The sailor was one Allen, and he was almost immediately stifled under the stones.”
“Then the two others saw the attack, and the destruction of the schooner, from the top of the hill?”
“Then, some time later, the two left the island, after they had got possession of one of the boats which the natives could not take from them?”
“And, after twenty days, having reached the front of the curtain of vapour, they were both carried down into the gulf of the cataract?”
This time Hunt did not reply in the affirmative; he hesitated, he stammered out some vague words; he seemed to be trying to rekindle the half-extinguished flame of his memory. At length, looking at me and shaking his head, he answered,—
“No, not both. Understand me—Dirk never told me—”
“Dirk Peters” interposed Captain Len Guy, quickly. “You knew Dirk Peters?”
“At Vandalia, State of Illinois.”
“And it is from him that you have all this information concerning the voyage?”
“And he came back alone—alone—from that voyage, having left Arthur Pym.”
“Speak, man—do speak!” I cried, impatiently. Then, in broken, but intelligible sentences, Hunt spoke,—
“Yes—there—a curtain of vapour—so the half-breed often said—understand me. The two, Arthur Pym and he, were in the Tsalal boat. Then an enormous block of ice came full upon them. At the shock Dirk Peters was thrown into the sea, but he clung to the ice block, and—understand me, he saw the boat drift with the current, far, very far, too far! In vain did Pym try to rejoin his companion, he could not; the boat drifted on and on, and Pym, that poor dear Pym, was carried away. It is he who has never come back, and he is there, still there!”
If Hunt had been the half-breed in person he could not have spoken with more heartfelt emotion of “poor Pym.”
It was then, in front of the “curtain of vapour,” that Arthur Pym and the half-breed had been separated from each other. Dirk Peters had succeeded in returning from the ice-world to America, whither he had conveyed the notes that were communicated to Edgar Poe.
Hunt was minutely questioned upon all these points and he replied, conformably, he declared, to what the half-breed had told him many times. According to this statement, Dirk Peters had Arthur Pym’s note-book in his pocket at the moment when the ice-block struck them, and thus the journal which the half-breed placed at the disposal of the American romance-writer was saved.
“Understand me,” Hunt repeated, “for I tell you things. as I have them from Dirk Peters. While the drift was carrying him away, he cried out with all his strength. Pym, poor Pym, had already disappeared in the midst of the vapour. The half-breed, feeding upon raw fish, which he contrived to catch, was carried back by a cross current to Tsalal Island, where he landed half dead from hunger.”
“To Tsalal Island!” exclaimed Captain Len Guy. “And how long was it since they had left it?”
“Three weeks—yes, three weeks at the farthest, so Dirk Peters told me.”
“Then he must have found all that remained of the crew of the Jane—my brother William and those who had survived with him ?”
“No,” replied Hunt; “and Dirk Peters always believed that they had perished—yes, to the very last man. There was no one upon the island.”
“No one ?” “Not a living soul.”
“But the population?”
”No one! No one, I tell you. The island was a desert —yes, a desert!”
This statement contradicted certain facts of which we were absolutely certain. After all, though, it that when Dirk Peters returned to Tsalal Island, the population, seized by who can tell what terror, had already taken refuge upon the south-western group, and that William Guy and his companions were still hidden in gorges of Klock-Klock. That would explain why half-breed had not come across them, and also why survivors of the Jane had had nothing to fear during eleven years of their sojourn in the island. On the other hand, since Patterson had left them there seven previously, if we did not find them, that must have because they had been obliged to leave Tsalal, the being rendered uninhabitable by the earthquake.