the Demeter ship's log
At midnight I went to relieve
the man at the wheel and when I got to it found no one there. The wind was steady,
and as we ran before it there was no yawing. I dared not leave it, so shouted
for the mate. After a few seconds, he rushed up on 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 the 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 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
a 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?