It was no wonder that the coastguard was surprised, or even awed, fornot often can such a sight have been seen. The man was simply fastenedby his hands, tied one over the other, to a spoke of the wheel. Betweenthe inner hand and the wood was a crucifix, the set of beads on whichit was fastened being around both wrists and wheel, and all kept fastby the binding cords. The poor fellow may have been seated at onetime, but the flapping and buffeting of the sails had worked throughthe rudder of the wheel and dragged him to and fro, so that the cordswith which he was tied had cut the flesh to the bone. Accurate note wasmade of the state of things, and a doctor--Surgeon J. M. Caffyn, of33, East Elliot Place--who came immediately after me, declared, aftermaking examination, that the man must have been dead for quite twodays. In his pocket was a bottle, carefully corked, empty save for alittle roll of paper, which proved to be the addendum to the log. Thecoastguard said the man must have tied up his own hands, fastening theknots with his teeth. The fact that a coastguard was the first on boardmay save some complications, later on, in the Admiralty Court; for thecoastguards cannot claim the salvage which is the right of the firstcivilian entering on a derelict. Already, however, the legal tongues arewagging, and one young law student is loudly asserting that the rightsof the owner are already completely sacrificed, his property being heldin contravention of the statutes of mortmain, since the tiller, asemblemship, if not proof, of delegated possession, is held in a _deadhand_. It is needless to say that the dead steersman has been reverentlyremoved from the place where he held his honourable watch and ward tilldeath--a steadfastness as noble as that of the young Casabianca--andplaced in the mortuary to await inquest.
Already the sudden storm is passing, and its fierceness is abating; thecrowds are scattering homewards, and the sky is beginning to redden overthe Yorkshire wolds. I shall send, in time for your next issue, furtherdetails of the derelict ship which found her way so miraculously intoharbour in the storm.
_9 August._--The sequel to the strange arrival of the derelict in thestorm last night is almost more startling than the thing itself. Itturns out that the schooner is a Russian from Varna, and is calledthe _Demeter_. She is almost entirely in ballast of silver sand, withonly a small amount of cargo--a number of great wooden boxes filledwith mould. This cargo was consigned to a Whitby solicitor, Mr. S.F. Billington, of 7, The Crescent, who this morning went aboard andformally took possession of the goods consigned to him. The Russianconsul, too, acting for the charter-party, took formal possession ofthe ship, and paid all harbour dues, etc. Nothing is talked about hereto-day except the strange coincidence; the officials of the Board ofTrade have been most exacting in seeing that every compliance has beenmade with existing regulations. As the matter is to be a "nine days'wonder," they are evidently determined that there shall be no cause ofafter complaint. A good deal of interest was abroad concerning the dogwhich landed when the ship struck, and more than a few of the membersof the S.P.C.A., which is very strong in Whitby, have tried to befriendthe animal. To the general disappointment, however, it was not to befound; it seems to have disappeared entirely from the town. It may bethat it was frightened and made its way on to the moors, where it isstill hiding in terror. There are some who look with dread on such apossibility, lest later on it should in itself become a danger, for itis evidently a fierce brute. Early this morning a large dog, a half-bredmastiff, belonging to a coal merchant close to Tate Hill Pier, was founddead in the roadway opposite its master's yard. It had been fighting,and manifestly had had a savage opponent, for its throat was torn away,and its belly slit open as if with a savage claw.
_Later._--By the kindness of the Board of Trade inspector, I have beenpermitted to look over the log-book of the _Demeter_, which was in orderup to within three days, but contained nothing of special interestexcept as to facts of missing men. The greater interest, however, iswith regard to the paper found in the bottle, which was to-day producedat the inquest; and a more strange narrative than the two between themunfold it has not been my lot to come across. As there is no motivefor concealment, I am permitted to use them, and accordingly sendyou a rescript, simply omitting technical details of seamanship andsupercargo. It almost seems as though the captain had been seized withsome kind of mania before he had got well into blue water, and that thishad developed persistently throughout the voyage. Of course my statementmust be taken _cum grano_, since I am writing from the dictation of aclerk of the Russian consul, who kindly translated for me, time beingshort.
/Log of the "Demeter."/
_Varna to Whitby._
_Written 18 July, things so strange happening, that I shall keepaccurate note henceforth till we land._
On 6 July we finished taking in cargo, silver sand and boxes of earth.At noon set sail. East wind, fresh. Crew, five hands, ... two mates,cook, and myself (captain).
On 11 July at dawn entered Bosphorus. Boarded by Turkish Customsofficers. Backsheesh. All correct. Under way at 4 p.m.
On 12 July through Dardanelles. More Customs officers and flagboat ofguarding squadron. Backsheesh again. Work of officers thorough, butquick. Want us off soon. At dark passed into Archipelago.
On 13 July passed Cape Matapan. Crew dissatisfied about something.Seemed scared, but would not speak out.
On 14 July was somewhat anxious about crew. Men all steady fellows, whosailed with me before. Mate could not make out what was wrong; they onlytold him there was _something_, and crossed themselves. Mate lost temperwith one of them that day and struck him. Expected fierce quarrel, butall was quiet.
On 16 July mate reported in the morning that one of crew, Petrofsky,was missing. Could not account for it. Took larboard watch eight bellslast night; was relieved by Abramoff, but did not go to bunk. Men moredowncast than ever. All said they expected something of the kind, butwould not say more than that there was _something_ aboard. Mate gettingvery impatient with them; feared some trouble ahead.
On 17 July, yesterday, one of the men, Olgaren, came to my cabin, and inan awestruck way confided to me that he thought there was a strange manaboard the ship. He said that in his watch he had been sheltering behindthe deck-house, as there was a rain-storm, when he saw a tall, thin man,who was not like any of the crew, come up the companion-way, and goalong the deck forward, and disappear. He followed cautiously, but whenhe got to bows found no one, and the hatchways were all closed. He wasin a panic of superstitious fear, and I am afraid the panic may spread.To allay it, I shall to-day search entire ship carefully from stem tostern.
Later in the day I got together the whole crew, and told them, as theyevidently thought t
here was some one in the ship, we should search fromstem to stern. First mate angry; said it was folly, and to yield to suchfoolish ideas would demoralise the men; said he would engage to keepthem out of trouble with a handspike. I let him take the helm, whilethe rest began thorough search, all keeping abreast, with lanterns;we left no corner unsearched. As there were only the big wooden boxes,there were no odd corners where a man could hide. Men much relieved whensearch over, and went back to work cheerfully. First mate scowled, butsaid nothing.
_22 July._--Rough weather last three days, and all hands busy withsails--no time to be frightened. Men seem to have forgotten their dread.Mate cheerful again, and all on good terms. Praised men for work in badweather. Passed Gibraltar and out through Straits. All well.
_24 July._--There seems some doom over this ship. Already a hand short,and entering on the Bay of Biscay with wild weather ahead, and yet lastnight another man lost--disappeared. Like the first, he came off hiswatch and was not seen again. Men all in a panic of fear; sent a roundrobin, asking to have double watch, as they fear to be alone. Mateviolent. Fear there will be some trouble, as either he or the men willdo some violence.
_28 July._--Four days in hell, knocking about in a sort of maelstrom,and the wind a tempest. No sleep for any one. Men all worn out.Hardly know how to set a watch since no one fit to go on. Second matevolunteered to steer and watch, and let men snatch a few hours' sleep.Wind abating; seas still terrific, but feel them less, as ship issteadier.
_29 July._--Another tragedy. Had single watch to-night, as crew tootired to double. When morning watch came on deck could find no oneexcept steersman. Raised outcry, and all came on deck. Thorough search,but no one found. Are now without second mate, and crew in a panic. Mateand I agreed to go armed henceforth and wait for any sign of cause.
_30 July._--Last night. Rejoiced we are nearing England. Weather fine,all sails set. Retired worn out; slept soundly; awaked by mate tellingme that both men on watch and steersman missing. Only self and mate andtwo hands left to work ship.
_1 August._--Two days of fog, and not a sail sighted. Had hoped when inthe English Channel to be able to signal for help or get in somewhere.Not having power to work sails, have to run before wind. Dare not lower,as could not raise them again. We seem to be drifting to some terribledoom. Mate now more demoralised than either of them. His strongernature seems to have worked inwardly against himself. Men are beyondfear, working stolidly and patiently, with minds made up to worst. Theyare Russian, he Roumanian.
_2 August, midnight._--Woke up from few minutes' sleep by hearing a cry,seemingly outside my port. Could see nothing in fog. Rushed on deck,and ran against mate. Tells me heard cry and ran, but no sign of man onwatch. One more gone. Lord, help us! Mate says we must be past Straitsof Dover, as in a moment of fog lifting he saw North Foreland, just ashe heard the man cry out. If so we are now off in the North Sea, andonly God can guide us in the fog, which seems to move with us; and Godseems to have deserted us.
_3 August._--At midnight I went to relieve the man at the wheel, butwhen I got to it found no one there. The wind was steady, and as we ranbefore it there was no yawing. I dared not leave it, so shouted forthe mate. After a few seconds he rushed up on deck in his flannels. Helooked wild-eyed and haggard, and I greatly fear his reason has givenway. He came close to me and whispered hoarsely, with his mouth to myear, as though fearing the very air might hear: "_It_ is here; I knowit, now. On the watch last night I saw It, like a man, tall and thin,and ghastly pale. It was in the bows, and looking out. I crept behindIt, and gave It my knife; but the knife went through It, empty as theair." And as he spoke he took his knife and drove it savagely intospace. Then he went on: "But It is here, and I'll find it. It is in thehold, perhaps, in one of those boxes. I'll unscrew them one by one andsee. You work the helm." And, with a warning look and his finger on hislip, he went below. There was springing up a choppy wind, and I couldnot leave the helm. I saw him come out on deck again with a tool-chestand a lantern, and go down the forward hatchway. He is mad, stark,raving mad, and it's no use my trying to stop him. He can't hurt thosebig boxes: they are invoiced as "clay," and to pull them about is asharmless a thing as he can do. So here I stay, and mind the helm, andwrite these notes. I can only trust in God and wait till the fog clears.Then, if I can't steer to any harbour with the wind that is, I shall cutdown sails and lie by, and signal for help....
It is nearly all over now. Just as I was beginning to hope that the matewould come out calmer--for I heard him knocking away at something in thehold, and work is good for him--there came up the hatchway a sudden,startled scream, which made my blood run cold, and up on the deck hecame as if shot from a gun--a raging madman, with his eyes rolling andhis face convulsed with fear. "Save me! save me!" he cried, and thenlooked round on the blanket of fog. His horror turned to despair, andin a steady voice he said: "You had better come too, captain, before itis too late. _He_ is there. I know the secret now. The sea will save mefrom Him, and it is all that is left!" Before I could say a word, ormove forward to seize him, he sprang on the bulwark and deliberatelythrew himself into the sea. I suppose I know the secret too, now. Itwas this madman who had got rid of the men one by one, and now he hasfollowed them himself. God help me! How am I to account for all thesehorrors when I get to port? _When_ I get to port! Will that ever be?
_4 August._--Still fog, which the sunrise cannot pierce. I know thereis sunrise because I am a sailor, why else I know not. I dared not gobelow, I dared not leave the helm; so here all night I stayed, and inthe dimness of the night I saw It--Him! God forgive me, but the mate wasright to jump overboard. It is better to die like a man; to die like asailor in blue water no man can object. But I am captain, and I must notleave my ship. But I shall baffle this fiend or monster, for I shalltie my hands to the wheel when my strength begins to fail, and alongwith them I shall tie that which He--It!--dare not touch; and then, comegood wind or foul, I shall save my soul, and my honour as a captain. Iam growing weaker, and the night is coming on. If He can look me in theface again, I may not have time to act.... If we are wrecked, mayhapthis bottle may be found, and those who find it may understand; if not,... well, then all men shall know that I have been true to my trust. Godand the Blessed Virgin and the saints help a poor ignorant soul tryingto do his duty....
Of course the verdict was an open one. There is no evidence to adduce;and whether or not the man himself committed the murders there is nownone to say. The folk hold almost universally here that the captainis simply a hero, and he is to be given a public funeral. Already itis arranged that his body is to be taken with a train of boats up theEsk for a piece and then brought back to Tate Hill Pier and up theAbbey steps; for he is to be buried in the churchyard on the cliff. Theowners of more than a hundred boats have already given in their names aswishing to follow him to the grave.
No trace has ever been found of the great dog; at which there is muchmourning, for, with public opinion in its present state, he would, Ibelieve, be adopted by the town. To-morrow will see the funeral; and sowill end this one more "mystery of the sea."
/Mina Murray's Journal./