Yet, a little after five bells, it seemed to me that I saw a shadowy face peer over the rail, a little abaft the fore lanyards. I snatched up one of the lanterns from off the spar, and flashed the light towards it, whereupon there was nothing. Only, on my mind, more than my sight, I fancy, a queer knowledge remained of wet, peery eyes. Afterwards, when I thought about them, I felt extra beastly. I knew then how brutal they had been ... Inscrutable, you know. Once more in that same watch I had a somewhat similar experience, only in this instance it had vanished even before I had time to reach a light. And then came eight bells, and our watch below.
The Great Ghost Ship
When we were called again, at a quarter to four, the man who roused us out, had some queer information.
“Toppin’s gone—clean vanished!” he told us, as we began to turn out. “I never was in such a damned, hair-raisin’ hooker as this here. It ain’t safe to go about the bloomin’ decks.”
“’oo’s gone?” asked Plummer, sitting up suddenly and throwing his legs over his bunk-board.
“Toppin, one of the ‘prentices,” replied the man. “We’ve been huntin’ all over the bloomin’ show. We’re still at it—but we’ll never find him,” he ended, with a sort of gloomy assurance.
“Oh, I dunno,” said Quoin. “P’raps ‘e’s snoozin’ somewheres ’bout.”
“Not him,” replied the man. “I tell you we’ve turned everythin’ upside down. He’s not aboard the bloomin’ ship.
“Where was he when they last saw him?” I asked.
“Someone must know something, you know!”
“Keepin’ time up on the poop,” he replied. “The Old Man’s nearly shook the life out of the Mate and the chap at the wheel. And they say they don’t know nothin’.”
“How do you mean?” I inquired. “How do you mean, nothing?”
“Well,” he answered. “The youngster was there one minute, and then the next thing they knew, he’d gone. They’ve both sworn black an’ blue that there wasn’t a whisper. He’s just disappeared off of the face of the bloomin’ earth.”
I got down on to my chest, and reached for my boots.
Before I could speak again, the man was saying something fresh.
“See here, mates,” he went on. “If things is goin’ on like this, I’d like to know where you an’ me’ll be befor’ long!”
“We’ll be in ’ell,” said Plummer.
“I dunno as I like to think ’bout it,” said Quoin.
“We’ll have to think about it!” replied the man. “We’ve got to think a bloomin’ lot about it. I’ve talked to our side, an’ they’re game.”
“Game for what?” I asked.
“To go an’ talk straight to the bloomin’ Capting,” he said, wagging his finger at me. “It’s make tracks for the nearest bloomin’ port, an’ don’t you make no bloomin’ mistake.”
I opened my mouth to tell him that the probability was we should not be able to make it, even if he could get the Old Man to see the matter from his point of view. Then I remembered that the chap had no idea of the things I had seen, and thought out; so, instead, I said: