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"Strange as the glimmer of the ghastly light That shines from some vast crest of wave at night."


William Hope Hodgson


To Mary Whalley

 "Olden memories that shine against death's nightโ€”
  Quiet stars of sweet enchantments,
  That are seen In Life's lost distancesโ€ฆ"

The World of Dreams

Author's Preface

This book forms the last of three. The first published was "The Boats of the 'Glen Carrig'"; the second, "The House on the Borderland"; this, the third, completes what, perhaps, may be termed a trilogy; for, though very different in scope, each of the three books deals with certain conceptions that have an elemental kinship. With this book, the author believes that he closes the door, so far as he is concerned, on a particular phase of constructive thought.

The Hell O! O! Chaunty

Chaunty Man . . Man the capstan, bullies!
Men . . . . . . Ha!-o-o! Ha!-o-o!
Chaunty Man . . Capstan-bars, you tarry souls!
Men . . . . . . Ha!-o-o! Ha!-o-o!
Chaunty Man . . Take a turn!
Men . . . . . . Ha!-o-o!
Chaunty Man . . Stand by to fleet!
Men . . . . . . Ha!-o-o!
Chaunty Man . . Stand by to surge!
Men . . . . . . Ha!-o-o!
Chaunty Man . . Ha!โ€”o-o-o-o!
Men . . . . . . TRAMP!
                       And away we go!
Chaunty Man . . Hark to the tramp of the
                       bearded shellbacks!
Men . . . . . . Hush!
                       O hear 'em tramp!
Chaunty Man . . Tramping, stampingโ€”
                       treading, vamping,
                       While the cable
                       comes in ramping.
Men . . . . . . Hark!
                       O hear 'em stamp!
Chaunty Man . . Surge when it rides!
                       Surge when it rides!
                       handsome as it slacks!
Men . . . . . . Ha!-o-o-o-o!
                       hear 'em ramp!
                       hear 'em stamp!
Chorus . . . . They're shouting now; oh! hear 'em
                       A-bellow as they stamp:โ€”
                       Ha!-o-o-o! Ha!-o-o-o!
                       A-shouting as they tramp!
Chaunty Man . . O hark to the haunting chorus
                       of the capstan and the bars!
                       and rattle crashโ€”
                       Bash against the stars!
Men . . . . . . Ha-a!-o-o-o!
                       Tramp and go!
Chaunty Man . . Hear the pawls a-ranting: with
                       the bearded men a-chaunting;
                       While the brazen dome above 'em
                       Bellows back the 'bars.'
Men . . . . . . Hear and hark!
                       O hear 'em!
Chaunty Man . . Hurling songs towards the
Men . . . . . . Ha-a!-o-o!
Chaunty Man . . Hush! O hear 'em!
                       Hark! O hear 'em!
                       Hurling oaths among their spars!
Men . . . . . . Hark! O hear 'em!
                       Hush! O hear 'em!
Chaunty Man . . Tramping round between the
Chorus . . . . They're shouting now; oh! hear
                       A-bellow as they stamp:โ€”
                       Ha-a!-o-o-o! Ha-a!-o-o-o!
                       A-shouting as they tramp!
Chaunty Man . . O do you hear the
                       Thunder round the pawls!
Men . . . . . . Click a-clack,
                       And scatter bawls!
Chaunty Man . . Click-a-clack, my bonny boys,
                       while it comes in handsome!
Men . . . . . . Ha-a!-o-o!
                       Hear 'em clack!
Chaunty Man . . Ha-a!-o-o! Click-a-clack!
Men . . . . . . Hush! O hear 'em pant!
                       Hark! O hear 'em rant!
Chaunty Man . . Click, a-clitter, clicker-clack.
Men . . . . . . Ha-a!-o-o!
                       Tramp and go!
Chaunty Man . . Surge! And keep away the slack!
Men . . . . . . Ha-a!-o-o!
                       Away the slack:
Chaunty Man . . Bustle now each jolly Jack.
                       Surging easy! Surging e-a-s-y!!
Men . . . . . . Ha-a!-o-o!
                Surging easy
Chaunty Man . . Click-a-clatterโ€”
                       Surge; and steady!
                       Man the stopper there!
                       All ready?
Men . . . . . . Ha-a!-o-o!
Chaunty Man . . Click-a-clack, my bouncing boys:
Men . . . . . . Ha-a!-o-o!
                       Tramp and go!
Chaunty Man . . Lift the pawls, and come back
Men . . . . . . Ha-a!-o-o!
Chaunty Man . . Vast the chaunty!
                       Vast the capstan!
                       Drop the pawls! Be-l-a-y!
Chorus . . . . Ha-a!-o-o! Unship the bars!
                       Ha-a!-o-o! Tramp and go!
                       Ha-a!-o-o! Shoulder bars!
                       Ha-a!-o-o! And away we blow!


The Figure Out of the Sea

He began without any circumlocution.

I joined the Mortzestus in 'Frisco. I heard before I signed on, that there were some funny yarns floating round about her; but I was pretty nearly on the beach, and too jolly anxious to get away, to worry about trifles. Besides, by all accounts, she was right enough so far as grub and treatment went. When I asked fellows to give it a name, they generally could not. All they could tell me, was that she was unlucky, and made thundering long passages, and had no more than a fair share of dirty weather. Also, that she had twice had the sticks blown out of her, and her cargo shifted. Besides all these, a heap of other things that might happen to any packet, and would not be comfortable to run into. Still, they were the ordinary things, and I was willing enough to risk them, to get home. All the same, if I had been given the chance, I should have shipped in some other vessel as a matter of preference.

When I took my bag down, I found that they had signed on the rest of the crowd. You see, the "home lot" cleared out when they got into 'Frisco, that is, all except one young fellow, a cockney, who had stuck by the ship in port. He told me afterwards, when I got to know him, that he intended to draw a pay-day out of her, whether any one else did, or not.

The first night I was in her, I found that it was common talk among the other fellows, that there was something queer about the ship. They spoke of her as if it were an accepted fact that she was haunted; yet they all treated the matter as a joke; all, that is, except the young cockneyโ€” Williamsโ€”who, instead of laughing at their jests on the subject, seemed to take the whole matter seriously.

This made me rather curious. I began to wonder whether there was, after all, some truth underlying the vague stories I had heard; and I took the first opportunity to ask him whether he had any reasons for believing that there was anything in the yarns about the ship.

At first he was inclined to be a bit offish; but, presently, he came round, and told me that he did not know of any particular incident which could be called unusual in the sense in which I meant. Yet that, at the same time, there were lots of little things which, if you put them together, made you think a bit. For instance, she always made such long passages and had so much dirty weatherโ€”nothing but that and calms and head winds. Then, other things happened; sails that he knew, himself, had been properly stowed, were always blowing adrift at night. And then he said a thing that surprised me.

"There's too many bloomin' shadders about this 'ere packet; they gets onter yer nerves like nothin' as ever I seen before in me nat'ral."

He blurted it all out in a heap, and I turned round and looked at him.

"Too many shadows!" I said. "What on earth do you mean?" But he refused to explain himself or tell me anything furtherโ€”just shook his head, stupidly, when I questioned him. He seemed to have taken a sudden, sulky fit. I felt certain that he was acting dense, purposely. I believe the truth of the matter is that he was, in a way, ashamed of having let himself go like he had, in speaking out his thoughts about "shadders." That type of man may think things at times; but he doesn't often put them into words. Anyhow, I saw it was no use asking any further questions; so I let the matter drop there. Yet, for several days afterwards, I caught myself wondering, at times, what the fellow had meant by "shadders."

We left 'Frisco next day, with a fine, fair wind, that seemed a bit like putting the stopper on the yarns I had heard about the ship's ill luck. And yetโ€”

He hesitated a moment, and then went on again.

For the first couple of weeks out, nothing unusual happened, and the wind still held fair. I began to feel that I had been rather lucky, after all, in the packet into which I had been shunted. Most of the other fellows gave her a good name, and there was a pretty general opinion growing among the crowd, that it was all a silly yarn about her being haunted. And then, just when I was settling down to things, something happened that opened my eyes no end.

It was in the eight to twelve watch, and I was sitting on the steps, on the starboard side, leading up to the fo'cas'le head. The night was fine and there was a splendid moon. Away aft, I heard the timekeeper strike four bells, and the look-out, an old fellow named Jaskett, answered him. As he let go the bell lanyard, he caught sight of me, where I sat quietly, smoking. He leant over the rail, and looked down at me.

"That you, Jessop?" he asked.

"I believe it is," I replied.

"We'd 'ave our gran'mothers an' all the rest of our petticoated relash'ns comin' to sea, if 'twere always like this," he remarked, reflectivelyโ€”indicating, with a sweep of his pipe and hand, the calmness of the sea and sky.

I saw no reason for denying that, and he continued:

"If this ole packet is 'aunted, as some on 'em seems to think, well all as I can say is, let me 'ave the luck to tumble across another of the same sort. Good grub, an' duff fer Sundays, an' a decent crowd of 'em aft, an' everythin' comfertable like, so as yer can feel yer knows where yer are. As fer 'er bein' 'aunted, that's all 'ellish nonsense. I've comed 'cross lots of 'em before as was said to be 'aunted, an' so some on 'em was; but 'twasn't with ghostesses. One packet I was in, they was that bad yer couldn't sleep a wink in yer watch below, until yer'd 'ad every stitch out yer bunk an' 'ad a reg'lar 'unt. Sometimesโ€”" At that moment, the relief, one of the ordinary seamen, went up the other ladder on to the fo'cas'le head, and the old chap turned to ask him "Why the 'ell" he'd not relieved him a bit smarter. The ordinary made some reply; but what it was, I did not catch; for, abruptly, away aft, my rather sleepy gaze had lighted on something altogether extraordinary and outrageous. It was nothing less than the form of a man stepping inboard over the starboard rail, a little abaft the main rigging. I stood up, and caught at the handrail, and stared.

Behind me, someone spoke. It was the look-out, who had come down off the fo'cas'le head, on his way aft to report the name of his relief to the second mate.

"What is it, mate?" he asked, curiously, seeing my intent attitude.

The thing, whatever it was, had disappeared into the shadows on the lee side of the deck.

"Nothing!" I replied, shortly; for I was too bewildered then, at what my eyes had just shown me, to say any more. I wanted to think.

The old shellback glanced at me; but only muttered something, and went on his way aft.

For a minute, perhaps, I stood there, watching; but could see nothing. Then I walked slowly aft, as far as the after end of the deck house. From there, I could see most of the main deck; but nothing showed, except, of course, the moving shadows of the ropes and spars and sails, as they swung to and fro in the moonlight.

The old chap who had just come off the look-out, had returned forrard again, and I was alone on that part of the deck. And then, all at once, as I stood peering into the shadows to leeward, I remembered what Williams had said about there being too many "shadders." I had been puzzled to understand his real meaning, then. I had no difficulty now. There were too many shadows. Yet, shadows or no shadows, I realised that for my own peace of mind, I must settle, once and for all, whether the thing I had seemed to see stepping aboard out of the ocean, had been a reality, or simply a phantom, as

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