The force of the jet shows that."
"No doubt," answered my uncle. "If this column of water is 32,000 feet high - that is, from the surface of the earth, it is equal to the weight of a thousand atmospheres. But I have got an idea."
"Why should we trouble ourselves to stop the stream from coming out at all?"
"Because --" Well, I could not assign a reason.
"When our flasks are empty, where shall we fill them again? Can we tell that?"
No; there was no certainty.
"Well, let us allow the water to run on. It will flow down, and will both guide and refresh us."
"That is well planned," I cried. "With this stream for our guide, there is no reason why we should not succeed in our undertaking."
"Ah, my boy! you agree with me now," cried the Professor, laughing.
"I agree with you most heartily."
"Well, let us rest awhile; and then we will start again."
I was forgetting that it was night. The chronometer soon informed me of that fact; and in a very short time, refreshed and thankful, we all three fell into a sound sleep.
WELL SAID, OLD MOLE! CANST THOU WORK I' THE GROUND SO FAST?
By the next day we had forgotten all our sufferings. At first, I was wondering that I was no longer thirsty, and I was for asking for the reason. The answer came in the murmuring of the stream at my feet.
We breakfasted, and drank of this excellent chalybeate water. I felt wonderfully stronger, and quite decided upon pushing on. Why should not so firmly convinced a man as my uncle, furnished with so industrious a guide as Hans, and accompanied by so determined a nephew as myself, go on to final success? Such were the magnificent plans which struggled for mastery within me. If it had been proposed to me to return to the summit of Snæfell, I should have indignantly declined.
Most fortunately, all we had to do was to descend.
"Let us start!" I cried, awakening by my shouts the echoes of the vaulted hollows of the earth.
On Thursday, at 8 a.m., we started afresh. The granite tunnel winding from side to side, earned us past unexpected turns, and
seemed almost to form a labyrinth; but, on the whole, its direction seemed to be south-easterly. My uncle never ceased to consult his compass, to keep account of the ground gone over.
The gallery dipped down a very little way from the horizontal, scarcely more than two inches in a fathom, and the stream ran gently murmuring at our feet. I compared it to a friendly genius guiding us underground, and caressed with my hand the soft naiad, whose comforting voice accompanied our steps. With my reviving spirits these mythological notions seemed to come unbidden.
As for my uncle, he was beginning to storm against the horizontal road. He loved nothing better than a vertical path; but this way seemed indefinitely prolonged, and instead of sliding along the hypothenuse as we were now doing, he would willingly have dropped down the terrestrial radius. But there was no help for it, and as long as we were approaching the centre at all we felt that we must not complain.
From time to time, a steeper path appeared; our naiad then began to tumble before us with a hoarser murmur, and we went down with her to a greater depth.
On the whole, that day and the next we made considerable way horizontally, very little vertically.
On Friday evening, the 10th of July, according to our calculations, we were thirty leagues south-east of Rejkiavik, and at a depth of two leagues and a half.
At our feet there now opened a frightful abyss. My uncle, however, was not to be daunted, and he clapped his hands at the steepness of the descent.
"This will take us a long way," he cried, "and without much difficulty; for the projections in the rock form quite a staircase."
The ropes were so fastened by Hans as to guard against accident, and the descent commenced. I can hardly call it perilous, for I was beginning to be familiar with this kind of exercise.
This well, or abyss, was a narrow cleft in the mass of the granite, called by geologists a 'fault,' and caused by the unequal cooling of the globe of the earth.