Jeorling, and the whole crew must have the same.”
“You know, captain, I am disposed, and, indeed, desirous to contribute to the expenses of the expedition. Will you kindly consider me as your partner?”
“All that shall be arranged, Mr. Jeorling, and I am very grateful to you. The main point is to complete our armament with the least possible delay. We must be ready to clear out in a week.”
The news that the schooner was bound for the Antarctic seas had produced some sensation in the Falklands, at Port Egmont, and in the ports of La Soledad. At that season a number of unoccupied sailors were there, awaiting the passing of the whaling-ships to offer their services, for which they were very well paid in general. If it had been only for a fishing campaign on the borders of tile Polar Circle, between the Sandwich Islands and New Georgia, Captain Len Guy would have merely had to make a selection. But the projected voyage was a very different thing; and only the old sailors of the Halbrane were entirely indifferent to the dangers of such an enterprise, and ready to follow their chief whithersoever it might please him to go.
In reality it was necessary to treble the crew of the schooner. Counting the captain, the mate, the boatswain, the cook and myself, we were thirteen on board. Now, thirty-two or thirty-four men would not be too many for us, and it must be remembered that there were thirty-eight on board the Jane.
In this emergency the Governor exerted himself to the utmost, and thanks to the largely-extra pay that was offered, Captain Len Guy procured his full tale of seamen. Nine recruits signed articles for the duration of the campaign, which could not be fixed beforehand, but was not to extend beyond Tsalal Island.
The crew, counting every man on board except myself, numbered thirty-one, and a thirty-second for whom I bespeak especial attention. On the eve of our departure, Captain Len Guy was accosted at the angle of the port by an individual whom he recognized as a sailor by his clothes, his walk, and his speech.
This individual said, in a rough and hardly intelligible voice,—
“Captain, I have to make a proposal to you.”
“What is it?”
“Have you still a place?”
“For a sailor?”
“For a sailor.”
“Yes and no.”
“Is it yes?”
“It is yes, if the man suits me.”
“Will you take me ?”
“You are a seaman ? ‘
“I have served the sea for twenty-five years?
“In the Southern Seas,”
“Yes, far, far.”
“Your age ?”
“And you are at Port Egmont?”
“I shall have been there three years, come Christmas.”
“Did you expect to get on a passing whale-ship?”
“Then what were you doing here?”
“Nothing, and I did not think of going to sea again.”
“Then why seek a berth ?”
“Just an idea. The news of the expedition your schooner is going on was spread. I desire, yes, I desire to take part in it—with your leave, of course.”
“You are known at Port Egmont?”
Well known, and I have incurred no reproach since I came here.”
“Very well,” said the captain. “I will make inquiry respecting you.”
“Inquire, captain, and if you say yes, my bag shall he on board this evening.”
“What is your name?”
“And you are—?”
This Hunt was a man of short stature, his weather beaten face was brick red, his skin of a yellowish-brown like an Indian’s, his body clumsy, his head very large, his legs were bowed, his whole frame denoted exceptional strength, especially the arms, which terminated in huge hands. His grizzled hair resembled a kind of fur.
A particular and anything but prepossessing character was imparted to the physiognomy of this individual by the extraordinary keenness of his small eyes, his almost lipless mouth, which stretched from ear to ear, and his long teeth, which were dazzlingly white; their enamel being intact, for he had never been attacked by scurvy, the common scourge of seamen in high latitudes.
Hunt had been living in the Falklands for three years; he lived alone on a pension, no one knew from whence this was derived.