. . I am going to die.”
So then for nearly three months Patterson’s body had lain on the surface of this ice-waif which we had met on our way from the Kerguelens to Tristan d’Acunha! Ah! why had we not saved the mate of the Jane!
I had to yield to evidence. Captain Len Guy, who knew Patterson, had recognized him in this frozen corpse! It was indeed he who accompanied the captain of the Jane when he had interred that bottle, containing the letter which I had refused to believe authentic, at the Kerguelens. Yes! for eleven years, the survivors of the English schooner had been cast away there without any hope of succour.
Len Guy turned to me and said,’’ Do you believe— now?”
“I believe,” said I, falteringly; “but Captain William Guy of the Jane, and Captain Len Guy of the Halbrane—”
“Are brothers!” he cried in a loud voice, which was heard by all the crew.
Then we turned our eyes once more to the place where the lump of ice had been floating; but the double influence of the solar rays and the waters in this latitude had produced its effect, no trace of the dead man’s last refuge remained on the surface of the sea.
Four days later, the Halbrane neared that curious island of Tristan d’Acunha, which may be described as the big boiler of the African seas. By that time I had come to realize that the “hallucination” of Captain Len Guy was a truth, and that he and the captain of the Jane (also a reality) were connected with each other by this ocean waif from the authentic expedition of Arthur Pym. My last doubts were buried in the depths of the ocean with the body of Patterson.
And now, what was Captain Len Guy going to do? There was not a shadow of doubt on that point. He would take the Halbrane to Tsalal Island, as marked upon Patterson’s note-book. His lieutenant, James West, would go whithersoever he was ordered to go; his crew would not hesitate to follow him, and would not be stopped by any fear of passing the limits assigned to human power, for the soul of their captain and the strength of their lieutenant would be in them.
This, then, was the reason why Captain Len Guy refused to take passengers on board his ship, and why he had told me that his routes never were certain; he was always hoping that an opportunity for venturing into the sea of ice might arise. Who could tell indeed, whether he would not have sailed for the south at once without putting in at Tristan d’Acunha, if he had not wanted water? After what I had said before I went on board the Halbrane, I should have had no right to insist on his proceeding to the island for the sole purpose of putting me ashore. But a supply of water was indispensable, and besides, it might be possible there to put the schooner in a condition to contend with the icebergs and gain the open sea—since open it was beyond the eighty-second parallel—-in fact to attempt what Lieutenant Wilkes of the American Navy was then attempting.
The navigators knew at this period, that from the middle of November to the beginning of March was the limit during which some success might be looked for. The temperature is more bearable then, storms are less frequent, the icebergs break loose from the mass, the ice wall has holes in it, and perpetual day reigns in that distant region.
Tristan d’Acunha lies to the south of the zone of the regular south-west winds. Its climate is mild and moist. The prevailing winds are west and north-west, and, during the winter—August and September—south. The island was inhabited, from 1811, by American whale fishers. After them, English soldiers were installed there to watch the St. Helena seas, and these remained until after the death of Napoleon, in 1821. Several years later the group of islands populated by Americans and Dutchmen from the Cape acknowledged the suzerainty of Great Britain, but this was not so in 1839. My personal observation at that date convinced me that the possession of Tristan d’Acunha was not worth disputing. In the sixteenth century the islands were called the Land of Life.
On the 5th of September, in the morning, the towering volcano of the chief island was signalled; a huge snow-covered mass, whose crater formed the basin of a small lake.