Home > Arab Stories > The Story Of The Ghost Ship. Part IV/IV

The Story Of The Ghost Ship. Part IV/IV

August 1st, 2009

It was still pretty early in the day when we reached the ship. We
immediately set to work, and in an hour placed four in the boat. Some
of the slaves were then obliged to row to land to bury them there.
They told us, when they returned, that the bodies had spared them the
trouble of burying, since, the moment they laid them on the earth,
they had fallen to dust. We diligently set to work to saw off the
bodies, and before evening all were brought to land. There were, at
last, no more on board than the one that was nailed to the mast.
Vainly sought we to draw the nail out of the wood, no strength was
able to start it even a hair’s-breadth. I knew not what next to do,
for we could not hew down the mast in order to bring him to land; but
in this dilemma Muley came to my assistance. He quickly ordered a
slave to row to land and bring a pot of earth. When he had arrived
with it, the magician pronounced over it some mysterious words, and
cast it on the dead man’s head. Immediately the latter opened his
eyes, drew a deep breath, and the wound of the nail in his forehead
began to bleed. We now drew it lightly forth, and the wounded man fell
into the arms of one of the slaves.

“Who bore me hither?” he exclaimed, after he seemed to have recovered
himself a little. Muley made signs to me, and I stepped up to him.

“Thank thee, unknown stranger; thou hast freed me from long torment.
For fifty years has my body been sailing through these waves, and my
spirit was condemned to return to it every night. But now my head has
come in contact with the earth, and, my crime expiated, I can go to my

I entreated him, thereupon, to tell how he had been brought to this
horrible state, and he began–

“Fifty years ago, I was an influential, distinguished man, and resided
in Algiers: a passion for gain urged me on to fit out a ship, and turn
pirate. I had already followed this business some time, when once, at
Zante, I took on board a Dervise, who wished to travel for nothing. I
and my companions were impious men, and paid no respect to the
holiness of the man; I, in particular, made sport of him. When,
however, on one occasion he upbraided me with holy zeal for my wicked
course of life, that same evening, after I had been drinking to excess
with my pilot in the cabin, anger overpowered me. Reflecting on what
the Dervise had said to me, which I would not have borne from a
Sultan, I rushed upon deck, and plunged my dagger into his breast.
Dying, he cursed me and my crew, and doomed us not to die and not to
live, until we should lay our heads upon the earth.

“The Dervise expired, and we cast him overboard, laughing at his
menaces; that same night, however, were his words fulfilled. One
portion of my crew rose against me; with terrible courage the struggle
continued, until my supporters fell, and I myself was nailed to the
mast. The mutineers, however, also sank under their wounds, and soon
my ship was but one vast grave. My eyes also closed, my breath
stopped–I thought I was dying. But it was only a torpor which held me
chained: the following night, at the same hour in which we had cast
the Dervise into the sea, I awoke, together with all my comrades;
life returned, but we could do and say nothing but what had been done
and said on that fatal night. Thus we sailed for fifty years, neither
living nor dying, for how could we reach the land? With mad joy we
ever dashed along, with full sails, before the storm, for we hoped at
last to be wrecked upon some cliff, and to compose our weary heads to
rest upon the bottom of the sea; but in this we never succeeded. Now I
shall die! Once again, unknown preserver, accept my thanks, and if
treasures can reward thee, then take my ship in token of my

With these words the Captain let his head drop, and expired. Like his
companions, he immediately fell to dust. We collected this in a little
vessel, and buried it on the shore: and I took workmen from the city
to put the ship in good condition. After I had exchanged, with great
advantage, the wares I had on board for others, I hired a crew, richly
rewarded my friend Muley, and set sail for my fatherland. I took a
circuitous route, in the course of which I landed at several islands
and countries, to bring my goods to market. The Prophet blessed my
undertaking. After several years I ran into Balsora, twice as rich as
the dying Captain had made me. My fellow-citizens were amazed at my
wealth and good fortune, and would believe nothing else but that I had
found the diamond-valley of the far-famed traveller Sinbad. I left
them to their belief; henceforth must the young folks of Balsora, when
they have scarcely arrived at their eighteenth year, go forth into the
world, like me, to seek their fortunes. I, however, live in peace and
tranquillity, and every five years make a journey to Mecca, to thank
the Lord for his protection, in that holy place, and to entreat for
the Captain and his crew, that He will admit them into Paradise.

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