And those distant blue mountains in the east were the mountains of Calabria. And that threatening volcano far away in the south was the fierce Etna.
"Stromboli, Stromboli!" I repeated.
My uncle kept time to my exclamations with hands and feet, as well as with words. We seemed to be chanting in chorus!
What a journey we had accomplished! How marvellous! Having entered by one volcano, we had issued out of another more than two thousand miles from SnŠfell and from that barren, far-away Iceland! The strange chances of our expedition had carried us into the heart of the fairest region in the world. We had exchanged the bleak regions of perpetual snow and of impenetrable barriers of ice for those of brightness and 'the rich hues of all glorious things.' We had left over our heads the murky sky and cold fogs of the frigid zone to revel under the azure sky of Italy!
After our delicious repast of fruits and cold, clear water we set off again to reach the port of Stromboli. It would not have been wise to tell how we came there. The superstitious Italians would have set us down for fire-devils vomited out of hell; so we presented ourselves in the humble guise of shipwrecked mariners. It was not so glorious, but it was safer.
On my way I could hear my uncle murmuring: "But the compass! that compass! It pointed due north. How are we to explain that fact?"
"My opinion is," I replied disdainfully, "that it is best not to explain it. That is the easiest way to shelve the difficulty."
"Indeed, sir! The occupant of a professorial chair at the JohannŠum unable to explain the reason of a cosmical phenomenon! Why, it would be simply disgraceful!"
And as he spoke, my uncle, half undressed, in rags, a perfect scarecrow, with his leathern belt around him, settling his spectacles upon his nose and looking learned and imposing, was himself again, the terrible German professor of mineralogy.
One hour after we had left the grove of olives, we arrived at the little port of San Vicenzo, where Hans claimed his thirteen week's wages, which was counted out to him with a hearty shaking of hands all round.
At that moment, if he did not share our natural emotion, at least his countenance expanded in a manner very unusual with him, and while with the ends of his fingers he lightly pressed our hands, I believe he smiled.
ALL'S WELL THAT ENDS WELL
Such is the conclusion of a history which I cannot expect everybody to believe, for some people will believe nothing against the testimony of their own experience. However, I am indifferent to their incredulity, and they may believe as much or as little as they please.
The Stromboliotes received us kindly as shipwrecked mariners. They gave us food and clothing. After waiting forty-eight hours, on the 31 st of August, a small craft took us to Messina, where a few days' rest completely removed the effect of our fatigues.
On Friday, September the 4th, we embarked on the steamer Volturno, employed by the French Messageries Imperiales, and in three days more we were at Marseilles, having no care on our minds except that abominable deceitful compass, which we had mislaid somewhere and could not now examine; but its inexplicable behaviour exercised my mind fearfully. On the 9th of September, in the evening, we arrived at Hamburg.
I cannot describe to you the astonishment of Martha or the joy of Grńuben.
"Now you are a hero, Axel," said to me my blushing _fiancÚe,_ my betrothed, "you will not leave me again!"
I looked tenderly upon her, and she smiled through her tears.
How can I describe the extraordinary sensation produced by the return of Professor Liedenbrock? Thanks to Martha's ineradicable tattling, the news that the Professor had gone to discover a way to the centre of the earth had spread over the whole civilised world. People refused to believe it, and when they saw him they would not believe him any the more. Still, the appearance of Hans, and sundry pieces of intelligence derived from Iceland, tended to shake the confidence of the unbelievers.