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Extract from the Log of the Demeter, written by its captain (Varna to Whitby)
3 August. – At midnight I went to relieve the man at the wheel, but when I got to it found no one there. The wind was steady, and as we ran before it there was no yawning. I dared not leave it, so shouted for the mate. After a few seconds he rushed up on the deck in his flannels. He looked wild-eyed and haggard, and I greatly fear his reason has given way. He came close to me and whispered hoarsely, with his mouth to my ear, as though fearing the very air might hear: “It is here; I know it, 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 behind It, and gave It my knife; but the knife went through It, empty as the air.” And as he spoke he took his knife and drove it savagely into space. Then he went on: “But It is here, and I’ll find it. It is in the hold, perhaps, in one of those boxes. I’ll unscrew them one by one and see. You work the helm.” And, with a warning look and his finger on his lip, he went below. There was springing up a choppy wind and I could not leave the helm. I saw him come out on deck again with a tool-chest and 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 those big boxes: they are invoiced as “clay”, and to pull them about is as harmless a thing as he can do. So here I stay, and mind the helm, and write 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 cut down sails and lie by, and signal for help…
It is nearly all over now. Just as I was beginning to hope that the mate would come out calmer- for I heard him knocking away at something in the hold, and work is good for him- there came up the hatchway as sudden, startled scream, which made my blood run cold, and up on the deck he came as if shot from a gun- a raging madman, with his eyes rolling and his face convulsed with fear. “Save me! Save me!” he cried, and then looked round on the blanket of fog. His horror turned to despair, and in a steady voice he said: “You had better come too, captain, before it is too late. He is there. I know the secret now. The sea will save me from him , and it is all that is left!” Before I could say a word, or move forward to seize him, he sprang on the bulwark and deliberately threw himself into the sea. I suppose I know the secret too, now. It was this madman who had got rid of the men one by one, and now he has followed them himself. God help me! How am I to account for all these horrors 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 there is sunrise because I am a sailor, why else I know not. I dared not go below, I dared not leave the helm so here all night I stayed, and in the dimness of the night I saw It - Him! God forgive me, but the mate was right to jump overboard. It is better to die like a man; to die like a sailor in blue water no man can object. But I am captain, and I must not leave my ship. But I shall baffle this fiend or monster, for I shall tie my hands to the wheel when my strength begins to fail, and along with them I shall tie that which He - It! – dare not touch; and then, come good wind or foul, I shall save my soul, and my honour as a captain. I am growing weaker, and the night is coming on. If He can look me in the face again, I may not have time to act. … If we are wrecked, mayhap this bottle may be found, and those who find it may understand it not,…well, then all men shall know that I have been true to my trust. God, and the Blessed Virgin and the saints help a poor ignorant soul trying to do his duty….