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The Western Gallery A New Route

From: A Journey To The Centre Of The Earth

Our descent was now resumed by means of the second gallery. Hans took up
his post in front as usual. We had not gone more than a hundred yards
when the Professor carefully examined the walls.

"This is the primitive formation we are on the right road onwards is
our hope!"

When the whole earth got cool in the first hours of the world's morning,
the diminution of the volume of the earth produced a state of
dislocation in its upper crust, followed by ruptures, crevasses and
fissures. The passage was a fissure of this kind, through which, ages
ago, had flowed the eruptive granite. The thousand windings and turnings
formed an inextricable labyrinth through the ancient soil.

As we descended, successions of layers composing the primitive soil
appeared with the utmost fidelity of detail. Geological science
considers this primitive soil as the base of the mineral crust, and it
has recognized that it is composed of three different strata or layers,
all resting on the immovable rock known as granite.

No mineralogists had even found themselves placed in such a marvelous
position to study nature in all her real and naked beauty. The sounding
rod, a mere machine, could not bring to the surface of the earth the
objects of value for the study of its internal structure, which we were
about to see with our own eyes, to touch with our own hands.

Remember that I am writing this after the journey.

Across the streak of the rocks, colored by beautiful green tints, wound
metallic threads of copper, of manganese, with traces of platinum and
gold. I could not help gazing at these riches buried in the entrails of
Mother Earth, and of which no man would have the enjoyment to the end of
time! These treasures mighty and inexhaustible, were buried in the
morning of the earth's history, at such awful depths, that no crowbar or
pickax will ever drag them from their tomb!

The light of our Ruhmkorff's coil, increased tenfold by the myriad of
prismatic masses of rock, sent its jets of fire in every direction, and
I could fancy myself traveling through a huge hollow diamond, the rays
of which produced myriads of extraordinary effects.

Towards six o'clock, this festival of light began sensibly and visibly
to decrease, and soon almost ceased. The sides of the gallery assumed a
crystallized tint, with a somber hue; white mica began to commingle more
freely with feldspar and quartz, to form what may be called the true
rock the stone which is hard above all, that supports, without being
crushed, the four stories of the earth's soil.

We were walled by an immense prison of granite!

It was now eight o'clock, and still there was no sign of water. The
sufferings I endured were horrible. My uncle now kept at the head of our
little column. Nothing could induce him to stop. I, meanwhile, had but
one real thought. My ear was keenly on the watch to catch the sound of a
spring. But no pleasant sound of falling water fell upon my listening

But at last the time came when my limbs refused to carry me longer. I
contended heroically against the terrible tortures I endured, because I
did not wish to compel my uncle to halt. To him I knew this would be the
last fatal stroke.

Suddenly I felt a deadly faintness come over me. My eyes could no longer
see; my knees shook. I gave one despairing cry and fell!

"Help, help, I am dying!"

My uncle turned and slowly retraced his steps. He looked at me with
folded arms, and then allowed one sentence to escape, in hollow accents,
from his lips:

"All is over."

The last thing I saw was a face fearfully distorted with pain and
sorrow; and then my eyes closed.

When I again opened them, I saw my companions lying near me, motionless,
wrapped in their huge traveling rugs. Were they asleep or dead? For
myself, sleep was wholly out of the question. My fainting fit over, I
was wakeful as the lark. I suffered too much for sleep to visit my
eyelids the more, that I thought myself sick unto death dying. The
last words spoken by my uncle seemed to be buzzing in my ears all is
over! And it was probable that he was right. In the state of prostration
to which I was reduced, it was madness to think of ever again seeing the
light of day.

Above were miles upon miles of the earth's crust. As I thought of it, I
could fancy the whole weight resting on my shoulders. I was crushed,
annihilated! and exhausted myself in vain attempts to turn in my granite

Hours upon hours passed away. A profound and terrible silence reigned
around us a silence of the tomb. Nothing could make itself heard
through these gigantic walls of granite. The very thought was

Presently, despite my apathy, despite the kind of deadly calm into which
I was cast, something aroused me. It was a slight but peculiar noise.
While I was watching intently, I observed that the tunnel was becoming
dark. Then gazing through the dim light that remained, I thought I saw
the Icelander taking his departure, lamp in hand.

Why had he acted thus? Did Hans the guide mean to abandon us? My uncle
lay fast asleep or dead. I tried to cry out, and arouse him. My voice,
feebly issuing from my parched and fevered lips, found no echo in that
fearful place. My throat was dry, my tongue stuck to the roof of my
mouth. The obscurity had by this time become intense, and at last even
the faint sound of the guide's footsteps was lost in the blank distance.
My soul seemed filled with anguish, and death appeared welcome, only let
it come quickly.

"Hans is leaving us," I cried. "Hans Hans, if you are a man, come

These words were spoken to myself. They could not be heard aloud.
Nevertheless, after the first few moments of terror were over, I was
ashamed of my suspicions against a man who hitherto had behaved so
admirably. Nothing in his conduct or character justified suspicion.
Moreover, a moment's reflection reassured me. His departure could not be
a flight. Instead of ascending the gallery, he was going deeper down
into the gulf. Had he had any bad design, his way would have been

This reasoning calmed me a little and I began to hope!

The good, and peaceful, and imperturbable Hans would certainly not have
arisen from his sleep without some serious and grave motive. Was he bent
on a voyage of discovery? During the deep, still silence of the night
had he at last heard that sweet murmur about which we were all so

Next: Water Where Is It? A Bitter Disappointment

Previous: The Wrong Road!

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