A Strange Message
Otto Lidenbrock is the famous professor of geology at the University of Hamburg, in Germany. He is also my uncle. He is sixty-five years old, not very tall, with grey hair. He wears small round gold glasses that make him look very serious.
I’m Axel. I’m only nineteen and the professor’s personal assistant. I watch my uncle very carefully when he works. That’s why I know so much about our planet — Earth.
My uncle, the professor, is a hard worker. He spends most of his day in his laboratory at the University, so he never comes home before two o’clock for lunch. But yesterday, he came home very early. This surprised Martha, our cook. The poor old girl did not have the lunch ready and she was a little upset.
«Professor, you’re early!»
«Never mind, Martha. I don’t want lunch today.»
«But, professor, you must eat!» The professor looked excited.
«Martha, food is not important.» Then he turned to me. «Axel, come with me.»
He took me into his library. It was a big room with lots of bookcases against the walls and heavy velvet curtains in front of the windows. In the middle of the room, there was a desk where my uncle spent most of his evenings.
He took an old book out of his coat pocket. He looked at me.
«Axel, look at this! Look at this!»
I took it from his hand. Its cover was hard and it looked very old.
«Why, what is it professor?»
«I found it today in an old bookshop. It’s seven hundred years old.»
«What’s it about?»
«It’s about the old princes from Norway who came to live in Iceland.»
«Why is that so special?»
He smiled and said, «Because it is written in a language that no one uses anymore.»
I opened the book and saw strange letters from a strange alphabet. I did not understand any of it. I turned its yellow pages and a piece of paper fell out of the book onto the floor. The professor jumped on it.
It was an old yellow piece of paper with the same strange letters on it. The professor knew many languages, but he could not read this old language from Iceland. He took a thick book from one of the shelves. It was a dictionary for all the old languages in the world which people do not speak today. Then, he gave me a piece of paper and a pencil.
«Axel, write down these letters as I read them to you.»
The professor read each letter to me and I wrote them down.
When we finished, this is what they said:
Go into the volcano at Sneffells Yokul. Before the first of July, the sun will show you the way to the centre of the earth. Make this journey. It is fantastic.
The name under this strange message was ‘Arne Saknussemm’.
«Arne Saknussemm! I don’t believe it!»
«He was a famous scientist. He wrote many strange things about the earth, but no one believed him. They said he was crazy. This must be the answer to the things he said. He left this piece of paper in the old book for someone to find. Do you understand, Axel, how lucky we are?» Then, he turned to the library door. «Martha!» I couldn’t understand any of the things my uncle said.
«What do you mean, we?»
Martha opened the door to the library.
«Did you want me, sir?»
«Yes, Martha. I want you to buy us two train tickets to Denmark. Master Axel and I are going to Iceland.» This was the biggest surprise of my life!
«What?! Uncle, I can’t go.» The professor looked at me calmly.
«You can and you will.»