And, in fact, I was re-perusing the end of Chapter XVII., in which Arthur Pym acknowledged his responsibility for the sad and tragic events which were the results of his advice. It was, in fact, he who over-persuaded Captain William Guy, urging him “to profit by so tempting an opportunity of solving the great problem relating to the Antarctic Continent.” And, besides, while accepting that responsibility, did he not congratulate himself on having been the instrument of a great discovery, and having aided in some degree to reveal to science one of the most marvellous secrets which had ever claimed its attention?
At six o’clock the sun disappeared behind a thick curtain of mist. After midnight the breeze freshened, and the Halbrane’s progress marked a dozen additional miles.
On the morrow the good ship was less than the third of a degree, that is to say less than twenty miles, from Tsalal Island.
Unfortunately, just after mid-day, the wind fell. Nevertheless, thanks to the current, the Island of Tsalal was signalled at forty-five minutes past six in the evening.
The anchor was cast, a watch was set, with loaded firearms within hand-reach, and boarding-nets ready. The Halbrane ran no risk of being surprised. Too eyes were watching on board—especially those of Hunt, whose gaze never quitted the horizon of that southern zone for an instant.
The night passed without alarm. No boat had put off from the island, nor had a native shown himself upon the beach. The Halbrane, then, had not been observed on her arrival; this was all the better. We had cast anchor in ten fathoms, at three miles from the coast. When the Jane appeared in these waters, the people of Tsalal beheld a ship for the first time, and they took it for an enormous animal, regarding its masts as limbs, and its sails as garments. Now, they ought to be better informed on this subject, and if they did not attempt to visit us, to what motive were we to assign such conduct? Captain Len Guy gave orders for the lowering of the ship’s largest boat, in a voice which betrayed his impatience. The order was executed, and the captain, addressing West, said— “Send eight men down with Martin Holt; send Hunt to the helm. Remain yourself at the moorings, and keep a look-out landwards as well as to sea.”
“Aye, aye, sir; don’t be uneasy.”
“We are going ashore, and we shall try to gain the village of Klock-Klock. If any difficulty should arise on sea, give us warning by firing three shots.”
“All right,” replied West—”at a minute’s interval.”
“If we should not return before evening, send the second boat with ten armed men under the boatswain’s orders, and let them station themselves within a cable’s length of the shore, so as to escort us back. You understand?”
“If we are not to be found, after you have done all in your power, you will take command of the schooner, and bring her back to the Falklands.”
“I will do so.”
The large boat was rapidly got ready. Eight men embarked in it, including Martin Holt and Hunt, all armed with rifles, pistols, and knives; the latter weapons were slung in their belts. They also carried cartridge-pouches. I stepped forward and said,—
“Will you not allow me to accompany you, captain?”
“If you wish to do so, Mr. Jeorling.”
I went to my cabin, took my gun—a repeating rifle-with ball and powder, and rejoined Captain Len Guy, who had kept a place in the stern of the boat for me. Our object was to discover the passage through which Arthur Pym and Dirk Peters had crossed the reef on the 19th of January, 1828, in the Jane’s boat. For twenty minutes we rowed along the reef, and then Hunt discovered the pass, which was through a narrow cut in the rocks. Leaving two men in the boat, we landed, and having gone through the winding gorge which gave access to the crest of the coast, our little force, headed by Hunt, pushed on towards the centre of the island. Captain Len Guy and myself exchanged observations, as we walked, on the subject of this country, which, as Arthur Pym declared, differed essentially from every other land hitherto visited by human beings.