Next day, on our approach, we could distinguish a vast heaped-up lava field. At this distance the surface of the water was striped with gigantic seaweeds, vegetable ropes, varying in length from six hundred to twelve hundred feet, and as thick as a wine barrel.
Here I should mention that for three days subsequent to the finding of the fragment of ice, Captain Len Guy came on deck for strictly nautical purposes only, and I had no opportunities of seeing him except at meals, when he maintained silence, that not even James West could have enticed him to break. I made no attempt to do this, being convinced that the hour would come when Len Guy would again speak to me of his brother, and of the efforts which he intended to make to save him and his companions. Now, I repeat, the season being considered, that hour had not come, when the schooner cast anchor on the 6th of September at Ansiedling, in Falmouth Bay, precisely in the place indicated in Arthur Pym’s narrative as the moorings of the Jane.
At the period of the arrival of the Jane, an ex-corporal of the English artillery, named Glass, reigned over a little colony of twenty-six individuals, who traded with the Cape, and whose only vessel was a small schooner. At our arrival this Glass had more than fifty subjects, and was, as Arthur Pym remarked, quite independent of the British Government. Relations with the ex-corporal were established on the arrival of the Halbrane, and he proved very friendly and obliging. West, to whom the captain left the business of refilling the water tanks and taking in supplies of fresh meat and vegetables, had every reason to be satisfied with Glass, who, no doubt, expected to be paid, and was paid, handsomely.
The day after our arrival I met ex-corporal Glass, a vigorous, well-preserved man, whose sixty years had not impaired his intelligent vivacity. Independently of his trade with the Cape and the Falklands, he did an important business in seal-skins and the oil of marine animals, and his affairs were prosperous. As he appeared very willing to talk, I entered briskly into conversation with this self-appointed Governor of a contented little colony, by asking him,—
“Do many ships put in to Tristan d’Acunha?”
“As many as we require,” he replied, rubbing his bands together behind his back, according to his invariable custom.
“In the fine season ?”
“Yes, in the fine season, if indeed we can be said to have any other in these latitudes.”
“I congratulate you, Mr. Glass. But it is to be regretted that Tristan d’Acunha has not a single port. If you possessed a landing-stage, now ?”
“For what purpose, sir, when nature has provided us with such a bay as this, where there is shelter from gales, and it is easy to lie snug right up against the rocks? No, Tristan has no port, and Tristan can do without one.”
Why should I have contradicted this good man? He was proud of his island, just as the Prince of Monaco is justly proud of his tiny principality.
I did not persist, and we talked of various things. He offered to arrange for me an excursion to the depths of the thick forests, which clothed the volcano up to the middle of the central cove.
I thanked him, but declined his offer, preferring to employ my leisure on land in some mineralogical studies. Besides, the Halbrane was to set sail so soon as she had taken in her provisions.
“Your captain is in a remarkable hurry!” said Governor Glass.
“You think so ?”
“He is in such haste that his lieutenant does not even talk of buying skins or oil from me.”
“We require only fresh victuals and fresh water, Mr. Glass.”
“Very well,” replied the Governor, who was rather annoyed, “what the Halbrane will not take other vessels will.”
Then he resumed,—
“And where is your schooner bound for on leaving us?”
“For the Falklands, no doubt, where she can be repaired.”
“You, sir, are only a passenger, I suppose?”
“As you say, Mr. Glass, and I had even intended to remain at Tristan d’Acunha for some weeks. But I have had to relinquish that project.”
“I am sorry to hear it, sir.