To go against their opinion, to exact the obedience of these ill-disposed men, and under such conditions to risk the unknown Antarctic waters, would have been an act of temerity—or, rather, an act of madness—that would have brought about some catastrophe.
Nevertheless, West, advancing upon Hearne, said to him in a threatening tone,” Who gave you leave to speak?”
“The captain questioned us,” replied Hearne. “I had a right to reply.”
The man uttered these words with such insolence that West, who was generally so self-restrained, was about to give free vent to his wrath, when Captain Len Guy, stopping him by a motion of his hand, said quietly,—
“Be calm, Jem. Nothing can be done unless we are all agreed. What is your opinion, Hurtiguerly?”
“It is very clear, captain,” replied the boatswain. “I will obey your orders, whatever they may be! It is our duty not to forsake William Guy and the others so long as any chance of saving them remains.”
The boatswain paused for a moment, while several of the sailors gave unequivocal signs of approbation.
“As for what concerns Arthur Pym—”
“There is no question of Arthur Pym,” struck in the captain, “but only of my brother William and his companions.”
I saw at this moment that Dirk Peters was about to protest, and caught hold of his arm. He shook with anger, but kept silence.
The captain continued his questioning of the men, desiring to know by name all those upon whom he might reckon. The old crew to a man acquiesced in his proposals, and pledged themselves to obey his orders implicitly and follow him whithersoever he chose to go.
Three only of the recruits joined those faithful seamen; these were English sailors. The others were of Hearne’s opinion, holding that for them the campaign was ended at Tsalal Island. They therefore refused to go beyond that point, and formally demanded that the ship should be steered northward so as to clear the icebergs at the most favourable period of the season.
Twenty men were on their side, and to constrain them to lend a hand to the working of the ship if she were to be diverted to the south would have been to provoke them to rebel. There was but one resource: to arouse their covetousness, to strike the chord of self-interest.
I intervened, therefore, and addressed them in a which placed the seriousness of my proposal beyond a doubt.
“Men of the Halbrane, listen to me! Just as various States have done for voyages of discovery in the Polar Regions, I offer a reward to the crew of this schooner. Two thousand dollars shall be shared among you for every degree we make beyond the eighty-fourth parallel.”
Nearly seventy dollars to each man; this was a strong temptation.
I felt that I had hit the mark.
“I will sign an agreement to that effect,” I continued, “with Captain Len Guy as your representative, and the sums gained shall be handed to you on your return, no matter under what conditions that return be accomplished.’’
I waited for the effect of this promise, and, to tell the truth, I had not to wait long.
“Hurrah!” cried the boatswain, acting as fugleman to his comrades, who almost unanimously added their cheers to his. Hearne offered no farther opposition; it would always be in his power to put in his word when the stances should be more propitious.
Thus the bargain was made, and, to gain my ends, I have made a heavier sacrifice. It is true we were within seven degrees of the South and, if the Halbrane should indeed reach that spot, it would never cost me more than fourteen thousand dollars.
Early in the morning of the 27th of December the Halbrane put out to sea, heading south-west.
After the scene of the preceding evening Captain Len Guy had taken a few hours’ rest. I met him next day on deck while West was going about fore and aft, and he called us both to him.
“Mr. Jeorling,” he said, “it was with a terrible pang that I came to the resolution to bring our schooner back to the north! I felt I had not done all I ought to do for our unhappy fellow-countrymen: but I knew that the majority of the crew would be against me if I insisted on going beyond Tsalal Island.”
“That is true, captain; there was a beginning of indiscipline on board, and perhaps it might have ended in a revolt.”
“A revolt we should have speedily put down,” said West, coolly, “were it only by knocking Hearne, who is always exciting the mutinous men, on the head.”
“And you would have done well, Jem,” said the captain.