The Ghost Pirates, by William Hope Hodgson


The Silent Ship

I’m the Third Mate of the Sangier, the vessel that picked up Jessop, you know; and he’s asked us to write a short note of what we saw from our side, and sign it. The Old Man’s set me on the job, as he says I can put it better than he can.

Well, it was in the first dog-watch that we came up with her, the Mortzestus I mean; but it was in the second dog-watch that it happened. The Mate and I were on the poop watching her. You see, we’d signalled her, and she’d not taken any notice, and that seemed queer, as we couldn’t have been more than three or four hundred yards off her port beam, and it was a fine evening; so that we could almost have had a tea-fight, if they’d seemed a pleasant crowd. As it was, we called them a set of sulky swine, and left it at that, though we still kept our hoist up.

All the same, you know, we watched her a lot; and I remember even then I thought it queer how quiet she was. We couldn’t even hear her bell go and I spoke to the Mate about it, and he said he’d been noticing the same thing.

Then, about six bells they shortened her right down to top-sails; and I can tell you that made us stare more than ever, as anyone can imagine. And I remember we noticed then especially that we couldn’t hear a single sound from her even when the haul yards were let go; and, you know, without the glass, I saw their Old Man singing out something; but we didn’t get a sound of it and we should have been able to hear every word.

Then, just before eight bells, the thing Jessop’s told us about happened. Both the Mate and the Old Man said they could see men going up her side a bit indistinct, you know, because it was getting dusk; but the Second Mate and I half thought we did and half thought we didn’t; but there was something queer; we all knew that; and it looked like a sort of moving mist along her side. I know I felt pretty funny; but it wasn’t the sort of thing, of course, to be too sure and serious about until you were sure.

After the Mate and the Captain had said they saw the men boarding her, we began to hear sounds from her; very queer at first and rather like a phonograph makes when it’s getting up speed. Then the sounds came properly from her, and we heard them shouting and yelling; and, you know, I don’t know even now just what I really thought. I was all so queer and mixed.

The next thing I remember there was a thick mist round the ship; and then all the noise was shut off, as if it were all the other side of a door. But we could still see her masts and spars and sails above the misty stuff; and both the Captain and the Mate said they could see men aloft; and I thought I could; but the Second Mate wasn’t sure. All the same though, the sails were all loosed in about a minute, it seemed, and the yards mastheaded. We couldn’t see the courses above the mist; but Jessop says they were loosed too and sheeted home along with the upper sails. Then we saw the yards squared and I saw the sails fill bang up with wind; and yet, you know, ours were slatting.

The next thing was the one that hit me more than anything. Her masts took a cant forrard, and then I saw her stem come up out of the mist that was round her. Then, all in an instant, we could hear sounds from the vessel again. And I tell you, the men didn’t seem to be shouting, but screaming. Her stern went higher. It was most extraordinary to look at; and then she went plunk down, head foremost, right bang into the mist-stuff.

It’s all right what Jessop says, and when we saw him swimming (I was the one who spotted him) we got out a boat quicker than a wind-jammer ever got out a boat before, I should think.

The Captain and the Mate and the Second and I are all going to sign this.

(Signed) WILLIAM NAWSTON Master.
J. E. G. ADAMS First Mate.
ED. BROWN Second Mate.
JACK T. EVAN Third Mate.

This web edition published by:

The University of Adelaide Library
University of Adelaide
South Australia 5005

Last updated Sunday, March 27, 2016 at 11:55