I wasn’t getting anywhere. It was all just words and more words, on and on for hundreds of pages and all of it to me remained a secret code. I could read the words—I had read about fifteen pages of them—but I just couldn’t get them to mean anything. I despaired. I gave up. A few days later I tried again, but with no success. I just couldn’t find anything in it except words.
Still, despite my frustration, I kept the book around, near my bedside, and often took it in hand and looked it over. There was something about it that entranced me. I liked a feel of it, and the smell, and on the cover was a tremendous picture of divers walking on the bottom of the sea while in the background hovered a strange and fabulous submarine. The book—you’ve probably guessed by now—was Jules Verne’s Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea. In some perverse way, it became my most cherished possession; I liked everything about it—I just couldn’t read it. It might have helped me if this particular edition possessed some of the splendid illustrations from the original editions, but alas, it had none. The cause seemed lost.
I little knew that, at that very time and ten thousand miles away, two quite diverse men were unwittingly conspiring to give me a hand.