CHAPTER VI.

STORY OF THE DOOMED BISHOP.

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WONDERS of animal life in the sea were supplemented through superstition by fanciful human creations which were made a part of the marine kingdom. There was the monk- fish, for example, who inhabited the sea off the west coast of Ireland. He was a monk who, for a great crime, had been condemned to pass thousands upon thousands of years of penance in the form of a fish. Every Christmas Eve he came to the shore at the ruins of a small chapel that stood in one of the bays of the South of Galway, and inquired, "Is it time?" when a voice from the chapel answered "No," and, with a sigh, the monk-fish sank beneath the waves to wait again another year. His existence could not be questioned, for there were the ruins of the chapel to prove it. To be sure, no one had ever seen him, no one had ever heard him ask the question, nor had the ghostly response ever fallen on mortal ear, but what did that matter when everybody knew the tale was true. And there was the Bishop-fish who lived in the Mediterranean. He had been the first Bishop of Malta, and was consecrated by Paul himself after the escape of the apostle from the tempest's fury. The Bishop was a contrary prelate, and thought he knew more than the apostle, and when he baptized his converts, he went to the seashore and used salt water, in spite of the saints' prohibition. So, when Paul came back to Malta, he said to the Bishop, "You love the sea, go and live in it until the fires of Ætna cease to burn." And the poor Bishop is still waiting. Off the coast of Sicily he raises his head from the waves and watches the summit of the great volcano, and every eruption sends him into despair, for fear the flames will never cease. He does not show himself to men, though the Sicilian fishermen sometimes think they catch a glimpse of him just as he is going down, but everybody knows Paul was in Malta, and Ætna still sends out fire and lava, and what better proof can be asked.

APPARITIONS AND PHANTOMS OF THE SEA.

Nor are these the only contributions the old sailor has made to literature. He has given it phantoms and apparitions amazing from their number, appalling from the horrors with which his fancy has painted them. He has peopled the world of waters with beings of an ethereal kind; with weird forms, with unsubstantial shapes, with shadowy lands. He has given the novelist material for a thousand tales, the poet matter for a score of epics. It is impossible to overrate the literary value of material which had its origin in the sailor's fancy. Every human being has, somewhere in his composition, an element of poetry, and a poetic germ, developed through successive generations, produces luxuriant fruit. Sailor literature is full of ghosts, for the sailor is a firm believer in the immortality of the soul. There is endless variety in the phantoms, for endless are the complications which give rise to the ghost. Sometimes the supernatural visitants are benevolent, coming to warn of impending danger. Such a spectre appeared in 1664, to Captain Rogers of the British Navy. He was heading for the Hatteras Capes, but still deemed himself at a safe distance, when one night, as he was seated in his cabin, he glanced up from his book and beheld on the other side of the table the spectre of a sailor who had been drowned during a previous, voyage. "Go on deck," said the ghostly visitor, "and look about you," and then vanished. The captain did so, but seeing nothing unusual returned to his cabin and lay down. Hardly had he done so, than the sailor's ghost again stood by him, and bade him go on deck and heave the lead. He obeyed, and to his horror found but seven fathoms, and immediately ordered the ship put about. It was done, and when morning came the captain discovered the capes in plain view, and had it not been for the supernatural warning all on board would probably have been lost.

THE SPIRIT OF A MURDERED FIDDLER.

Sometimes the spectres give an omen of approaching death, as in the story told by Grant: An officer of the English Navy was pacing the deck when his sister's spirit appeared to him, and he fell to the boards insensible at the touch of her cold hand. She died that day and hour, and during a storm on his next cruise, again the spectre appeared, passing over the side and beckoning him to
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follow. A few hours after the last appearance a giant wave swept him overboard. Sometimes they come back to torment those who in life had offended them. Dana tells such a story, of a sailor whose dearest possession was a violin, on which he could play but one melody, "The Girl I left behind me." The sailor was brutally murdered by the captain, and on the night after the body had been committed to the deep, the spirit of the murdered man took a position on the bowsprit and played his favorite tune. A storm of terrific power came on, and in the midst of the blast were heard the strains' of the ghostly violin; higher and higher they rose as destruction became more and more imminent, and the spirit could be seen laughing in glee at the horror of the affrighted officer as he stared death in the face. Sometimes ghosts appear only at the moment when their victims are passing into the spirit world, as in the tale told by Gregor: A sailor had deserted his sweetheart who died of grief. During the course of the next cruise, he told his companions that Jenny would come for him, because he frequently dreamed that she "was calling him. One night when the sky was clear and the sea smooth, his companions heard him cry, "Yes, Jenny, I am coming," and beheld him leap overboard and distinctly saw the spirit of the deserted girl receive him in her arms as his body cleared the vessel. Sometimes the wicked ghost lurks about the place of its crime, as the spirits of the buccaneers haunt the islets of the Caribbean, and as the ghost of Captain Kidd guards his hidden treasures on Long Island Sound. Again the spectre appears to prevent the memory of some terrible crime from fading from the minds of mem as the screaming woman of Marblehead still cries along the beach. She was a Spaniard, the wife of a captain whose vessel was taken by pirates. The outlaws brought the ship and her crew to Oakum Bay and there murdered all who refused to join their band. The lady in vain begged for mercy for herself and husband; but it was refused, and she was dispatched by a sabre in the hands of one of the outlaws; so, every year on the anniversary of the horrid deed, the whole scene of the massacre is re-enacted in the secluded glen where the butchery was consummated; again the lady flees from the cruel steel, again her screams for mercy are echoed by the cliffs. Sometimes the Spectres give notice of their own death, as in North Germany the spirits of sailors drowned at sea go into their own houses on the shore, drop a trail of sea water after them on the floor, and leave the chairs and beds on which they reclined soaked with the briny liquid.

STORIES ABOUT SPECTRAL CREWS.

Occasionally the spectres come in companies. The Maine fishermen have a story of the Hascall, a fishing vessel which broke from her anchorage on George's Banks and ran down the Andrew Johnson. For many years after, the ghosts of the drowned sailors would come on board the Hascall and go through the motions of fishing and, so general was the belief that no sailor would go on the ship, no man would buy her, and at length she was broken up, because no further use could be made of her. Often the spectres accompany the "fires of St. Elmo," electrical lights which appear on the masts of ships during foul weather, and more than one sailor
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historian has seen the supernatural visitors and described their appearance. The range of superstitious fancy is not confined to the limits of ship's decks, for all sailors can tell of sunken cities, engulfed for the crimes of their inhabitants. These unfortunates are in some cases still imprisoned beneath the waves, and only occasionally are allowed, to go on shore for the purpose of attending divine service. At Ballyvaughn, on the west coast of Ireland, a boat was, one Sunday morning, noticed approaching the shore. The people in it disembarked, proceeded to the church, which they entered; reverently took part in the worship, retired, passing through a wondering crowd who knew them not, re-entered their boat, put to sea, and when a mile or more from shore suddenly sank, returning to the city whence they had come, and where, tradition affirms, they must remain for a whole century ere they can have another outing. And old salts tell of islands which come and go; which are here to- day and gone to-morrow; which have never been trodden by foot of man, which are the abodes of demons. One such travels up and down the Irish coast, appearing at various points once in seven years; another is seen from time to time off the coast of Spain. Very dangerous are these travelling rocks, for no mariner can tell at what moment he may find the wandering island rising under his bow, when of course all hope is at an end.

THE PHANTOM SHIP.

It is easier to imagine a wandering ship than a wandering island, so the tale of the Phantom Vessel is the best known and most poetical of all the nautical legends. Novelists have used it, poets have embellished it, dramatists have put it on the boards with all the accessories of magnificent scenery, composers have made it familiar to the lovers of music in more than one famous opera. The story is told with variations by the sailors of every land, but a striking similarity exists in the main point of all the legends, -- in each the vessel is condemned to wander forever on account of a great crime committed by the captain. The commonly accepted version of the story is that given by Jal: An unbelieving Dutch captain, endeavoring to double Cape Horn against the force of a head wind, profanely swore that he would persist in his course in spite of the decrees of Providence. Undeterred by the remonstrances of his crew, he laughed at their fears, made some of them, who threatened mutiny, walk the plank from the deck into the sea, and flogged others at the mast. Cries from suffering victims rose to heaven, and holy spirits swooped down before him and made merciful appeals to the enraged wretch, but at some he threw dish-water, at others he fired a pistol, and finally a voice from above proclaimed that on account of his blasphemy he should be condemned forever to sail the sea, the evil genius of sailors. Thus the appearance of the Flying Dutchman is ever dreaded as the fore- runner of disaster. O'Reilly sings:

"Heaven help the ship near which the demon sailor steers,
The doom of those is fixed to whom the Phantom Ship appears;
They'll never reach their destined port, they'll see their homes no more;
They who see the Flying Dutchman never, never reach the shore."

IN PURSUIT OF THE SPECTRAL SHIP.

The Phantom Ship brings sudden squalls and howling tempests. She leads those who follow in her wake onto shoals, quicksands and reefs. She is the Purgatory of wicked sailors; her skeleton crew is composed of the souls of thieves, murderers, pirates who are condemned to everlasting toil, with no rest, no play, and very little food. The Phantom Ship is never seen twice under the same circumstances. By one she is beheld in the midst of the storm, with all sails set, placidly plowing her way through the wildest billows; by another, she is beheld on a calm night, with sails closely reefed, pitching and tumbling as though in a terrible storm. All the main features of the legend are detailed by Marryatt in his Story of the Phantom Ship. In this remarkable sea-tale the incidents are told by her captain, who narrates his adventures from the time when, on account of impiety, he was condemned to wander, until, by the restoration of a relic, his aimless voyages came to an end. The dramatic feature of the tale lies in the fact that the captain's soil undertakes his redemption, and filled with a filial purpose follows the Phantom Ship to arid fro over the watery waste. He sees her first in a cloud, just at sunset, arid his ship approaches so close to the spirit vessel that the whistles of the boatswain, the orders given on the decks, the rattling of the cordage are plainly heard. Again he beholds her in a good breeze, her hull enveloped in mist. A gun is fired from her bow; voices are heard and the trampling of the crew as they man the ropes, and she passes out of sight. Again he sees her as she decoys other vessels into dangerous waters, herself passing over the reef without altering her course, and at last she rises slowly out of the water, a demon ship, and awaits the coming of the boat sent by her pursuers.

GHOSTLY SHIPS OF EXTRAORDINARY PROPORTIONS.

The Flying Dutchman is not the only phantom vessel; the sailors of the olden time had many, some of gigantic size. The Frisians believed in a Phantom Ship so large that the captain, rode about on horseback giving his orders; the sailors, who, as boys, started aloft to execute an order, came down as old men; in the rigging were dining-halls; the cabin was larger than all England. But even this mighty craft was a toy boat compared to the Chasse Foudre, "The Lightning Chaser," of old French mariners, which was so large that seven years were required to tack or change her course; when she rolled, whales were stranded on the shore; thirty thousand men were thirty years in digging the iron to make her hull. Her cables were; as thick as the diameter of St. Peter's dome and so long that they could seven times encircle the globe; her lower masts were so tall that a boy grew white-headed before reaching the first yard; her smallest sail was larger than all Europe; twenty-five thousand soldiers could manœuvre on the cap which covered the top of the main-mast; in her forecastle was a garden larger than the whole of France; in every block of the rigging there was a tavern; every quid of tobacco used by one of her sailors would supply a frigate's crew for three years; a dram of grog was composed of seventeen hogsheads of rum, to say nothing of the water. These were stories of the olden times, when the Phantom Ship was in her prime; but within the last three centuries she gradually diminished in size, until sixty years ago she was no larger than an ordinary vessel. She still remained, however, a place of punishment for wicked sailors, and some who beheld her saw death-heads grinning from her ports, a skeleton captain walking her bridge, the corpse of a seaman on the lookout, and a ghost taking his trick at the wheel. She is sometimes inhabited by demons, who chastise the spirits of evil seamen, with whips of scorpions; dogs are set to guard the prisoners and inflict ten thousand tortures on the hapless wretches; in her forecastle, cabin and hold, serpents, cats, hobgoblins, creeping things, all kinds of horrors abound.

A MONK WHO VISITED THE ISLANDS OF THE DAMNED AND THE BLESSED.

The Phantom Ship takes long voyages; visits strange countries. The lost continent of Atlantis is its frequent destination, although sometimes it lets fall its anchor at the Isles of the Blessed. According to tradition, these were located to the west of Ireland, but judiciously shifted their position as the sea became better known. They were, however, sometimes visited even by the living. St. Brandan, an Irish monk, started to explore them in a phantom boat, and after sailing twenty-four days and nights, came to an island of fiends and volcanoes, where whole fleets of phantom , ships were at anchor in the harbor, and spectral sailors wandering to and fro on the shore. Such a spectacle as a monk had never before been seen on the island. He was attacked by the demons, and was only saved by the intercession of a saint more powerful than himself, who conducted him through the island, showed him all the torments in progress, and gave him material for a narrative closely resembling the story of Dante. Leaving this horrid island, after twenty-four days and nights he arrived at the Islands of the Blessed, which were filled with delights of every kind. No night was there, nor heat of the sun; pleasant prospects charmed the eye; soft music from unseen sources fascinated the ear; every flower was fragrant, every taste a pleasure. In this paradisaical place the good monk probably spent the remainder of his days, for we do not hear more of his adventures.

ORIGIN OF THE GHOSTLY SHIP.

Since the ocean has been thoroughly explored and its lands located, the Islands of the Cursed and of the Blessed have alike disappeared, but not so the spectral ship; and it is a curious fact that science has supported the old sailor in his superstition by often presenting to the most skeptical a view of the phantom vessel. The mirage is more common on the water than on land, and it often happens that a vessel or fleet many miles distant is plainly in view of men on shore, or of mariners at sea. Too many instances are recorded to doubt the fact, and the observers are too cautious to be deceived. During Owen's travels he visited Port Danger, of
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the South Africa coast, and there he and all with him beheld in the offing the British man-of-war Barracouta. So plainly visible was the vessel that she was recognized by all on shore; even the figures on her deck were plainly to. be seen. Some days after she arrived, when it was proven that she was three hundred miles away at the time her spectral counterpart sailed into the harbor and vanished. At Oporto, Lisbon, Marseilles, and other ports of Southern Europe, the phantoms of vessels are often seen during the summer season a day or two before their arrival; in the North Sea, the spectre of a ship upside down is a certain forerunner of bad weather. The Fata Morgana, a daily phenomenon in the Straits of Messina, shows the phantoms of vessels in all sorts of positions and with all kinds of distortion. Sometimes the ship is in the air; sometimes a double reflection is presented in the water; occasionally there are three images of the same vessel, two in the water and one in the air. The tropical seas are full of optical wonders. The Arctic Region abounds with reflected images; of icebergs, of mountains, of continents, of vessels. All these things have become familiar to the modern scientist, and for all a natural explanation has been found. The Flying Dutchman is not an optical delusion, but an optical reality, so the old sailor was right in one particular, the basis of the story; and, given a starting point, the rest was easy. A derelict bark, seen under circumstances of danger, perhaps gave rise to the supernatural appearance of the phantom; a vessel whose crew were all dead of the plague -- a slaver laden with fetid corpses -- gave the idea of the wandering ship haunted by the souls of the dead. The presence of electrical lights at the mast-heads, the brilliancy of the Aurora Borealis, the appearance of peculiar mists, the resonance of the air at certain times, did the rest and embellished the tale with all its fanciful and grotesquely horrible additions.

A REAL FLYING DUTCHMAN.

There was even a good reason why the wandering vessel should be a Dutchman. At the time the legend was crystallizing the Dutch were the best sailors in the world; cool, impassive, little prone to excitement, their remarkable skill was naturally attributed to sorcery. It is even asserted that the Flying Dutchman was a real person, by name Bernard Fokke, of the seventeenth century. He was a reckless, daring seaman who, that he might carry the more sail in a high wind, cased his masts with iron. One voyage to India he made in ninety days, then an unprecedented rate of speed, and so rapidly did he traverse the water-world that even in his own time he was believed to be in league with Satan. But Bernard took one risk too many, and setting sail from Amsterdam with the expressed determination to beat his own record to India, was never afterwards heard of, and of course Satan took him and the ship and set them to travelling up and down the world to the bewilderment of better men.

DYING SUPERSTITION.

The steamship dissipated the legend by taking away its most attractive feature, for the steam vessel, as easily as the phantom, can move against wind and tide. The use of better lights on board ship banished the ghosts, for it is well known that no ghost can stand the glare of an electric lamp. The old sailor himself will soon be as rare as his spectres, for with improved navigation come increased confidence and, decreased credulity. The sailor no longer feels his way across the sea, but calculates exactly where he is, knows how far he has travelled, how far he has still to go. Every rock in the ocean is laid down on the maps, and the seaman knows exactly what course to take to secure the safety of his vessel. He has confidence in his ship, and in his ship's captain; the voyages of the present day are short in comparison to those of former years; appliances for the sailor's safety are more efficient than ever before; the hiss of escaping steam, the crashing of the propellers are a wonderful relief from the dead silence which once reigned over the deep. The sailor knows that on every headland in civilized countries around the globe a lamp blazes, warning him of danger; he hears the steam siren singing from every light-ship, but her voice is significant of peril, not an enticement to destruction. Fear, on eagle pinions, follows banished danger, and with whistle sounding and lights flashing from foretop and sides, with captain and first officer on the bridge, with second and third officers pacing the deck, with double lookout at the bow, the sailor plunges into the fog, forgetful of his phantoms.

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