You know the rest——
“And you think—?” said the Captain, interrogatively, and stopped short.
“No,” replied Jessop. “I don’t think. I know. None of us think_. It’s a gospel fact. People talk about queer things happening at sea; but this isn’t one of them. This is one of the real things. You’ve all seen queer things; perhaps more than I have. It depends. But they don’t go down in the log. These kinds of things never do. This one won’t; at least, not as it’s really happened.”
He nodded his head, slowly, and went on, addressing the Captain more particularly.
“I’ll bet,” he said, deliberately, “that you’ll enter it in the log-book, something like this:
“’May l8th. Lat.—S. Long.—W. 2 p.m. Light winds from the South and East. Sighted a full-rigged ship on the starboard bow. Overhauled her in the first dog-watch. Signalled her; but received no response. During the second dog-watch she steadily refused to communicate. About eight bells, it was observed that she seemed to be settling by the head, and a minute later she foundered suddenly, bows foremost, with all her crew. Put out a boat and picked up one of the men, an A.B. by the name of Jessop. He was quite unable to give any explanation of the catastrophe.’
“And you two,” he made a gesture at the First and Second Mates, “will probably sign your names to it, and so will I, and perhaps one of your A.B.s. Then when we get home they’ll print a report of it in the newspapers, and people will talk about the unseaworthy ships. Maybe some of the experts will talk rot about rivets and defective plates and so forth.”
He laughed, cynically. Then he went on.
“And you know, when you come to think of it, there’s no one except our own selves will ever know how it happened—really. The shellbacks don’t count. They’re only ’beastly, drunken brutes of common sailors’—poor devils! No one would think of taking anything they said, as anything more than a damned cuffer. Besides, the beggars only tell these things when they’re half-boozed. They wouldn’t then (for fear of being laughed at), only they’re not responsible—”
He broke off, and looked round at us.
The Skipper and the two Mates nodded their heads, in silent assent.
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.