When I came to myself, I was stretched in half darkness, covered with
thick coats and blankets. My uncle was watching over me, to discover
the least sign of life. At my first sigh he took my hand; when I
opened my eyes he uttered a cry of joy.
"He lives! he lives!" he cried.
"Yes, I am still alive," I answered feebly.
"My dear nephew," said my uncle, pressing me to his breast, "you are
I was deeply touched with the tenderness of his manner as he uttered
these words, and still more with the care with which he watched over
me. But such trials were wanted to bring out the Professor's tenderer
At this moment Hans came, he saw my hand in my uncle's, and I may
safely say that there was joy in his countenance.
"GOD DAG," said he.
"How do you do, Hans? How are you? And now, uncle, tell me where we
are at the present moment?"
"Tomorrow, Axel, tomorrow. Now you are too faint and weak. I have
bandaged your head with compresses which must not be disturbed. Sleep
now, and tomorrow I will tell you all."
"But do tell me what time it is, and what day."
"It is Sunday, the 8th of August, and it is ten at night. You must
ask me no more questions until the 10th."
In truth I was very weak, and my eyes involuntarily closed. I wanted
a good night's rest; and I therefore went off to sleep, with the
knowledge that I had been four long days alone in the heart of the
Next morning, on awakening, I looked round me. My couch, made up of
all our travelling gear, was in a charming grotto, adorned with
splendid stalactites, and the soil of which was a fine sand. It was
half light. There was no torch, no lamp, yet certain mysterious
glimpses of light came from without through a narrow opening in the
grotto. I heard too a vague and indistinct noise, something like the
murmuring of waves breaking upon a shingly shore, and at times I
seemed to hear the whistling of wind.
I wondered whether I was awake, whether I dreaming, whether my brain,
crazed by my fall, was not affected by imaginary noises. Yet neither
eyes, nor ears could be so utterly deceived.
It is a ray of daylight, I thought, sliding in through this cleft in
the rock! That is indeed the murmuring of waves! That is the rustling
noise of wind. Am I quite mistaken, or have we returned to the
surface of the earth? Has my uncle given up the expedition, or is it
I was asking myself these unanswerable questions when the Professor
"Good morning, Axel," he cried cheerily. "I feel sure you are better."
"Yes, I am indeed," said I, sitting up on my couch.
"You can hardly fail to be better, for you have slept quietly. Hans
and I watched you by turns, and we have noticed you were evidently
"Indeed, I do feel a great deal better, and I will give you a proof
of that presently if you will let me have my breakfast."
"You shall eat, lad. The fever has left you. Hans rubbed your wounds
with some ointment or other of which the Icelanders keep the secret,
and they have healed marvellously. Our hunter is a splendid fellow!"
Whilst he went on talking, my uncle prepared a few provisions, which
I devoured eagerly, notwithstanding his advice to the contrary. All
the while I was overwhelming him with questions which he answered
I then learnt that my providential fall had brought me exactly to the
extremity of an almost perpendicular shaft; and as I had landed in
the midst of an accompanying torrent of stones, the least of which
would have been enough to crush me, the conclusion was that a loose
portion of the rock had come down with me. This frightful conveyance
had thus carried me into the arms of my uncle, where I fell bruised,
bleeding, and insensible.
"Truly it is wonderful that you have not been killed a hundred times
over. But, for the love of God, don't let us ever separate again, or
we many never see each other more."
"Not separate! Is the journey not over, then?" I opened a pair of
astonished eyes, which immediately called for the question:
"What is the matter, Axel?"
"I have a question to ask you. You say that I am safe and sound?"
"No doubt you are."
"And all my limbs unbroken?"
"And my head?"
"Your head, except for a few bruises, is all right; and it is on your
shoulders, where it ought to be."
"Well, I am afraid my brain is affected."
"Your mind affected!"
"Yes, I fear so. Are we again on the surface of the globe?"
"No, certainly not."
"Then I must be mad; for don't I see the light of day, and don't I
hear the wind blowing, and the sea breaking on the shore?"
"Ah! is that all?"
"Do tell me all about it."
"I can't explain the inexplicable, but you will soon see and
understand that geology has not yet learnt all it has to learn."
"Then let us go," I answered quickly.
"No, Axel; the open air might be bad for you."
"Yes; the wind is rather strong. You must not expose yourself."
"But I assure you I am perfectly well."
"A little patience, my nephew. A relapse might get us into trouble,
and we have no time to lose, for the voyage may be a long one."
"Yes, rest to-day, and to-morrow we will set sail."
"Set sail!"--and I almost leaped up.
What did it all mean? Had we a river, a lake, a sea to depend upon?
Was there a ship at our disposal in some underground harbour?
My curiosity was highly excited, my uncle vainly tried to restrain
me. When he saw that my impatience was doing me harm, he yielded.
I dressed in haste. For greater safety I wrapped myself in a blanket,
and came out of the grotto.