studies with this Snyfil. . . Feless. . . what is it called?”
“Snaefell,” repeated Mr Fridriksson.
My uncle was trying really hard to conceal his excitement. “Yes,’ said my uncle, we will try and climb this Snaefell, perhaps even try and study its crater!”
“It seems a very good idea, Professor Lidenbrock, to begin with this volcano. But you will have to go by land as we do not possess any small boat in Reykjavik.”
“But I can offer you a guide, who is not only reliable and also very intelligent and speaks perfect Danish,” cried Mr. Fridriksson.
“Very well then, can I meet him today?” asked my uncle.
“I am afraid, he will only be here tomorrow.”
“Tomorrow then,” my uncle replied with a sigh.
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