The following day, as I wished to return to the island in order to resume its exploration from one coast to the other, I requested West to have me rowed ashore.
He consented, after he had been authorized by Captain Len Guy, who did not come with us.
Hung the boatswain, Martin Holt, four men, and myself took our places in the boatt without arms; for there was no longer anything to fear.
We disembarked at our yesterday’s landing-place, and Hunt again led the way towards the hill of Klock-Klock. Nothing remained of the eminence that had been carried away in the artificial landslip, from which the captain of the Jane, Patterson, his second officer, and five of his men had happily escaped. The village of Klock-Klock had thus disappeared; and doubtless the mystery of the strange discoveries narrated in Edgar Poe’s work was now and ever would remain beyond solution.
We had only to regain our ship, returning by the east side of the coast. Hunt brought us through the space where sheds had been erected for the preparation of the bêche-de mer, and we saw the remains of them. On all sides silence and abandonment reigned.
We made a brief pause at the place where Arthur Pym and Dirk Peters seized upon the boat which bore them towards higher latitudes, even to that horizon of dark vapour whose rents permitted them to discern the huge human figure, the white giant.
Hunt stood with crossed arms, his eyes devouring the vast extent of the sea.
“Well, Hunt?” said I, tentatively.
Hunt did not appear to hear me; he did not turn his head in my direction.
“What are we doing here?” I asked him, and touched him on the shoulder.
He started, and cast a glance upon me which went to my heart.
“Come along, Hunt,” cried Hurliguerly. “Are you going to take root on this rock? Don’t you see the Halbrane waiting for us at her moorings? Come along. We shall be off to-morrow. There is nothing more to do here.”
It seemed to me that Hunt’s trembling lips repeated the word “nothing,” while his whole bearing protested against what the boatswain said.
The boat brought us back to the ship. Captain Len Guy had not left his cabin. West, having received no orders, was pacing the deck aft. I seated myself at the foot of the mainmast, observing the sea which lay open and free before us.
At this moment the captain came on deck; he was very pale, and his features looked pinched and weary.
“Mr. Jeorling,” said he, “I can affirm conscientiously that I have done all it was possible to do. Can I hope henceforth that my brother William and his companions—No! No! We must go away—before winter—”
He drew himself up, and cast a last glance towards Tsalal Island.
“To-morrow, Jim,” he said to West, “to morrow we will make sail as early as possible.”
At this moment a rough voice uttered the words:
“And Pym—poor Pym!”
I recognized this voice.
It was the voice I had heard in my dream.
“And Pym—poor Pym?”
I turned round quickly.
Hunt had spoken. This strange person was standing motionless at a little distance, gazing fixedly at the horizon.
It was so unusual to hear Hunt’s voice on board the schooner, that the men, whom the unaccustomed sound reached, drew near, moved by curiosity. Did not his unexpected intervention point to—I had a presentiment that it did—some wonderful revelation?
A movement of West’s hand sent the men forward, leaving only the mate, the boatswain, Martin Holt, the sailing-master, and Hardy, with the captain and myself in the vicinity of Hunt. The captain approached and addressed him:
“What did you say?”
“I said, ‘And Pym—poor Pym.’“
“Well, then, what do you mean by repeating the name of the man whose pernicious advice led my brother to the island on which the Jane was lost, the greater part of her crew was massacred, and where we have not found even one left of those who were still here seven months ago?”
Hunt did not speak.
“Answer, I say—answer!” cried the captain.
Hunt hesitated, not because he did not know what to say, but from a certain difficulty in expressing his ideas.