Ned Land and Conseil stood next to me. We stared, and it dawned on me that I was about to witness a strange scene. Observing the seafloor, I saw that it swelled at certain points from low bulges that were encrusted with limestone deposits and arranged with a symmetry that betrayed the hand of man.

In the middle of the clearing, on a pedestal of roughly piled rocks, there stood a cross of coral, extending long arms you would have thought were made of petrified blood.

At a signal from Captain Nemo, one of his men stepped forward and, a few feet from this cross, detached a mattock from his belt and began to dig a hole.

I finally understood! This clearing was a cemetery, this hole a grave, that oblong object the body of the man who must have died during the night! Captain Nemo and his men had come to bury their companion in this communal resting place on the inaccessible ocean floor!

No! My mind was reeling as never before! Never had ideas of such impact raced through my brain! I didn't want to see what my eyes saw!

Meanwhile the grave digging went slowly. Fish fled here and there as their retreat was disturbed. I heard the pick ringing on the limestone soil, its iron tip sometimes giving off sparks when it hit a stray piece of flint on the sea bottom. The hole grew longer, wider, and soon was deep enough to receive the body.

Then the pallbearers approached. Wrapped in white fabric made from filaments of the fan mussel, the body was lowered into its watery grave. Captain Nemo, arms crossed over his chest, knelt in a posture of prayer, as did all the friends of him who had loved them. . . . My two companions and I bowed reverently.

The grave was then covered over with the rubble dug from the seafloor, and it formed a low mound.

When this was done, Captain Nemo and his men stood up; then they all approached the grave, sank again on bended knee, and extended their hands in a sign of final farewell. . . .

Then the funeral party went back up the path to the Nautilus, returning beneath the arches of the forest, through the thickets, along the coral bushes, going steadily higher.

Finally the ship's rays appeared. Their luminous trail guided us to the Nautilus. By one o'clock we had returned.

After changing clothes, I climbed onto the platform, and in the grip of dreadfully obsessive thoughts, I sat next to the beacon.

Captain Nemo rejoined me. I stood up and said to him:

"So, as I predicted, that man died during the night?"

"Yes, Professor Aronnax," Captain Nemo replied.

"And now he rests beside his companions in that coral cemetery?"

"Yes, forgotten by the world but not by us! We dig the graves, then entrust the polyps with sealing away our dead for eternity!"

And with a sudden gesture, the captain hid his face in his clenched fists, vainly trying to hold back a sob. Then he added:

"There lies our peaceful cemetery, hundreds of feet beneath the surface of the waves!"

"At least, captain, your dead can sleep serenely there, out of the reach of sharks!"

"Yes, sir," Captain Nemo replied solemnly, "of sharks and men!"

END OF THE FIRST PART

*Author's Note: About 106 meters. An English foot is only 30.4 centimeters. *German: "Bulletin." Ed. *Author's Note: A pier is a type of wharf expressly set aside for an individual vessel. *Author's Note: Tenders are small steamboats that assist the big liners. *Author's Note: A Bowie knife is a wide-bladed dagger that Americans are forever carrying around. *Author's Note: A steward is a waiter on board a steamer. *Latin: nemo means "no one." Ed. *Latin: "in a class by itself." Ed. **Author's Note: And sure enough, there's now talk of such a discovery, in which a new set of levers generates considerable power. Did its inventor meet up with Captain Nemo? *Author's Note: "Ladyfingers" are small, thin, white clouds with ragged edges. *Latin: a spigot "just for that purpose." Ed. *Latin: "troubled dreams." Ed. in: "troubled dreut of the reach of sharks!"

"Yes, sir," Captain Nemo replied solemnly, "of sharks and men!"

END OF THE FIRST PART

*Author's Note: About 106 meters.

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20,000 Leagues Under the Sea Part 01

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Jules Verne

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