The latter were quite clear, but his speech was confused, his words were unconnected. He had a certain language of his own which sometimes was picturesque, and his pronunciation was strongly marked by the hoarse accent of the Indians of the Far West.
“You see,” he said, “I do not know how to tell things. My tongue stops. Understand me, I spoke of Pym, poor Pym, did I not?”
“Yes,” answered West, sternly; “and what have you to say about Arthur Pym?”
“I have to say that he must not be abandoned.”
“Abandoned!” I exclaimed.
“No, never! It would be cruel—too cruel. We must go to seek him.”
“To seek him?” repeated Captain Len Guy.
“Understand me; it is for this that I have embarked on the Halbrane—yes, to find poor Pym!”
“And where is he,” I asked, “if not deep in a grave, in the cemetery of his natal city ?”
“No, he is in the place where he remained, alone, all alone,” continued Hunt, pointing towards the south; “and since then the sun has risen on that horizon seven times.”
It was evident that Hunt intended to designate the Antarctic regions, but what did he mean by this?
“Do you not know that Arthur Pym is dead?” said the captain.
“Dead!” replied Hunt, emphasizing the word with an expressive gesture. “No! listen to me: I know things; understand me, he is not dead.”
“Come now, Hunt,” said I, “remember what you do know. In the last chapter of the adventures of Arthur Pym, does not Edgar Poe relate his sudden and deplorable end?”
“Explain yourself, Hunt,” said the captain, in a tone of command. “Reflect, take your time, and say plainly whatever you have to say.”
And, while Hunt passed his hand over his brow, as though to collect his memory of far-off things, I observed to Captain Len Guy,—
“There is something very singular in the intervention of this man, if indeed he be not mad.”
At my words the boatswain shook his head, for he did not believe Hunt to be in his right mind.
The latter understood this shake of the boatswain’s head, and cried out in a harsh tone,—
“No, not mad. And madmen are respected on the prairies, even if they are not believed. And I—I must be believed. No, no, no! Pym is not dead!”
“Edgar Poe asserts that he is,” I replied.
“Yes, I know, Edgar Poe of Baltimore. But—he never saw poor Pym, never, never.”
“What !” exclaimed Captain Len Guy; “the two men were not acquainted?”
“And it was not Arthur Pym himself who related his adventures to Edgar Poe?”
“No, captain, no! He, below there, at Baltimore, had only the notes written by Pym from the day when he hid himself on board the Grampus to the very last hour—the last—understand me the last.”
“Who, then, brought back that journal?” asked Captain Len Guy, as he seized Hunt’s hand.
“It was Pym’s companion, he who loved him, his poor Pym, like a son. It was Dirk Peters, the half-breed, who came back alone from there—beyond.”
“The half-breed, Dirk Peters!” I exclaimed.
“And Arthur Pym may be—”
“There,” answered Hunt, in a loud voice, bending towards the southern line, from which he had not diverted his gaze for a moment.
Could such an assertion prevail against the general incredulity? No, assuredly not! Martin Holt nudged Hurliguerly with his elbow, and both regarded Hunt with pity, while West observed him without speaking. Captain Len Guy made me a sign, meaning that nothing serious was to be got out of this poor fellow, whose mental faculties must have been out of gear for a long time.
And nevertheless, when I looked keenly at Hunt, it seemed to me that a sort of radiance of truth shone out of his eyes:
Then I set to work to interrogate the man, putting to him precise and pressing questions which he tried to answer categorically, as we shall see, and not once did he contradict himself.
“Tell me,” I asked, “did Arthur Pym really come to Tsalal Island on board the Grampus?”
“Did Arthur Pym separate himself, with the half-breed and one of the sailors, from his companions while Captain William Guy had gone to the village of Klock-Klock?”