A JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH

A JOURNEY TO THE CENTER OF THE EARTH
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第23章 We Reach Mount Sneffels(1)

STAPI is a town consisting of thirty huts,built on a large plain of lava,exposed to the rays of the sun,reflected from the volcano.It stretches its humble tenements along the end of a little fjord,surrounded by a basaltic wall of the most singular character.

Basalt is a brown rock of igneous origin.It assumes regular forms,which astonish by their singular appearance.Here we found Nature proceeding geometrically,and working quite after a human fashion,as if she had employed the plummet line,the compass and the rule.If elsewhere she produces grand artistic effects by piling up huge masses without order or connection-if elsewhere we see truncated cones,imperfect pyramids,with an odd succession of lines;here,as if wishing to give a lesson in regularity,and preceding the architects of the early ages,she has erected a severe order of architecture,which neither the splendors of Babylon nor the marvels of Greece ever surpassed.

I had often heard of the Giant's Causeway in Ireland,and of Fingal's Cave in one of the Hebrides,but the grand spectacle of a real basaltic formation had never yet come before my eyes.

This at Stapi gave us an idea of one in all its wonderful beauty and grace.

The wall of the fjord,like nearly the whole of the peninsula,consisted of a series of vertical columns,in height about thirty feet.These upright pillars of stone,of the finest proportions,supported an archivault of horizontal columns which formed a kind of half-vaulted roof above the sea.At certain intervals,and below this natural basin,the eye was pleased and surprised by the sight of oval openings through which the outward waves came thundering in volleys of foam.Some banks of basalt,torn from their fastenings by the fury of the waves,lay scattered on the ground like the ruins of an ancient temple-ruins eternally young,over which the storms of ages swept without producing any perceptible effect!

This was the last stage of our journey.Hans had brought us along with fidelity and intelligence,and I began to feel somewhat more comfortable when I reflected that he was to accompany us still farther on our way.

When we halted before the house of the Rector,a small and incommodious cabin,neither handsome nor more comfortable than those of his neighbors,I saw a man in the act of shoeing a horse,a hammer in his hand,and a leathern apron tied round his waist.

"Be happy,"said the eider-down hunter,using his national salutation in his own language.

"God dag-good day!"replied the former,in excellent Danish.

"Kyrkoherde,"cried Hans,turning round and introducing him to my uncle.

half-vaulted roof above the sea.At certain intervals,and below this natural basin,the eye was pleased and surprised by the sight of oval openings through which the outward waves came thundering in volleys of foam.Some banks of basalt,torn from their fastenings by the fury of the waves,lay scattered on the ground like the ruins of an ancient temple-ruins eternally young,over which the storms of ages swept without producing any perceptible effect!

This was the last stage of our journey.Hans had brought us along with fidelity and intelligence,and I began to feel somewhat more comfortable when I reflected that he was to accompany us still farther on our way.

When we halted before the house of the Rector,a small and incommodious cabin,neither handsome nor more comfortable than those of his neighbors,I saw a man in the act of shoeing a horse,a hammer in his hand,and a leathern apron tied round his waist.

"Be happy,"said the eider-down hunter,using his national salutation in his own language.

"God dag-good day!"replied the former,in excellent Danish.

"Kyrkoherde,"cried Hans,turning round and introducing him to my uncle.

"The Rector,"repeated the worthy Professor;"it appears,my dear Harry,that this worthy man is the Rector,and is not above doing his own work."During the speaking of these words the guide intimated to the Kyrkoherde what was the true state of the case.The good man,ceasing from his occupation,gave a kind of halloo,upon which a tall woman,almost a giantess,came out of the hut.She was at least six feet high,which in that region is something considerable.

My first impression was one of horror.I thought she had come to give us the Icelandic kiss.I had,however,nothing to fear,for she did not even show much inclination to receive us into her house.

The room devoted to strangers appeared to me to be by far the worst in the presbytery;it was narrow,dirty and offensive.There was,however,no choice about the matter.The Rector had no notion of practicing the usual cordial and antique hospitality.Far from it.Before the day was over,I found we had to deal with a blacksmith,a fisherman,a hunter,a carpenter,anything but a clergyman.It must be said in his favor that we had caught him on a weekday;probably he appeared to greater advantage on the Sunday.

These poor priests receive from the Danish Government a most ridiculously inadequate salary,and collect one quarter of the tithe of their parish-not more than sixty marks current,or about L310s.

sterling.Hence the necessity of working to live.In truth,we soon found that our host did not count civility among the cardinal virtues.

My uncle soon became aware of the kind of man he had to deal with.

Instead of a worthy and learned scholar,he found a dull ill-mannered peasant.He therefore resolved to start on his great expedition as soon as possible.He did not care about fatigue,and resolved to spend a few days in the mountains.

The preparations for our departure were made the very next day after our arrival at Stapi;Hans now hired three Icelanders to take the place of the horses-which could no longer carry our luggage.When,however,these worthy islanders had reached the bottom of the crater,they were to go back and leave us to ourselves.This point was settled before they would agree to start.

Jules Verne

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