“I can only say,” he answered, “that what must be inferred from the manuscript is what I had inferred before I opened it. That same explanation was the only one that ever occurred to me, even in the first night. It then seemed to me utterly incredible, but it is still the only conceivable explanation that my mind can suggest.”
“Did you,” asked I, “connect the shock and the relics, which I presume you know were not on the island before the shock, with the meteor and the strange obscuration of the sun?”
“I certainly did,” he said. “Having done so, there could be but one conclusion as to the quarter from which the shock was received.”
The examination and transcription of the manuscript, with all the help afforded me by my friend’s previous efforts, was the work of several years. There is, as the reader will see, more than one hiatus valde deflendus, as the scholiasts have it, and there are passages in which, whether from the illegibility of the manuscript or the employment of technical terms unknown to me, I cannot be certain of the correctness of my translation. Such, however, as it is, I give it to the world, having fulfilled, I believe, every one of the conditions imposed upon me by my late and deeply regretted friend.
The character of the manuscript is very curious, and its translation was exceedingly difficult. The material on which it is written resembles nothing used for such purposes on Earth. It is more like a very fine linen or silken web, but it is far closer in texture, and has never been woven in any kind of loom at all like those employed in any manufacture known to history or archaeology. The letters, or more properly symbols, are minute, but executed with extraordinary clearness. I should fancy that something more like a pencil than a pen, but with a finer point than that of the finest pencil, was employed in the writing. Contractions and combinations are not merely frequent, but almost universal. There is scarcely an instance in which five consecutive letters are separately written, and there is no single line in which half a dozen contractions, often including from four to ten letters, do not occur. The pages are of the size of an ordinary duodecimo, but contain some fifty lines per page, and perhaps one hundred and fifty letters in each line. What were probably the first half dozen pages have been utterly destroyed, and the next half dozen are so mashed, tattered, and defaced, that only a few sentences here and there are legible. I have contrived, however, to combine these into what I believe to be a substantially correct representation of the author’s meaning. The Latin is of a monastic—sometimes almost canine—quality, with many words which are not Latin at all. For the rest, though here and there pages are illegible, and though some symbols, especially those representing numbers or chemical compounds, are absolutely undecipherable, it has been possible to effect what I hope will be found a clear and coherent translation. I have condensed the narrative but have not altered or suppressed a line for fear of offending those who must be unreasonable, indeed, if they lay the offence to my charge.