The Ghost Pirates - William Hope Hodgson - ebook
Kategoria: Fantastyka i sci-fi Język: angielski Rok wydania: 1909

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William Hope Hodgson

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Author's Preface
The Hell O! O! Chaunty
Chapter 1 - The Figure Out of the Sea

About Hodgson:

William Hope Hodgson (November 15, 1877 – April 1918) was an English author. He produced a large body of work, consisting of essays, short fiction, and novels, spanning several overlapping genres including horror, fantastic fiction and science fiction. Early in his writing career he dedicated effort to poetry, although few of his poems were published during his lifetime. He also attracted some notice as a photographer and achieved some renown as a bodybuilder. He died in World War I at the age of 40. Hodgson was born in Blackmore End, Essex, the son of Samuel Hodgson, an Anglican priest, and Lissie Sarah Brown. He was the second of twelve children, three of whom died in infancy. The death of a child is a theme in several of Hodgson's works including the short stories "The Valley of Lost Children", "The Sea-Horses", and "The Searcher of the End House". Hodgson's father was moved frequently, and served 11 different parishes in 21 years, including one in County Galway, Ireland. This setting was later featured in Hodgson's novel The House on the Borderland. Hodgson ran away from his boarding school at the age of thirteen in an effort to become a sailor. He was caught and returned to his family, but eventually received his father's permission to be apprenticed as a cabin boy and began a four-year apprenticeship in 1891. Hodgson's father died shortly thereafter, of throat cancer, leaving the family impoverished; while William was away, the family subsisted largely on charity. After his apprenticeship ended in 1895, Hodgson began two years of study in Liverpool, and was then able to pass the tests and receive his mate's certificate; he then began several more years as a sailor. At sea, Hodgson experienced bullying. This led him to begin a program of personal training. According to Sam Moskowitz, The primary motivation of his body development was not health, but self-defence. His relatively short height and sensitive, almost beautiful face made him an irresistible target for bullying seamen. When they moved in to pulverize him, they would learn too late that they had come to grips with easily one of the most powerful men, pound for pound, in all England. The theme of bullying of an apprentice by older seamen, and revenge taken, appeared frequently in his sea stories. While away at sea, in addition to his exercises with weights and with a punching bag, Hodgson also practiced his photography, taking photographs of cyclones, lightning, sharks, aurora borealis, and the maggots that infested the food given to sailors. He also built up a stamp collection, practiced his marksmanship while hunting, and kept journals of his experiences at sea. In 1898 he was awarded the Royal Humane Society medal for heroism for saving another sailor who had fallen overboard in shark-infested waters. In 1899, at the age of 22, he opened W. H. Hodgson's School of Physical Culture, in Blackburn, England, offering tailored exercise regimes for personal training. Among his customers were members of the Blackburn police force. In 1902, Hodgson himself appeared on stage with handcuffs and other restraining devices supplied by the Blackburn police department and applied the restraints to Harry Houdini, who had previously escaped from the Blackburn city jail. His behavior towards Houdini generated controversy; the escape artist had some difficulty removing his restraints, complaining that Hodgson had deliberately injured him and jammed the locks of his handcuffs. Hodgson was not shy of publicity, and in another notable stunt, rode a bicycle down a street so steep that it had stairs, an event written up in the local paper. Despite his reputation, he eventually found that he could not earn a living running his personal training business, which was seasonal in nature, and shut it down. He began instead writing articles such as "Physical Culture versus Recreative Exercises" (published in 1903). One of these articles, "Health from Scientific Exercise," featured photographs of Hodgson himself demonstrating his exercises. The market for such articles seemed to be limited, however, so inspired by authors such as Edgar Allan Poe, H. G. Wells, Jules Verne, and Arthur Conan Doyle, Hodgson turned his attention to fiction, publishing his first short story, "The Goddess of Death", in 1904, followed shortly by "A Tropical Horror" He also contributed to an article in The Grand Magazine, taking the "No" side in a debate on the topic "Is the Mercantile Navy Worth Joining?" In this piece, Hodgson laid out in detail his negative experiences at sea, including facts and figures about salaries. This led to a second article in The Nautical Magazine, an exposé on the subject of apprenticeships; at the time, families often were forced to pay to have boys accepted as apprentices. Hodgson began to give paid lectures, illustrated with his photography in the form of colorized slides, about his experiences at sea. Although he wrote a number of poems, only a handful were published during his lifetime; several, such as "Madre Mia," appeared as dedications to his novels. Apparently cynical about the prospects of publishing his poetry, in 1906 he published an article in The Author magazine, suggesting that poets could earn money by writing inscriptions for tombstones. Many of his poems were published by his widow in two posthumous collections, but some 48 poems were not published until their appearance in the 2005 collection The Lost Poetry of William Hope Hodgson. While his poetry did not see print, in 1906 the American magazine The Monthly Story Magazine published "From the Tideless Sea"", the first of Hodgson's Sargasso Sea stories. Hodgson continued to sell stories to American magazines as well as British magazines for the remainder of his career, carefully managing the rights to his work in order to maximize his remuneration. Still living with his mother in relative poverty, his first published novel, The Boats of the "Glen Carrig", appeared in 1907, to positive reviews. Hodgson also published '"The Voice in the Night" the same year, as well as "Through the Vortex of a Cyclone", a realistic story inspired by Hodgson's experiences at sea and illustrated with tinted slides made from his own photographs. Hodgson also explored the subject of ships and cyclones in his story "The Shamraken Homeward-Bounder", published in 1908. Also in 1908, Hodgson published an unusual satirical science fiction story "Date 1965: Modern Warfare", a Swiftian satire in which it is suggested that war should be carried out by men fighting in pens with knives, and the corpses carefully salvaged for food, although in letters to the editor published at the time, he expressed strong patriotic sentiments. He published his second novel, The House on the Borderland in 1909, again to positive reviews; he also published "Out of the Storm", a short horror story about "the death-side of the sea," in which the protagonist drowning in a storm rants about the horrors of a storm at sea. According to Moskowitz, This story proved an emotional testament beyond all other evidence. Hodgson, whose literary success would be in a large measure based on the impressions he received at sea, actually hated and feared the waters with an intensity that was the passion of his life. Also in 1909, Hodgson published another novel, The Ghost Pirates. In the foreword, he wrote  … 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. This book, the author believes that he closes the door, so far as he is concerned, on a particular phase of constructive thought. The Bookman magazine in their review of the novel in 1909 included the comment We can only hope that Mr. Hodgson may be induced to reconsider his decision, for we know of nothing like the author's previous work in the whole of present-day literature. Despite the critical success of his novels, Hodgson remained relatively poor. To try to bolster his income from short story sales, he began working on the first of his recurring characters: the Carnacki character, featured in several of his most famous stories. The first of these, "The Gateway of the Monster", was published in 1910 in The Idler. In 1910 Hodgson also published "The Captain of the Onion Boat", an unusual story that combines a nautical tale and a romance. He continued to publish many stories and non-fiction pieces, occasionally resorting to the use of recycled plot elements and situations, sometimes to the annoyance of his publishers. His last novel to see publication, The Night Land, was published in 1912, although it likely had its genesis a number of years earlier. Hodgson also worked on a 10,000 word novelette version of the novel, now known as The Dream of X. He continued to branch out into related genres, publishing "Judge Barclay's Wife", a western adventure, in the United States, as well as several non-supernatural mystery stories and the science fiction story ""The Derelict", and even war stories (several of the Captain Gault tales feature wartime themes). In 1912, Hodgson married Betty Farnworth, known also as Bessie, a staff member for the women's magazine Home Notes. After a honeymoon in the south of France, they took up residence there, due in part to the low cost of living. Hodgson began a work entitled "Captain Dang (An account of certain peculiar and somewhat memorable adventures)" and continued to publish stories in multiple genres, although financial security continued to elude him. Hodgson returned with his wife to England. He joined the University of London's Officer's Training Corps. Refusing to have anything to do with the sea despite his experience and Third Mate's certificate, he received a commission as a Lieutenant in the Royal Artillery. In 1916 he was thrown from a horse and suffered a broken jaw and a head injury; he received a mandatory discharged, and returned to writing. Refusing to remain on the sidelines, Hodgson recovered sufficiently to re-enlist. His published articles and stories from the time reflect his experience in war. He was killed by an artillery shell at Ypres in April of 1918; sources suggest either the 17th or 19th. He was eulogized in The Times on May 2, 1918. Source: Wikipedia

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"Olden memories that shine against death's night— Quiet stars of sweet enchantments, That are seen In Life's lost distances… "

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!—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, stamping— treading, vamping, While the cable comes in ramping. Men …  … Hark! O hear 'em stamp! Chaunty Man . . Surge when it rides! Surge when it rides! Round-o-o-o handsome as it slacks! Men …  … Ha!-o-o-o-o! hear 'em ramp! Ha!-oo-o-o! hear 'em stamp! Ha!-o-o-o-o-oo! Ha!-o-o-o-o-o-o! Chorus … . They're shouting now; oh! hear 'em A-bellow as they stamp:— Ha!-o-o-o! 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! Chaunty-o-o-o and rattle crash— Bash against the stars! Men …  … Ha-a!-o-o-o! Tramp and go! Ha-a!-o-o-o! Ha-a!-o-o-o! 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! Ha-a!-o-o! Ha-a!-o-o! Chaunty Man . . Hurling songs towards the heavens—! Men …  … Ha-a!-o-o! 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 bars! Chorus … . They're shouting now; oh! hear A-bellow as they stamp:— Ha-a!-o-o-o! Ha-a!-o-o-o! Ha-a!-o-o-o! A-shouting as they tramp! Chaunty Man . . O do you hear the capstan-chaunty! Thunder round the pawls! Men …  … Click a-clack, a-clatter Surge! 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: Ha-a!-o-o! Click-a-clack 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-clatter— Surge; and steady! Man the stopper there! All ready? Men …  … Ha-a!-o-o! 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 easy. Men …  … Ha-a!-o-o! Steady-o-o-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! Ha-a!-o-o-o! Ha-a!-o-o-o-o! Ha-a!-o-o-o-o-o!

Chapter 1 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 cockney— Williams—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 weather—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 further—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 yet—

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, reflectively—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. Sometimes—" 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 you might say, of my imagination. My reason said it was nothing more than imagination, a rapid dream—I must have dozed; but something deeper than reason told me that this was not so. I put it to the test, and went straight in amongst the shadows— There was nothing.

I grew bolder. My common sense told me I must have fancied it all. I walked over to the mainmast, and looked behind the pinrail that partly surrounded it, and down into the shadow of the pumps; but here again was nothing. Then I went in under the break of the poop. It was darker under there than out on deck. I looked up both sides of the deck, and saw that they were bare of anything such as I looked for. The assurance was comforting. I glanced at the poop ladders, and remembered that nothing could have gone up there, without the Second Mate or the Time-keeper seeing it. Then I leant my back up against the bulkshead, and thought the whole matter over, rapidly, sucking at my pipe, and keeping my glance about the deck. I concluded my think, and said "No!" out loud. Then something occurred to me, and I said "Unless—" and went over to the starboard bulwarks, and looked over and down into the sea; but there was nothing but sea; and so I turned and made my way forrard. My common sense had triumphed, and I was convinced that my imagination had been playing tricks with me.

I reached the door on the portside, leading into the fo'cas'le, and was about to enter, when something made me look behind. As I did so, I had a shaker. Away aft, a dim, shadowy form stood in the wake of a swaying belt of moonlight, that swept the deck a bit abaft the main-mast.

It was the same figure that I had just been attributing to my fancy. I will admit that I felt more than startled; I was quite a bit frightened. I was convinced now that it was no mere imaginary thing. It was a human figure. And yet, with the flicker of the moonlight and the shadows chasing over it, I was unable to say more than that. Then, as I stood there, irresolute and funky, I got the thought that someone was acting the goat; though for what reason or purpose, I never stopped to consider. I was glad of any suggestion that my common sense assured me was not impossible; and, for the moment, I felt quite relieved. That side to the question had not presented itself to me before. I began to pluck up courage. I accused myself of getting fanciful; otherwise I should have tumbled to it earlier. And then, funnily enough, in spite of all my reasoning, I was still afraid of going aft to discover who that was, standing on the lee side of the maindeck. Yet I felt that if I shirked it, I was only fit to be dumped overboard; and so I went, though not with any great speed, as you can imagine.

I had gone half the distance, and still the figure remained there, motionless and silent—the moonlight and the shadows playing over it with each roll of the ship. I think I tried to be surprised. If it were one of the fellows playing the fool, he must have heard me coming, and why didn't he scoot while he had the chance? And where could he have hidden himself, before? All these things, I asked myself, in a rush, with a queer mixture of doubt and belief; and, you know, in the meantime, I was drawing nearer. I had passed the house, and was not twelve paces distant; when, abruptly, the silent figure made three quick strides to the port rail, and climbed over it into the sea.

I rushed to the side, and stared over; but nothing met my gaze, except the shadow of the ship, sweeping over the moonlit sea.

How long I stared down blankly into the water, it would be impossible to say; certainly for a good minute. I felt blank—just horribly blank. It was such a beastly confirmation of the unnaturalness of the thing I had concluded to be only a sort of brain fancy. I seemed, for that little time, deprived, you know, of the power of coherent thought. I suppose I was dazed—mentally stunned, in a way.

As I have said, a minute or so must have gone, while I had been staring into the dark of the water under the ship's side. Then, I came suddenly to my ordinary self. The Second Mate was singing out: "Lee fore brace."

I went to the braces, like a chap in a dream.