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Up until now, everyone has been shocked by Uncle's fasting. What they didn't expect was that he would decide the entire household had to fast until he had decoded the text he was working on.
"No, my dear Martha, he will eat no more. No one in the house is to eat anything at all. Uncle Liedenbrock is going to make us all fast until he has succeeded in deciphering an undecipherable scrawl."
Axel worked for hours on end attempting to decipher the elusive code. He was tired, frustrated, and miking himself sick.
"So I was struggling with an insurmountable difficulty; my brain got heated, my eyes watered over that sheet of paper; its hundred and thirty-two letters seemed to flutter and fly around me like those motes of mingled light and darkness which float in the air around the head when the blood is rushing upwards with undue violence. I was a prey to a kind of hallucination; I was stifling; I wanted air."
Finally, after a bit of walking around, a few deep breaths, and a sense of calm, he went back to it. Then he got it! Unfortunately, whatever he read on that paper frightened him. He was appalled and wanted nothing more than to destroy the parchment before anyone else could see it, so he gathered the papers together and was heading for the fireplace when suddenly his uncle appeared in the doorway.