I shall not be at all surprised if my readers have already recognized Dirk Peters in Hunt; indeed, I shall be astonished if they have failed to do so. The extraordinary thing is that Captain Len Guy and myself, who had read Edgar Poe’s book over and over again, did not see at once, when Hunt came on the ship at the Falklands, that he and the half-breed were identical! I can only admit that we were both blindfolded by some hidden action of Fate, just when certain pages of that book ought to have effectually cleared our vision.
There was no doubt whatever that Hunt really was Dirk Peters. Although he was eleven years older, he answered in every particular to the description of him given by Arthur Pym, except that he was no longer “of fierce aspect.” In fact, the half-breed had changed with age and the experience of terrible scenes through which he had passed; nevertheless, he was still the faithful companion to whom Arthur Pym had often owed his safety, that same Dirk Peters who loved him as his own son, and who had never—no, never—lost the hope of finding him again one day amid the awful Antarctic wastes.
Now, why had Dirk Peters hidden himself in the Falklands under the name of Hunt? Why, since his embarkation on the Halbrane, had he kept up that incognito? Why had he not told who he was, since he was aware of the intentions of the captain, who was about to make every effort to save his countrymen by following the course of the Jane?
Why? No doubt because he feared that his name would inspire horror. Was it not the name of one who had shared in the horrible scenes of the Grampus, who had killed Parker, the sailor, who had fed upon the man’s flesh, and quenched his thirst in the man’s blood ? To induce him to reveal his name he must needs be assured that the Halbrane would attempt to discover and rescue Arthur Pym!
And as to the existence of Arthur Pym? I confess that my reason did not rebel against the admission of it as a possibility. The imploring cryof the half-breed, “Pym, poor Pym! he must not be forsaken!” troubled me profoundly.
Assuredly, since I had resolved to take part in the expedition of the Halbrane, I was no longer the same man!
A long silence had followed the astounding declaration of the half-breed. None dreamed of doubting his veracity. He had said, “I am Dirk Peters.” He was Dirk Peters.
At length, moved by irresistible impulse, I said:
“My friends, before any decision is made, let us carefully consider the situation. Should we not lay up everlasting regret for ourselves if we were to abandon our expedition at the very moment when it promises to succeed ? Reflect upon this, captain, and you, my companions. It is less than seven months since Patterson left your countrymen alive on Tsalal Island. If they were there then, the fact proves that for eleven years they had been enabled to exist on the resources provided by the island, having nothing to fear from the islanders, some of whom had fallen victims to circumstances unknown to us, and others had probably transferred themselves to some neighbouring island. This is quite plain, and I do not see how any objection can be raised to my reasoning.”
No one made answer: there was none to be made.
“If we have not come across the captain of the Jane and his people,” I resumed, “it is because they have been obliged to abandon Tsalal Island since Patterson’s departure. Why? In my belief, it was because the earthquake had rendered the island uninhabitable. Now, they would only have required a native boat to gain either another island or some point of the Antarctic continent by the aid of the southern current. I hardly hesitate to assert that all this has occurred; but in any case, I know, and I repeat, that we shall have done nothing if we do not persevere in the search on which the safety of your countrymen depends.”
I questioned my audience by a searching look. No answer.
Captain Len Guy, whose emotion was unrestrained, bowed his head, for he felt that I was right, that by invoking the duties of humanity I was prescribing the only course open to men with feeling hearts.