“So that,” resumed Captain Len Guy, “on the return of Dirk Peters, there was no longer an inhabitant on the island?”
“No one,” repeated Hunt, “no one. The half-breed did not meet a single native.”
“And what did Dirk Peters do?”
“Understand me. A forsaken boat lay there, at the back of the bay, containing some dried meat and several casks of water. The half-breed got into it, and a south wind—yes, south, very strong, the same that had driven the ice block, with the cross current, towards Tsalal Island—carried him on for weeks and weeks—to the iceberg barrier, through a passage in it—you may believe me, I am telling you only what Dirk Peters told me—and he cleared the polar circle.”
“And beyond it?” I inquired.
“Beyond it. He was picked up by an American whaler, the Sandy Hook, and taken back to America.”
Now, one thing at all events was clear. Edgar Poe had never known Arthur Pym. This was the reason why, to leave his readers in exciting uncertainty, he had brought Pym to an end “as sudden as it was deplorable,” without indicating the manner or the cause of his death.
“And yet, although Arthur Pym did not return, could it be reasonably admitted that he had survived his companion for any length of time, that he was still living, eleven years having elapsed since his disappearance?”
“Yes, yes,” replied Hunt.
And this he affirmed with the strong conviction that Dirk Peters had infused into his mind while the two were living togather in Vandalia, in Illinois.
Now the question arose, was Hunt sane? Was it not he who had stolen into my cabin in a fit of insanity—of this I had no doubt—and murmured in my ear the words: “And Pym—poor Pym?”
Yes, and I had not been dreaming! In short, if all that Hunt had just said was true, if he was but the faithful reporter of secrets which had been entrusted to him by Dirk Peters, ought he to be believed when he repeated in a tone of mingled command and entreaty,—
“Pym is not dead. Pym is there. Poor Pym must not be forsaken!”
When I had made an end of questioning Hunt, Captain Len Guy came out of his meditative mood, profoundly troubled, and gave the word, “All hands forward!”
When the men were assembled around him, he said,—
“Listen to me, Hunt, and seriously consider the gravity of the questions I am about to put to you.”
Hunt held his head up, and ran his eyes over the crew of the Halbrane.
“You assert, Hunt, that all you have told us concerning Arthur Pym is true?”
“You knew Dirk Peters?”
“You lived some years with him in Illinois ?”
“And he often related these things to you?”
“And, for your own part, you have no doubt that he told you the exact truth?” “None.”
“Well, then, did it never occur to him that some of the crew of the Jane might have remained on Tsalal Island ?”
“He believed that William Guy and his companions must all have perished in the landslip of the hill of Klock-Klock?”
“Yes, and from what he often repeated to me, Pym believed it also.”
“Where did you see Dirk Peters for the last time?”
“How long ago ?”
“Over two years.”
“And which of you two was the first to leave Vandalia?”
I thought I detected a slight hesitation in Hunt before he answered,—
“We left the place together.”
“You, to go to?”
“And he —”
“He?” repeated Hunt.
And then his wandering gaze fixed itself on Martin Holt, our sailing-master, whose life he had saved at the risk of his own during the tempest.
“Well!” resumed the captain, “do you not understand what I am asking you ?”
“Then answer me. When Dirk Peters left Illinois, did he finally give up America?”
“To go whither? Speak!”
“To the Falklands.”
“And where is he now?”
“He stands before you.”
Dirk Peters! Hunt was the half-breed Dirk Peters, the devoted companion of Arthur Pym, he whom Captain Guy had so long sought for in the United States, and whose presence was probably to furnish us with a fresh reason for pursuing our daring campaign.