A doomed and haunted ship on its last voyage, and of the terrible sea-devils (perhaps the spirits of bygone buccaneers) that besiege it and finally drag it down to an unknown fate.



by William Hope Hodgson

I went up the ladder, and walked across to where the Skipper and the Second Mate stood talking earnestly, by the rail. Tammy kept behind. As I came near to them, I caught two or three words, though I attached no meaning then to them. They were: ". . . send for him." Then the two of them turned and looked at me, and the Second Mate asked what I wanted. "I want to speak to you and the Old M—Captain, Sir," I answered. "What is it, Jessop?" the Skipper inquired. "I scarcely know how to put it, Sir," I said. "It's—it's about these—these things." "What things? Speak out, man:' he said. "Well, Sir," I blurted out. "There's some dreadful thing or things come aboard this ship, since we left port7 I saw him give one quick glance at the Second Mate, and the Sec¬ond looked back. Then the Skipper replied. "How do you mean, come aboard?" he asked. "Out of the sea, Sir," I said. "I've seen them. So's Tammy, here "Ah!" he exclaimed, and it seemed to me, from his face, that he was understanding something better. "Out of the sea!" Again he looked at the Second Mate; but the Second was staring at me. "Yes Sir;' I said. "It's the ship. She's not safe! I've watched. I think I understand a bit; but there's a lot I don't." I stopped. The Skipper had turned to the Second Mate. The Second nodded, gravely. Then I heard him mutter, in a low voice, and the Old Man replied; after which he turned to me again. "Look here, Jessop," he said. "I'm going to talk straight to you. You strike me as being a cut above the ordinary shellback, and I think you've sense enough to hold your tongue' "I've got my mate's ticket, Sir;' I said, simply. Behind me, I heard Tammy give a little start. He had not known about it until then. The Skipper nodded. "So much the better:' he answered. "I may have to speak to you about that, later on." He paused, and the Second Mate said something to him, in an undertone. "Yes," he said, as though in reply to what the Second had been saying. Then he spoke to me again. "You've seen things come out of the sea, you say?" he questioned. "Now just tell me all you can remember, from the very beginning." I set to, and told him everything in detail, commencing with the strange figure that had stepped aboard out of the sea, and continuing my yarn, up to the things that had happened in that very watch. I stuck well to solid facts; and now and then he and the Second Mate would look at one another, and nod. At the end, he turned to me with an abrupt gesture. "You still hold, then, that you saw a ship the other morning, when I sent you from the wheel?" he asked. "Yes, Sir," I said. "I most cer¬tainly do." "But you knew there wasn't any!" he said. "Yes, Sir," I replied, in an apologetic tone. "There was; and, if you will let me, I believe that I can explain it a bit." "Well," he said, "go on!' Now that I knew he was will ing to listen to me in a serious manner all my funk of telling him had gone, and I went ahead and told him my ideas about the mist, and the thing it seemed to have ushered, you know. I finished up, by telling him how Tammy had worried me to come and tell what I knew. "He thought then, Sir;' I went on, "that you might wish to put into the nearest port; but I told him that I didn't think you could, even if you wanted tor "How's that?" he asked, profoundly interested. "Well, Sir," I replied. "If we're unable to see other vessels, we shouldn't be able to see the land. You'd be piing the ship up, without ever seeing where you were putting her." This view of the matter affected the Old Man in an extraordinary manner; as it did, I believe, the Second Mate. And neither spoke for a moment. Then the Skipper burst out. "By Gad! Jessop," he said. "If you're right, the Lord have mercy on us:" He thought for a couple of seconds. Then he spoke again, and I could see that he was pretty well twisted up. "My God! . . . if you're right!" The Second Mate spoke. "The men mustn't know, Sir," he warned him. "It'd be a mess if they did!" "Yes," said the Old Man. He spoke to me. "Remember that, Jessop," he said. "Whatever you do, don't go yarning about this, forrard" "No, Se I replied. "And you too, boy:' said the Skipper. "Keep your tongue between your teeth. We're in a bad enough mess, without your making it worse. Do you hear?" "Yes, Sir," answered Tammy. The Old Man turned to me again. "These things, or creatures that you say come out of the sea," he said. "You've never seen them, except after nightfall?" he asked. "No, Sir," I replied. "Never!' He turned to the Second Mate. "So far as I can make out, Mr. Tulipson," he remarked, "the danger seems to be only at night!' "It's always been at night, Sir:' the Second answered. The Old Man nodded. "Have you anything to propose, Mr. Tulipson?" he asked. "Well, Sir," replied the Second Mate. "I think you ought to have her snugged down every night, before dark!" He spoke with considerable emphasis. Then he glanced aloft, and jerked his head in the direction of the unfurled t'gallants. "It's a damned good thing, Sir," he said, "that it didn't come on to blow any harder!' The Old Man nodded again. "Yes:' he remarked. "We shall have to do it; but God knows when we'll get home!" "Better late than not at I heard the Second mutter, under his breath. Out loud, he said: "And the lights, Sir?" "Yes:' said the Old Man. "I will have lamps in the rigging every night, after dark." "Very good, Sir," assented the Second. Then he turned to us. "It's getting daylight, Jessop," he remarked, with a glance at the sky. "You'd better take Tammy with you, and shove those lamps back again into the locker." "Aye, Aye, Sir," I said, and went down off the poop with Tammy. When eight bells went, at four o'clock, and the other watch came on deck to relieve us, it had been broad daylight for some time. Before we went below, the Second Mate had the three t'gallants set; and now that it was light, we were pretty curious to have a look aloft, especially up the fore; and Tom, who had been up to overhaul the gear, was ques¬tioned a lot, when he came down, as to whether there were any signs of anything queer up there. But he told us there was nothing unusual to be seen. At eight o'clock, when we came on deck for the eight to twelve watch, I saw the Sailmaker coming forrard along the deck, from the Sec¬ond Mate's old berth. He had his rule in his hand, and I knew he had been measuring the poor beggars in there, for their burial outfit. From breakfast time until near noon, he worked, shaping out three canvas wrappers from some old sailcloth. Then, with the aid of the Second Mate and one of the hands, he brought out the three dead chaps on to the after hatch, and there sewed them up, with a few lumps of holy stone at their feet. He was just finishing when eight bells went, and I heard the Old Man tell the Second Mate to call all hands aft for the bur¬ial. This was done, and one of the gangways unshipped. We had no decent grating big enough, so they had to get off one of the hatches, and use it instead. The wind had died away during the morning, and the sea was almost a calm—the ship lifting ever so slightly to an occasional glassy heave. The only sounds that struck on the ear were the soft, slow rustle and occasional shiver of the sails, and the con¬tinuous and monotonous creak, creak of the spars and gear at the gen¬tle movements of the vessel. And it was in this solemn half-quietness that the Skipper read the burial service. They had put the Dutchman first upon the hatch (I could tell him by his stumpiness), and when at last the Old Man gave the signal, the Second Mate tilted his end, and he slid off, and down into the dark. "Poor old Dutchie," I heard one of the men say, and I fancy we all felt a bit like that. Then they lifted Jacobs on to the hatch, and when he had gone, Jock. When Jock was lifted, a sort of sudden shiver ran through the crowd. He had been a favourite in a quiet way, and I know I felt, all at once, just a bit queer. I was standing by the rail, upon the after bollard, and Tammy was next to me; while Plummer stood a little behind. As the Second Mate tilted the hatch for the last time, a little, hoarse cho rus broke from the men: "S'long, Jock! So long, Jock!" And then, at the sudden plunge, they rushed to the side to see the last of him as he went downwards. Even the Second Mate was not able to resist this universal feeling, and he, too, peered over. From where I had been standing, I had been able to see the body take the water, and now, for a brief couple of seconds, I saw the white of the canvas, blurred by the blue of the water, dwindle and dwindle in the extreme depth. Abruptly, as I stared, it dis appeared—too abruptly, it seemed to me. "Gone!" I heard several voices say, and then our watch began to go slowly forrard, while one or two of the other, started to replace the hatch. Tammy pointed, and nudged me. "See, Jessop," he said. "What is it?" "What?" I asked. "That queer shadow," he replied. "Look!" And then I saw what he meant. It was something big and shadowy, that appeared to be growing clearer. It occupied the exact place—so it seemed to me—in which Jock had disappeared. "Look at it!" said Tammy, again. "It's getting bigger!" He was pretty excited, and so was I. I was peering down. The thing seemed to be rising out of the depths. It was taking shape. As I realized what the shape was, a queer, cold funk took me. "See:' said Tammy. "It's just like the shadow of a ship!" And it was. The shadow of a ship rising out of the unexplored im¬mensity beneath our keel. Plummer, who had not yet gone forrard, caught Tammy's last remark, and glanced over. "What's 'e mean?" he asked. "That!" replied Tammy, and pointed. I jabbed my elbow into his ribs; but it was too late. Plummer had seen. Curiously enough, though, he seemed to think nothing of it. "That ain't nothin, `cept ther shadder er ther ship:' he said. Tammy, after my hint, let it go at that. But when Plummer had gone forrard with the others, I told him not to go telling everything round the decks, like that. "We've got to be thundering careful!" I remarked. "You know what the Old Man said, last watch!" "Yes:' said Tammy. "I wasn't thinking; I'll be careful next time." A little way from me the Second Mate was still staring down into the water. I turned, and spoke to him. "What do you make it out to be, Sir?" I asked. "God knows!" he said, with a quick glance round to see whether any of the men were about. He got down from the rail, and turned to go up on to the poop. At the top of the ladder, he leaned over the break. "You may as well ship that gangway, you two," he told us. "And mind, Jessop, keep your mouth shut about this." "Aye, Aye, Sir," I answered. "And you too, youngster!" he added and went aft along the poop. Tammy and I were busy with the gangway when the Second came back. He had brought the Skipper. "Right under the gangway, Sir;' I heard the Second say, and he pointed down into the water. For a little while, the Old Man stared. Then I heard him speak. "I don't see anything:' he said. At that, the Second Mate bent more forward and peered down. So did I; but the thing, whatever it was, had gone completely. "It's gone, Sir," said the Second. "It was there right enough when I came for you." About a minute later, having finished shipping the gangway, I was going forrard, when the Second's voice called me back. "Tell the Captain what it was you saw just now:' he said, in a low voice. "I can't say exactly, Sir;' I replied. "But it seemed to me like the shadow of a ship, rising up through the water." "There, Sir;' remarked the Second Mate to the Old Man. "Just what I told you." The Skipper stared at me. "You're quite sure?" he asked. "Yes, Sir," I answered. "Tammy saw it, too." I waited a minute. Then they turned to go aft. The Second was say¬ing something. "Can I go, Sir?" I asked. "Yes, that will do, Jessop," he said, over his shoulder. But the Old Man came back to the break, and spoke to me. "Remember, not a word of this forrard!" he said. "No Sir:' I replied, and he went back to the Second Mate; while I walked forrard to the fo'cas'le to get something to eat. "Your whack's in the kettle, Jessop," said Tom, as I stepped in over the washboard. "An' I got your lime juice in a pannikin." "Thanks," I said, and sat down. As I stowed away my grub, I took no notice of the chatter of the others. I was too stuffed with my own thoughts. That shadow of a ves¬sel rising, you know, out of the profound deeps, had impressed me tremendously. It had not been imagination. Three of us had seen it—re¬ally four; for Plummer distinctly saw it; though he failed to recognize it as anything extraordinary. As you can understand, I thought a lot about this shadow of a ves¬sel. But, I am sure, for a time, my ideas must just have gone in an ever¬lasting, blind circle. And then I got another thought; for I got thinking of the figures I had seen aloft in the early morning; and I began to imagine fresh things. You see, that first thing that had come up over the side, had come out of the sea. And it had gone back. And now there was this shadow vessel-thing—ghost ship I called it. It was a damned good name, too. And the dark, noiseless men . . . I thought a lot on these lines. Unconsciously, I put a question to myself, aloud: "Were they the crew?" "Eh?" said Jaskett, who was on the next chest. I took hold of myself, as it were, and glanced at him, in an appar¬ently careless manner. "Did I speak?" I asked. "Yes, mate he replied, eyeing me, curiously. "Yer said sumthin' about a crewr "I must have been dreaming," I said; and rose up to put away my plate. At four o'clock, when again we went on deck, the Second Mate told me to go on with a paunch mat I was making; while Tammy, he sent to get out his sinnet. I had the mat slug on the fore side of the mainmast, between it and the after end of the house; and, in a few min-utes, Tammy brought his sinnet and yarns to the mast, and made fast to one of the pins. "What do you think it was, Jessop?" he asked, abruptly, after a short silence. I looked at him. "What do you think?" I replied. "I don't know what to think," he said. "But I've a feeling that it's something to do with all the rest," and he indicated aloft, with his head. "I've been thinking, too:' I remarked. "That it is?" he inquired. "Yes," I answered, and told him how the idea had come to me at my dinner, that the strange men-shadows which came aboard, might come from that indistinct vessel we had seen down in the sea. "Good Lord!" he exclaimed, as he got my meaning. And then for a little, he stood and thought. "That's where they live, you mean?" he said, at last, and paused again. "Well: I replied. "It can't be the sort of existence we should call life!' He nodded, doubtfully. "No," he said, and was silent again. Presently, he put out an idea that had come to him. "You think, then, that that—vessel has been with us for some time, if we'd only known?" he asked. "All along," I replied. "I mean ever since these things started!' "Supposing there are others," he said, suddenly. I looked at him. "If there are," I said. "You can pray to God that they won't stumble across us. It strikes me that whether they're ghosts, or not ghosts, they're blood-gutted pirates. "It seems horrible he said solemnly, "to be talking seriously like this, about—you know, about such things." "I've tried to stop thinking that way," I told him. "I've felt I should go cracked, if I didn't. There's damned queer things happen at sea, I know; but this isn't one of them." "It seems so strange and unreal, one moment, doesn't it?" he said. "And the next, you know it's really true, and you can't understand why you didn't always know. And yet they'd never believe, if you told them ashore about it." "They'd believe, if they'd been in this packet in the middle watch this morning," I said. "Besides," I went on. "They don't understand. We didn't . . . I shall always feel different now, when I read that some packet hasn't been heard of." Tammy stared at me. "I've heard some of the old shellbacks talking about things," he said. "But I never took them really seriously!' "Well," I said. "I guess we'll have to take this seriously. I wish to God we were home!" "My God! so do I," he said. For a good while after that, we both worked on in silence; but, presently, he went off on another tack. "Do you think we'll really shorten her down every night before it gets dark?" he asked. "Certainly," I replied. "They'll never get the men to go aloft at night, after what's happened." "But, but—supposing they ordered us aloft—" he began. "Would you go?" I interrupted. "No!" he said, emphatically. "I'd jolly well be put in irons first!" "That settles it, then," I replied. "You wouldn't go, nor would any one else." At this moment the Second Mate came along. "Shove that mat and that sinnet away, you two:' he said. "Then get your brooms and clear ur "Aye, Aye, Sir:' we said, and he went on forrard. "Jump on the house, Tammy," I said. "And let go the other end of this rope, will you?" "Right" he said, and did as I had asked him. When he came back, I got him to give me a hand to roll up the mat, which was a very large one. "I'll finish stopping I said. "You go and put your sinnet away." "Wait a minute he replied, and gathered up a double handful of shakins from the deck, under where I had been working. Then he ran to the side. "Here!" I said. "Don't go dumping those. They'll only float, and the Second Mate or the Skipper will be sure to spot them." "Come here, Jessop!" he interrupted, in a low voice, and taking no notice of what I had been saying. I got up off the hatch, where I was kneeling. He was staring over the side. "What's up?" I asked. "For God's sake, hurry!" he said, and I ran, and jumped on to the spar, alongside of him. "Look!" he said, and pointed with a handful of shakins, right down, directly beneath us. Some of the shakins dropped from his hand, and blurred the water, momentarily, so that I could not see. Then, as the ripples cleared away, I saw what he meant. "Two of them!" he said, in a voice that was scarcely above a whis¬per. "And there's another out there and he pointed again with the handful of shakins. "There's another a little further aft:' I muttered. "Where?—where?" he asked. "There I said, and pointed. "That's four:' he whispered. "Four of them!" I said nothing; but continued to stare. They appeared to me to be a great way down in the sea, and quite motionless. Yet, though their out¬lines were somewhat blurred and indistinct, there was no mistaking that they were very like exact, though shadowy, representations of vessels. For some minutes we watched them, without speaking. At last Tammy spoke. "They're real, right enough," he said, in a low voice. "I don't know:' I answered. "I mean we weren't mistaken this morning:' he said. "No," I replied. "I never thought we wer' Away forrard, I heard the Second Mate, returning aft. He came nearer, and saw us. "What's up now, you two?" he called, sharply. "This isn't clearing up!" I put out my hand to warn him not to shout, and draw the atten¬tion of the rest of the men. He took several steps toward me. "What is it? What is it?" he said, with a certain irritability; but in a lower voice. "You'd better take a look over the side, Sir," I replied. My tone must have given him an inkling that we had discovered something fresh; for, at my words, he made one spring, and stood on the spar, alongside of me. "Look, Sir," said Tammy. "There's four of them." The Second Mate glanced down, saw something and bent sharply forward. "My God!" I heard him mutter, under his breath. And that was the last thing I ever heard, it was the last thing anyone ever heard from any of us aboard that ship.


  1. Decent reader, but he clears his throat a lot. Speech is a little forced also. But overall, entertaining listen.


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