And then it came to my remembrance that according to Arthur Pym’s narrative, Tsalal belonged to a group of islands which extended towards the west. Unless the people of Tsalal had been destroyed, it was possible that they might have fled into one of the neighbouring islands. We should do well, then, to go and reconnoitre that archipelago, for Tsalal clearly had no resources whatever to offer after the cataclysm.I spoke of this to the captain.

“Yes,” he replied, and tears stood in his eyes, “yes, it may be so. And yet, how could my brother and his unfortunate companions have found the means of escaping? Is it not far more probable that they all perished in the earthquake?”

Here Hunt made us a signal to follow him, and we did so.

After he had pushed across the valley for a considerable distance, he stopped.

What a spectacle was before our eyes!

There, lying in heaps, were human bones, all the fragments of that framework of humanity which we call the skeleton, hundreds of them, without a particle of flesh, clusters of skulls still bearing some tufts of hair—a vast bone heap, dried and whitened in this place! We were struck dumb and motionless by this spectacle. When Captain Len Guy could speak, he murmured,—

“My brother, my poor brother!”

On a little reflection, however, my mind refused to admit certain things. How was this catastrophe to be reconciled with Patterson’s memoranda? The entries in his note-book stated explicitly that the mate of the Jane had left his companions on Tsalal Island seven months previously. They could not then have perished in this earthquake, for the state of the bones proved that it had taken place several years earlier, and must have occurred after the departure of Arthur Pym and Dirk Peters, since no mention of it was made in the narrative of the former.

These facts were, then, irreconcilable. If the earthquake was of recent date, the presence of those time-bleached skeletons could not be attributed to its action. In any case, the survivors of the Jane were not among them. But then, where were they?

The valley of Klock-Klock extended no farther; we had to retrace our steps in order to regain the coast. We had hardly gone half a mile on the cliff’s edge when Hunt again stopped, on perceiving some fragments of bones which were turning to dust, and did not seem to be those of a human being.

Were these the remains of one of the strange animals described by Arthur Pym, of which we had not hitherto seen any specimens ?

Hunt suddenly uttered a cry, or rather a sort of savage growl, and held out his enormous hand, holding a metal collar. Yes I a brass collar, a collar eaten by rust, but bearing letters which might still be deciphered. These letters formed the three following words:—

“Tiger—Arthur Pym.”

Tiger!—the name of the dog which had saved Arthur Pym’s life in the hold of the Grampus, and, during the revolt of the crew, had sprung at the throat of Jones, the sailor, who was immediately “finished” by Dirk Peters.

So, then, that faithful animal had not perished in the shipwreck of the Grampus. He had been taken on board the Jane at the same time as Arthur Pym and the half-breed. And yet the narrative did not allude to this, and after the meeting with the schooner there was no longer any mention of the dog. All these contradictions occurred to me. I could not reconcile the facts. Nevertheless, there could be no doubt that Tiger had been saved from the shipwreck like Arthur Pym, had escaped the landslip of the Klock-Klock hill, and had come to his death at last in the catastrophe which had destroyed a portion of the population of Tsalal.

But, again, William Guy and his five sailors could not be among those skeletons which were strewn upon the earth, since they were living at the time of Patterson’s departure, seven months ago, and the catastrophe already dated several years back!

Three hours later we had returned on board the Halbrane, without having made any other discovery. Captain Len Guy went direct to his cabin, shut himself up there, and did not reappear even at dinner hour.

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An Antarctic Mystery Page 53

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