On my arrival on the shore I found Hans surrounded by an assemblage of articles all arranged in good order. My uncle shook hands with him with a lively gratitude. This man, with almost superhuman devotion, had been at work all the while that we were asleep, and had saved the most precious of the articles at the risk of his life.
Not that we had suffered no losses. For instance, our firearms; but we might do without them. Our stock of powder had remained uninjured after having risked blowing up during the storm.
"Well," cried the Professor, "as we have no guns we cannot hunt, that's all."
"Yes, but how about the instruments?"
"Here is the aneroid, the most useful of all, and for which I would have given all the others. By means of it I can calculate the depth and know when we have reached the centre; without it we might very likely go beyond, and come out at the antipodes!"
Such high spirits as these were rather too strong.
"But where is the compass? I asked.
"Here it is, upon this rock, in perfect condition, as well as the thermometers and the chronometer. The hunter is a splendid fellow."
There was no denying it. We had all our instruments. As for tools and appliances, there they all lay on the ground - ladders, ropes, picks, spades, etc.
Still there was the question of provisions to be settled, and I asked - "How are we off for provisions?"
The boxes containing these were in a line upon the shore, in a perfect state of preservation; for the most part the sea had spared them, and what with biscuits, salt meat, spirits, and salt fish, we might reckon on four months' supply.
"Four months!" cried the Professor. "We have time to go and to return; and with what is left I will give a grand dinner to my friends at the Johannĉum."
I ought by this time to have been quite accustomed to my uncle's ways; yet there was always something fresh about him to astonish me.
"Now," said he, "we will replenish our supply of water with the rain which the storm has left in all these granite basins; therefore we shall have no reason to fear anything from thirst. As for the raft, I will recommend Hans to do his best to repair it, although I don't expect it will be of any further use to us."
"How so?" I cried.
"An idea of my own, my lad. I don't think we shall come out by the way that we went in."
I stared at the Professor with a good deal of mistrust. I asked, was he not touched in the brain? And yet there was method in his madness.
"And now let us go to breakfast," said he.
I followed him to a headland, after he had given his instructions to the hunter. There preserved meat, biscuit, and tea made us an excellent meal, one of the best I ever remember. Hunger, the fresh air, the calm quiet weather, after the commotions we had gone through, all contributed to give me a good appetite.
Whilst breakfasting I took the opportunity to put to my uncle the question where we were now.
"That seems to me," I said, "rather difficult to make out."
"Yes, it is difficult," he said, "to calculate exactly; perhaps even impossible, since during these three stormy days I have been unable to keep any account of the rate or direction of the raft; but still we may get an approximation."
"The last observation," I remarked, "was made on the island, when the geyser was -"
"You mean Axel Island. Don't decline the honour of having given your name to the first island ever discovered in the central parts of the globe."
"Well," said I, "let it be Axel Island. Then we had cleared two hundred and seventy leagues of sea, and we were six hundred leagues from Iceland."
"Very well," answered my uncle; "let us start from that point and count four days' storm, during which our rate cannot have been less than eighty leagues in the twenty-four hours."
"That is right; and this would make three hundred leagues more."
"Yes, and the Liedenbrock sea would be six hundred leagues from shore to shore. Surely, Axel, it may vie in size with the Mediterranean itself."
"Especially," I replied, "if it happens that we have only crossed it in its narrowest part.